Friday, August 30, 2013

How to end Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: a comparative study of arguments

by Delphine Patetif, Guest Blogger [1]

According to the UNICEF in its most recent report released in July 2013,[2] Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting[3] (“FGM/C”) can end in less than a generation. This practice has existed  for more than a thousand years, and is deeply entrenched  with social norms and religious beliefs. The West has been concerned for many decades with this harmful practice. Already in 1996, in an explosive social context regarding women’s liberation and post-colonialism, Yael Tamir defined western societies’ exaggerated focus on clitoridectomy as their fascination for sex, as well as evidence of hypocrisy within their political debate. Tamir objected to “the way a particular kind of argument has been used in recent debates on multiculturalism.”[4] Nussbaum, on the other hand, thinks that this focus is “not a fascination with sex but the relative tractability of FGM[5] as a practical problem, given that it is already widely resisted and indeed illegal.”[6]  However, Tamir goes further, and aims to “emphasize continuities between local and “alien” practices.”[7]  Contrary to Tamir, I do not think there is continuity between the two types of societies, but a complementarity. Even if I obviously agree with the elements exposed by Nussbaum and Tamir to condemn clitoridectomy, a terrible act that has to be eradicated, I affirm that each society builds its own history and legends, as transmitted according to the aforementioned history. Eventually, clitoridectomy is not a phenomenon which occurs in “their” country, but also in ours. It is then crucial to take into account those ethnocentrist elements before judging the practice. I will argue in this article that the universalism of human rights, which is a concept espoused by western societies, too often ignores the particularism of the facts to the detriment of the locals who need nothing beyond requisite information and education.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The guest worker H-2A visa program: a license for human trafficking and forced labor in the U.S. agricultural sector?

by Chayanich (Mint) Thamparipattra

Forced labor can happen anywhere in the world, independent of a country’s degree of economic development or the intentions of its government. Stories of forced labor by Burmese workers in the shrimping industry in Thailand and Thai farmworkers in the U.S. are not much different. Undocumented Burmese workers in the fishing industry in Thailand often found themselves working without pay for six months to pay off debts to brokers, facing physical abuse, and having their papers confiscated. Similarly, Thai workers in the Global Horizons human trafficking case mortgaged their lands or took out legal or illegal loans to pay recruiters who promised the American dream with three years’ legal work in the U.S. under the H-2A guest worker program. A worker who escaped from a plantation in Hawaii reported that he was confined in dilapidated housing, kept under 24-hour surveillance, restricted from any movement, and that his passport was confiscated. Unfortunately, this type of case is nothing new. It may be hard to believe that serious labor abuse still exists in the U.S., but a report by Farmworker Justice, No Way to Treat a Guest H-2A, reaffirms that trafficking in the form of forced labor and labor exploitation of U.S. guest workers are rampant. What is the H-2A program and why is labor abuse within this program so widespread?