December 2019


  1. Speaking of gender: A National Post debate about gender identity and free speech
  2. The problem of violence against women and children
  3. Explainer: How a U.S. Act on human rights and democracy can protect freedom in Hong Kong
  4. How to talk to kids about gender
  5. Free broadband: internet access is now a human right, no matter who pays the bills

Speaking of gender: A National Post debate about gender identity and free speech


Jonathan Kay and Mercedes Allen discuss the issue, including how the concepts of biological sex and gender identity collide

Is free speech under attack, on Canadian campuses and in society at large? The National Post has a new documentary examining this very issue. In the coming weeks, a series of essays will also explore the subject. Today: The Toronto Public Library was recently strongly criticized after it hosted an event featuring feminist Meghan Murphy, who has been frequently accused of transphobia. Murphy’s defenders asserted her right to free speech. Jonathan Kay, an editor and columnist, and Mercedes Allen, a graphic designer, writer and former advocate for trans communities in Alberta, debate the issue, including how the concepts of biological sex and gender identity collide.

To view the Post’s free speech documentary, please go to

Editor: Because this is in response to something you’ve written Jon, might I ask Mercedes to start the conversation?

Mercedes Allen: Yes. But be aware, though, that I am not willing to debate legitimacy issues (i.e. who I am or whether trans women are really women).

Jonathan Kay: I’m not sure the ground rules are realistic, because it’s theoretically possible to distil every sub-issue to the question of “legitimacy.” In fact, this was the main tactic used by those who wanted to shut down Meghan Murphy’s event.

Editor: I’ll gently suggest we avoid that issue for the time being and plunge in. I have confidence two reasonable people of goodwill, as I strongly believe you both to be, will find far more common ground than not, and it may in fact never come up.

Kay: Works for me.

Allen: Reducing events like Meghan Murphy’s speech at the Toronto Public Library to “free speech” is misleading. Most people, myself included, value freedom of speech highly. It is when the speech delegitimizes trans people — potentially giving licence to people to discriminate — that there are protests. People fear an imminent or growing harm.

Kay: Mercedes, I’ll start just by saying hi, and thank you for engaging in this discussion.

I would love to say that we share common ground on “legitimacy issues,” as you describe them. But this concept — legitimacy — now is defined in such a broad way that it serves to block all forms of reasonable discussion. In fact, that’s one of the main complaints offered by Meghan Murphy.

When progressives became decisively mobilized on the issue of trans rights, they persuaded policy-makers that it was right and proper to address a trans woman as a woman, full stop. At the time, I supported that campaign, as it seemed humane and harmless. Why shouldn’t trans women be listed as female on drivers licences and other government documents? It wasn’t hurting anyone.

Unfortunately, these legal changes have been leveraged in extreme ways that (most of us) never anticipated or intended. Some activists now claim it is tantamount to hate speech for feminists to raise good-faith concerns about male-bodied individuals in rape-crisis centres, locker rooms and female sports; or to ask questions about a rapid spike in teenage girls suddenly claiming they are actually boys.

The writers who address this issue in my publication, Quillette, aren’t conservatives. They’re feminists and lesbian-rights activists who are tired of being told that their progressive beliefs must now be filtered on the basis of gender ideology. As one of my authors, April Halley, recently wrote, even a female rape victim who expresses concerns about being in close proximity or even imprisoned with a male-bodied criminal will find herself accused of denying the “legitimacy” of trans people. And she will be subjected to the usual barrage of canned phrases — “denying our existence,” “erasing our humanity,” etc.

I have met people with gender dysphoria. And so the claim that some inwardly experienced invisible force called “gender identity” can overpower one’s biological programming in some ways is one I am willing to take seriously. I’m sympathetic to these individuals, as are most Canadians. That’s why we originally supported legal protections for trans people. But like all legal protections, trans rights must be balanced against other rights. And this act of balancing cannot be accomplished by demanding fealty to absolutist slogans.

Allen: I have to laugh at the idea of “gender ideology,” and the suggestion that it is absolutist. “Gender ideology” was originally coined by anti-LGBTQ+ groups to portray trans people’s existence as an irrational belief. The phrase, particularly internationally, is often expanded to encompass all LGBTQ+ human rights, reproductive rights, feminism, and sometimes even a bit of Marxism thrown in, for some reason.

The only real “rule” of being trans is that a person should do what they need to, to live authentically in peace with themselves. It’s the lack of a narrow, rigid philosophy that creates a wide — sometimes confusing! — diversity in who trans people are. It’s hardly absolutist; in fact, something we might agree on is that for folks on the outside looking in, it may not seem like a very cohesive “ideology.”

If one experiences body dysphoria, they’ll probably consider surgery — especially if they keep finding themselves on the brink of self-harm. If their experience is more of social dysphoria, then they might take a different path, and need to look inward and/or express outwardly for a while, until they figure out where they fit comfortably (at which point, they might consider themselves non-binary in some way, rather than specifically either male or female). Many trans folks experience a combination of the two, so there can be a couple of concurrent journeys of self-discovery happening. There’s no One True Way™ beyond “be true to yourself.”

From my experience, absolutism comes from the trans exclusionary perspective — especially when pertaining to trans women or trans feminine people, who are often arbitrarily referred to as “biologically male,” “male-bodied,” or just “male.” They’re essentialized by their genitalia.

Let’s look at an example of an “unintended consequence” of trans human rights protections: coexisting in rape-crisis centres. When I was engaged in trans advocacy a decade ago, I reached out to facilities in search of safe spaces. Some refused (this was before legal protections existed), but others didn’t, and with a little effort, it proved possible to include trans women in women’s spaces. Trans inclusion does not mean ignoring troubling behaviour or troubling histories — indeed, I often found that shelters usually had appropriate policies already in place, given that individual cis women can be problematic sometimes, too. Statistics show that trans women are far more likely to be victims of sexual violence than perpetrators. In rape crisis centres, I know this feels a bit more difficult — when someone has been sexually assaulted, that is a very traumatic time and nobody wants any simultaneous emotional conflicts. I get that. But I’ve seen that equitable solutions are possible. I’d like to see more privacy and security for everyone in need, period. But we’re never going to get there if the first answer is to exclude trans people entirely. And if someone’s response is “fund your own rape crisis centre,” that’s just being wilfully or callously blind to the economic barriers to doing something like that.

Human rights protections do include a duty to accommodate. It’s firm, but not absolute (we can probably agree that it was not reasonable for Jessica Yaniv to expect genital waxing, given that actual nudity and contact raises a greater concern about consent). And even if you consider trans existence to be an article of faith, this would still hold true: if Faith A believes Faith B is evil incarnate, believer A still has a duty to treat co-worker B with respect and dignity. It’s not co-worker B who needs to be understanding of believer A’s aversion for them and their faith.

Kay: I agree that the term “gender ideology” is used in many different ways. But when it is used in regard to the debate over trans rights, it typically is used to describe the specific viewpoint that a person’s self-identified gender trumps their biological sex in most or all important areas of human activity, policy-making and even inwardly felt experiences.

To take one example that has been in the news lately: Many of the gay men and women who have expressed their displeasure at the British LGBT-advocacy group Stonewall cite the fact that Stonewall defines “homosexual” as “someone who has a romantic and/or sexual orientation towards someone of the same gender.” Their argument (which I find persuasive) is that our attraction is to biological sex, not to an internally experienced condition we call gender.

Another related ideological aspect I find troubling (I will avoid using the term “gender ideology” in deference to your fair point that the term has no fixed meaning) is the sort of external validators that are cited to support a person’s self-described gender identity. In the materials I sometimes see, this validating evidence consists of what colours people like — pink or blue — or the toys they prefer, or the fact they like wearing dresses or overalls. Much of this sounds very much like a regression to old sexist stereotypes. A while back, I attended a Meghan Murphy speech near Wilfrid Laurier University, where a student in the crowd got up and asked Meghan how she could possibly justify denying the womanhood of a person who, despite being biologically male (my term), “just knew” they were a woman. Meghan responded (and I am paraphrasing here): “Tell me what that means — to ‘just know’ you are a woman?” The audience member began to respond, but then stopped suddenly. The most obvious form of answer would have been a recourse to stereotypes, and everyone in the room — including the person who’d asked the question — knew it. So it was left unsaid.

There is another answer, of course — one that has nothing to do with stereotypes — which is that no human can begin to describe what it means to “just know” one’s gender, because gender dysphoria is experienced in the same way one experiences religious faith, i.e. it is something akin to a soul. The idea that this kind of unseen quasi-spiritual force is lodged within us seems to me like an extraordinary claim. As I have noted earlier, the gendered-soul claim is one I am prepared to take on faith in some cases, even if it comes with no evidence except the self-attestation of the person experiencing the dysphoria. But it is also completely reasonable for others to express skepticism, and to ask whether gender dysphoria is simply one of many forms of persistent mental fixation known to human psychology — just as it is reasonable to question the additional claim that this self-attestation should grant one immediate and (in the strongest form of the argument) unconditional access to female spaces. The expression of such skepticism is, at root, what Meghan Murphy’s project is about.

Allen: It’s tough to cover all of these things with brief replies.

Regarding whether “a person’s self-identified gender trumps their biological sex,” when I hear that, I have to wonder why my “biological sex” would be relevant in most situations. My biology is my business, my spouse’s business, and sometimes my doctor’s business. There aren’t too many areas of human activity that involve genitals. If society started policing according to genitalia, then we’d start heading down a road toward invasive checks. But what usually happens in lieu of that is that people start policing others arbitrarily, according to superficial things (i.e. facial features, or a deep voice), which don’t necessarily correspond to genitalia at all, and assessments like that quickly become problematic (and not much less invasive) for anyone, trans or cis. That said, when trans-exclusionary folks refer to gender trumping sex, they’re usually not talking about genitalia, but rather back to essentializing trans women as “men,” at which point any acceptance of them as women and coexistence is considered gender trumping sex. And if that is what someone is saying, then exactly what alternative is being sought, and how would that not be an attack on people’s’ dignity?

When it comes to attraction, genitals are relevant, certainly — but I kind of think it’s weird to say that our attraction is to “biological sex.” We are attracted to a lot of things in people — the collective sum of is a lot more than just someone’s genitals. Those things are a combination of physical, personality-based, common interests, and gender expression, the latter including the various social constructions that we have about people based on their perceived sex.

Going back to gender and the trans experience, it’s really reductive to think of it as a case of dolls vs. trucks, pink vs. blue, and all of that. Media feeds that a bit, because of expectations journalists have when shaping a story. There’s even a trans documentary drinking game that people have featuring all of the obligatory plot points and B-roll (“oh, here is the putting-on-makeup footage …”). Clothes are just the dressing. What we experience is some combination of body dysphoria and social dysphoria. And both of those are complex, and hard to describe for people who’ve never experienced them. Sometimes, it’s just easier (and less invasive) to let people think it’s about dolls versus trucks.

Body dysphoria isn’t just a self-image issue, but a kind of constant, overriding sense that something is wrong, and the map in your head isn’t matching your body — irritating body parts are there that shouldn’t be, and things that should be aren’t. Your body doesn’t fit. For all my pre-transition life, anything that touched my chest, for example, felt like sandpaper. Fingers, clothes … I couldn’t stand it. But I thought that was “normal” for the longest time, and that everyone experienced it. It wasn’t until I started hormone therapy and my body and sensations changed that I realized it had been a part of my dysphoria. Not everything is that vivid, sometimes it’s more complicated, and not everyone experiences body dysphoria to that degree, but when it’s strong, it’s ever-present until addressed.

Social dysphoria is more subjective and even harder to explain, but no less constant. It’s a sense of being out of place in social situations because the sense of kinship and belonging that you feel with people is in conflict with the roles, expectations, assumptions and interpersonal dynamics that are foist upon you, because of how you are perceived due to your gender. This is more of a feeling, yes, but the ever-present nature of it becomes distressing and even socially crippling.

All of that is wrapped up in “just knowing,” and that’s why it’s hard to articulate beyond that. It’s the collective weight of everything, always, until you finally make changes in your life that alleviate it. And when you do make those changes, each step usually confirms the path you’re taking (and if it doesn’t, then it’s time to reassess that step and where your personal journey is going).

What I would ask in return — and I know I can’t ask you to speak for Meghan Murphy or trans-exclusionary feminism in general here, but just from your perception of how trans people are said to pose a problem in women’s spaces — what do you see as being problematic that can’t be solved by dealing with individual issues on an individual basis and what do you see as the solution(s)?

Kay: It’s true that “we are attracted to a lot of things in people — eyes, fashion style, sense of humour, intelligence, etc.” But to suggest that the penis/vagina and natal-male/natal-female distinctions can be lumped in with “Do you like pina colada?” is to sell a false bill of goods to people who transition. When it comes to actual relationships, marriage and procreation, human nature is human nature. We are programmed to want what we want — which is why many (though certainly not all) trans people struggle with loneliness, as their dating pool often is mapped on to a tiny subclass of sexual (and, increasingly, ideological) tastes. This is not so much a problem for many trans men, since their governing esthetic can be similar to that of some lesbian subcultures. It also seems to be relatively unproblematic for that subclass of trans women who had existed as gay men, as the transition often is mediated by sexual aspects. Moreover, some trans women who announce their transition later in life do not seem preoccupied with any kind of pair bonding, and find their satisfaction internally. But in all cases, the physical steps associated with full transition can lead to sterility — which seems like a small price to pay when you’re 18 and watching Tumblr videos. It’s a much bigger deal when you’re 28 and living alone while your friends are starting families. There are some shockingly sorrowful stories coming out of the desistance movement. Hashtags are fun during the day. But they don’t keep you warm at night.

I agree with you that “there aren’t too many areas of human activity that involve (one’s) genitals.” And disagreements about most of those “areas of human activity” probably will get sorted out naturally, as trans women and women more generally reorganize physical and online spaces in a way that’s amenable to both sides. You already see this with the divorce between Stonewall and the newly formed LGB Alliance in Britain. And online lesbian dating spaces are self-organizing according to their receptivity to male-bodied individuals who self-identify as lesbians. The people performing these acts of self-organization obviously don’t need my help — or even the government’s help in most cases. What they do need is an environment where both sides can express themselves freely — without one side being endlessly attacked as “TERFs” and hate-criminals. It’s ludicrous that someone such as Meghan Murphy is attacked by many of the same people who think it’s just fine to say things like “punch a TERF.”

I applaud your focus on “solutions” for the few areas where some policy change is required. I really don’t think there are too many areas that require addressing, though the ones that exist are important:

1) While I use a person’s preferred pronouns as a matter of courtesy, it should not be illegal (or even seen as contrary to human-rights standards) for people to refuse to do this. Yes, trans people see it as rude and offensive when people misgender them. But not everything that’s rude and offensive should be illegal. And if your very “existence” as a trans person hangs on the question of whether some random person on social media uses the right syllable to refer to you, maybe you’re not quite so trans as you thought you were.

2) Women should not have to share spaces where they are vulnerable with male-bodied individuals, full stop. I agree with you that trans women should not have to make themselves vulnerable by sharing spaces with people like me. The solution is to create a third kind of space for trans women. The best kind of problems are those we can solve with money. And this happens to be one of them. (I am excluding here the case of trans men seeking entry to male spaces, since this is a problem that generally never comes up — for reasons I will leave others to speculate upon.)

3) The admission of male-bodied competitors into female athletics has produced scenes of grotesque farce. What’s more, the media pretends that we are supposed to applaud these farcical scenes as Stunning And Brave — when pretty much everyone involved finds them mortifying at best, utterly misogynistic at worst. These scenes cast trans people in the worst possible light, and comprise one of the leading causes of the growing backlash against (to use a term neither of us likes) “gender ideology.”

4) We need to stop pretending that rapid-onset gender disorder, as Lisa Littman of Brown University has described it, isn’t a serious issue. It is. And one of the reasons parents are so concerned about it is that the (overlapping) groups at highest risk are girls, lesbians, children on the autistic spectrum, the bullied, the mentally ill, and the traumatized. And the campaign to dismiss concerns for these vulnerable school-age populations as a species of “transphobia” is one of the leading reasons why many writers (I would include myself here) believe that the most extreme formulation of trans rights now has become marked with a cultish character.

Allen: I feel like I’ve been wasting my time. You’re still insisting that “biological sex” is all there is. You also still think it’s reasonable to associate an entire class of women with predation and exclude them wholesale from women’s spaces. I’ve opened up quite a lot in good faith, and I don’t really feel like you’ve even read much of what I’ve said, or else just dismissed it outright. This is something that Murphy also does in her talks: denies that gender identity exists, sets up anatomical sex as the only parameter that matters, and then frames her arguments in an absolutist way, so that they can only be solved through trans exclusion — much like you have, though a bit more softly and less overtly. This is why trans people get frustrated, angry and see Murphy as threatening not just their human rights, but also their ability to exist as who they are/need to be, and be accepted in their day-to-day lives. I don’t endorse some of the things people do in that anger, but I understand the anger nevertheless.

To your points:

1) It is not illegal to misgender someone. What does violate human rights law, though, is to harass someone or to deliberately create a toxic space — to drive them out of the workplace, for example — and pronouns can be a part of that. This talking point has become distorted to the point where people are thinking they might go to jail if they forget someone’s pronoun, when that was never even conceivable. It’s only an issue if there is harassment, creating a hardship or barrier. Intent counts.

2) Actually, I’ve known plenty of trans men who’ve sought out male spaces, but nobody ever says anything about it, because nobody assumes that trans men are predators who are inherently dangerous to cis men. Separate-but-not-equal facilities are not a reasonable compromise (even if they were financially viable), not to mention incredibly insulting. It isn’t hard to address individuals’ behaviour and or histories on an individual basis, like we do for everyone else.

3) The discussion about sport could really use its own essay. Major sports leagues from the Olympics on down have been dealing with issues of inclusion for years already, informed by the scientific studies available. In most cases, there is a requirement to have been on hormone therapy for a specific period of time and to monitor endocrine levels. It’s not perfect, but it’s evolving. Where this is a more difficult issue is with school sporting events, because it’s far more difficult to require the same standards from youth who’ve often just come out and aren’t eligible for surgery, or even HRT yet. It’s a question of whether the greater harm is to have cis and trans youth compete with each other or to have trans youth excluded from sports altogether.

4) Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD) could also use its own essay. It is not a recognized medical condition, but rather a theory created by parents who opposed their kids’ transitions. It is supported by one study, which was essentially a survey of those same parents at three websites opposed to trans youth medical access. The study even claimed there were “clusters of gender dysphoria outbreaks” occurring and called it a “social contagion.” The theory arose because people couldn’t understand why there was a sudden increase in the number of kids coming out as trans, but I would think the reason should be obvious: the shift in social acceptance has made it possible for kids to feel confident, safe and hopeful that if they come out, they will be accepted. The major medical bodies support the acceptance and support of trans youth, and have emphasized legitimate studies that repeatedly demonstrate that. There is so much panic about this, as though kids are being manipulated, then rushed into experimental hormone therapy and surgery. It doesn’t work that way. There is plenty of information out there now about trans youth, their medical and social processes, and how everything is paced so that it is reversible until their late teens, when they’re able to make more serious decisions for themselves.

I do have to hand it to the way that “ex-trans” narratives have been rebranded as “desistence” stories in a way unlike “ex-gay” testimonies, though. There has been a lot of effort to find and boost regret narratives. Obviously, nobody wants to see trans youth take steps that they regret, and that includes clinicians, parents, and other trans people (even the activists). That is why (as I said near the beginning of this conversation) that the only real “rule” is to do what one needs to do to be at peace with one’s self. I encourage trans folk of all ages to take their time — but I also know that body dysphoria can make things urgent, and the medical system needs to be able to provide what is needed in an age-appropriate way, when that is the case.

At this point, though, I expect that we are at an impasse. I’m not sure that anything I have said so far has resonated?

Kay: I don’t think this has been a waste of time, as it has allowed each of us to define how we approach the issue. And even to the extent that you believe it is a waste of time, that in itself has some educational value — as it models one of the complaints that many gender-critical commentators have: Any deviation from now-fashionable gender dogma is cast as a persistent form of ignorance, or the result of people not “listening” to trans activists. There isn’t much recognition that people differ in good faith on these issues, and that many gender crits have plenty of evidence of their own. That said, I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to discuss all this.

Allen: Thank you.


Jonathan Kay is Canadian editor of Quillette. Mercedes Allen is a graphic designer, writer and former advocate for trans communities in Alberta.


By                    :               Jonathan Kay & Mercedes Allen

Date                 :               December 2, 2019

Source             :               National Post


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The problem of violence against women and children


Every year from Nov. 25 to Dec. 12, the Philippines observes an 18-Day Campaign to End Violence Against Women (VAW). This annual 18-day campaign was inspired by the global 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, an international campaign coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership. First launched in 1991, the core 16 Days of Activism against VAW takes place every year beginning on Nov. 25 and ending on Dec. 10 which is an International Human Rights Day, hence, affirming that violence against women is a human rights violation.

The Philippines joined the global campaign in 2002 through the Philippine Commission on Women. In 2006, the national campaign was extended to 18 days to include Dec. 12 to mark the signing in 2000 of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children and to supplement the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crimes.

Through Proclamation 1172, Nov. 25 to Dec. 12 of every year was declared as the “18-Day Campaign to End Violence against Women in the Philippines.” Nov. 25 of every year was also declared as the National Consciousness Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Children (VAWC) by virtue of Republic Act 10398, signed in 2013.

For the years 2016-2021, “VAW-free community starts with me” is the Philippine’s campaign theme in its annual observance of the 18-Day Campaign to End VAW. Led by the Philippine Commission on Women in coordination with Inter-Agency Council on Violence Against Women and Children (IACVAWC), “the campaign emphasizes everyone’s commitment and contributions on ending VAW, and presents an ideal picture of a VAW-free community, thus inspiring the general public to make a personal commitment to end violence against women and children.” (Philippine Commission on Women)

Almost 16 years ago, the Philippine Congress passed RA 9262 or the “Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004.” The law was considered a policy breakthrough as it provides a comprehensive policy regime that addresses the problem of VAWC in the country. By addressing the limitations and/or inadequacies of the country’s previous laws, the law creates a better policy environment to deal with issues of VAWC.

The Anti-VAWC law recognizes violence against women and their children as a public crime. It defines VAW so broadly that economic abuse is recognized and penalized under the law. It extends protection to all women victims, regardless of their marital or civil status. The law also provides legal and social remedies that protect and secure the rights and interests of the woman as victim. Lastly, the law recognizes and penalizes marital rape as a crime.

It has been almost 16 years now since the passage of the Anti-VAWC law, in that time has the Philippines become a VAWC-free country?

The results of the 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) by the Philippine Statistical Authority (PSA) would show otherwise. The 2017 NDHS is the 6th DHS survey to be conducted in the Philippines in collaboration with the worldwide Demographic and Health Surveys Program, and the 11th national DHS in all. It covered a nationally representative sample of 25,074 women age 15-49 in 27,496 surveyed households across the 17 regions in the country.

Violence against women in various forms continue to exist as reported in the 2017 NDHS. Nonetheless, the 2017 NDHS survey recorded a decline of violence against women from the previous 2013 and 2008 surveys.

For instance, “Spousal violence experienced by ever-married women by their current or most recent husband/partner, whether physical, sexual, or emotional has declined slightly from 29% in 2008 and 26% in 2013 to 24% in 2017. Women’s experience of physical violence has decreased slightly over time, from 20% in 2008 and 2013 to 17% in 2017. Similarly, women’s experience of physical violence in the 12 months preceding the survey has declined slightly, from 7% in 2008 to 5% in 2017. Women’s experience of sexual violence declined from 8% in 2008 to 5% in 2017.” (NDHS 2017)

Two alarming findings from the 2017 NDHS survey, however, deserve urgent attention from policymakers and implementers. First, while women’s experience of injuries as a result of spousal physical or sexual violence decreased from 41% in 2013 to 37% in 2017, the figure in 2017 is still higher than the 36% recorded in 2008. Second, while the respondents were aware of the legal and social remedies and protection measures provided by the Anti-VAWC law, still, women who have experienced physical or sexual violence sought help from their own family (65%), followed by friends (18%), and neighbors (10%). Only 6% of women have sought help from the police. These results mirror 2013 and 2008 survey findings.

These key findings prompt us to raise more questions. One, why don’t women who have experienced violence in various forms resort to the legal and social protection measures provided by the Anti-VAWC law? Two, are the legal and social interventions by the government agencies mandated to address VAWC poorly implemented and enforced? Three, aren’t the Filipino publics highly informed, and not just aware, about VAW as a human rights violation and there are legal and social remedies that they can access and resort to for help?

Perhaps, the next NDHS survey will consider these questions to aid our policymakers and implementers for future policy planning and implementation. Perhaps, too, national government and local government units take these findings more seriously so that the women who have experienced violence do not remain as plain statistics or numbers, nameless and faceless. Rather, let these findings be the voice of these women who have been continuously silenced, either by the society or by the law.


Diana J. Mendoza, PhD, is Chair of the Department of Political Science at the Ateneo de Manila University.



By                    :               Diana J. Mendoza, PhD

Date                 :               December 2, 2019

Source             :               BusinessWorld

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Explainer: How a U.S. Act on human rights and democracy can protect freedom in Hong Kong


HK Democrats believe the Act will counterbalance China’s encroachment

On November 20, 2019, The United States Senate unanimously voted for an Act aimed at protecting Hong Kong’s autonomous status and its residents’ civic rights.

Proposed in 2014 and reintroduced to the U.S. House Committee on June 13, 2019 — just after the anti-extradition protests broke out — the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act ensures that the U.S. Department of State will report annually to Congress about Hong Kong’s autonomy and human rights status, with a view to assessing whether or not the United States should continue its unique bilateral relations. Hong Kong officials who have been found to suppress freedoms would be sanctioned with visa bans and asset freezes.

Since the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the Senate’s version of the Act on November 21, the final step of its enactment would entail U.S. President Donald Trump signing it within the next few days.

Beijing is furious about the Senate’s move to pass the Act. Its foreign ministry spokesperson, Geng Shuang, condemned it as foreign intervention and threatened that there would be “negative consequences”.

For those unfamiliar with Hong Kong’s colonial history and the city’s political constitution, this U.S. legislation concerning Hong Kong could well seem like foreign intervention. However, since Hong Kong was handed over to China in 1997, the city’s autonomous status has been ensured by international treaty — the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration — which established the principle of “one country, two systems”. It outlines the framework of the the city's mini-constitution, the Basic Law, and ensures that Hong Kong becomes a signatory to a number of United Nations Conventions, including its Human Rights Convention.

Following 1989's Tiananmen Square Massacre in China, the U.S. government enacted the Hong Kong Policy Act in 1992, to ensure Hong Kong's autonomous status as a precondition of its special economic treatment of Hong Kong as a separate customs and trading zone. This Act has granted Hong Kong favorable bilateral ties in the areas of trade and economics, finance, aviation, shipping, and technology.

But ever since 2014, when the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act was first proposed, Hong Kong's autonomy has eroded rapidly, hastened by Beijing's reinterpretation of the Basic Law. On August 31, 2014, China imposed a screening mechanism on the election of the Hong Kong Chief Executive as part of election reform. In 2016, there was the alleged cross-border abduction of booksellers, and a year later, the disqualification of lawmakers over oath-taking.

Throughout all of this, the U.S. government had no legal tools with which to address the situation, as 1992's Hong Kong Policy Act does not include a mechanism to review Hong Kong's autonomous status. A draft of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act was therefore introduced to the U.S. Congress in 2017, but the amendment of 1992's outdated Hong Kong Policy Act was put aside until the anti-extradition protests broke out in June 2019.

The new Act is equipped with a monitoring and sanction mechanism to ensure the city’s “autonomous status” is in alignment with both the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the United Nations’ Human Rights Conventions. The U.S. Senate's final version of the Act has put more weight on Hong Kong’s international status, stressing that the U.S. government will “coordinate with allies, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Japan, and the Republic of Korea, to promote democracy and human rights in Hong Kong”.

The Act allows for detailed human rights assessment items — including education, freedom of the press (including the Internet), and police and security functions — to be addressed in its regular reports. It also gives the U.S. government the authority to ban journalists who work for Chinese Communist Party-affiliated media organizations in Hong Kong from entering the United States, and to block the supply of any crowd control and surveillance equipment that could be inappropriately used in Hong Kong.

Via Radio Free Asia's Twitter account, political cartoonist Rebel Pepper depicts the implications of the new Act on Hong Kong: (

Like Rebel Pepper, the majority of pro-democracy Hong Kongers believes that the Act would counterbalance China’s encroachment into Hong Kong, especially as the city’s independent customs and trading status, recognized by the international community, is the key to the global financial center's success.

China depends on Hong Kong to attract foreign funds and investment there. In 2018, of the 64.2 billion USD that Chinese companies raised globally via initial public offerings, more than 50 percent — a value of 35 billion USD — came from the Hong Kong stock market. The listings from mainland Chinese cities only raised about 19.7 billion USD.

As the trade war between China and United States has intensified, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange had initially planned to buy the London Stock Exchange (LSE) in order to establish more channels for Chinese companies to attract foreign funds in global stock market, but after LSE's management rejected this pursuit in October, Hong Kong remains China’s major source of foreign capital.

On the other side of the coin, the United States also has huge economic interests in Hong Kong. In 2018, the largest U.S. bilateral trade surplus — 31.1 billion USD — was with Hong Kong. The discontinuation of Hong Kong's separate customs and trading zone status would therefore harm American economic interests.

While China is unlikely to loosen its grasp on Hong Kong, Beijing will likely be more cautious in taking further aggressive interventions that undermine the city’s political and legal autonomy. The stability of Hong Kong would be beneficial to all the players, just as ending the city's autonomy would be detrimental to all concerned.


By                    :               Oiwan Lam

Date                 :               November 24, 2019

Source             :               Global Voices

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How to talk to kids about gender


Despite what the gender binary — and the unfortunately popular trend of gender reveal parties — will have you believe, a child's gender isn't determined at birth. And it's important for parents and caregivers to not only grasp that concept, but help their child do the same.

That's because discussing gender can help kids feel more confident in themselves and supported by their parents and caregivers, says Dr. Christy Olezeski, director of Yale's pediatric gender program, which helps people ages three to 25 who are grappling with questions about their gender.

There's also a rule among psychologists who work with trans and gender-nonconforming youth: Adults don't determine a child's gender; it's up to the child to reveal this, adds Dr. Diane Ehrensaft, a developmental and clinical psychologist who has studied gender since the late 1960s.

With that in mind, caregivers should know that it is never too early to start talking or teaching a kid about gender, says Olezeski. When they're about two or three years old, children start to self-identify, which means they might say "I'm a boy" or "I'm a girl." Adults should listen and acknowledge this, she explains.

Caregivers can also talk with their children to help expand their views of gender, but open discussions about gender can't negate the impact of gender stereotypes (such as, boys should be stoic and girls should be emotional) on kids, says Olezeski. Boys and men, for example, tend to be scrutinized more when they "cross" gender lines, both Ehrensaft and clinical psychologist Dr. Laura Edwards-Leeper say. Edwards-Leeper works with youth who are trans and gender diverse (an umbrella term to cover all the gender identity and expression labels out there).

"Some of the more stereotypical masculine things are just valued more and to be feminine is to be lesser than," Edwards-Leeper says. So if a boy acts more "feminine" (like being kind), he can be teased or bullied.

To help parents and caregivers navigate these conversations, Mashable spoke to these experts to get their advice.

1. Learn the difference between gender identity and gender expression

It's essential to understand the difference between gender identity and gender expression because people confuse the two terms a lot, Ehrensaft explains. Gender identity is someone's internal sense of who they are — whether that be a woman, man, somewhere in between, or none of the above.

"It doesn't necessarily match who others think you are," Ehrensaft says.

Gender expression, on the other hand, is how someone chooses to present their gender to the outside world, whether through clothes, hobbies, or their name.

Someone's gender identity isn't always the same as their gender expression. For example, a child whose gender identity is female may choose to express their gender in a traditionally masculine way by playing with trucks, even though some may consider this a boy's activity. 

Kids need the freedom to express themselves in a healthy manner and if the adults in their lives don't know what gender identity and expression are and the differences between the terms, they could conflate the two. That could lead to confusion for both the adult and child, Olezeski says.

If adults aren't clear on gender identity and gender expression, they might think a boy who likes dresses is a transgender girl. But this might not be the case; he might be a boy who likes dresses, Ehrensaft explains similarly.

2. Explore your own feelings

Adults often have trouble with the ambiguity of gender, Edwards-Leeper says.

Ehrensaft offers the example of pre-schools with flexible dress code policies. A boy may decide to wear a dress to school and when he walks into the classroom, the teacher freezes up for a second. The teacher may usually express open viewpoints about gender, but in that split second, their inner biases come through. The child, in turn, picks up on this visceral reaction right away, she says. The teacher might not realize they have unconscious biases about gender but their body language makes it clear to the child that they do, as the teacher likely wouldn’t have noticed if a girl walked in wearing a dress. Children absorb almost everything, even things you don’t say.

Ehrensaft calls these opposing feelings gender angels and gender ghosts. Gender ghosts are our beliefs about gender that stem from what society teaches us, making us stick to rigid definitions of gender. Gender angels, on the other hand, are beliefs that help us accept people who act outside the lines of what we’ve often been taught gender means (like that only boys play with trucks and only girls wear nail polish).

Ehrensaft wants us all to replace our gender ghosts with gender angels. That’s because when our gender ghosts creep out they can negatively affect youth’s mental and physical health, she says.

Ehrensaft recalls speaking with a single father with a teenage son who wanted to wear dresses on the weekend. The father thought it was weird and worried people would beat up his son. Ehrensaft then told the father about the risk factors teens are susceptible to if they’re held back from expressing their gender preferences, including a higher risk of anxiety, depression, self-harm, eating disorders, drug abuse, and suicidal thoughts.

The opposite is also true. When gender-nonconforming youth are supported by their parents, they experience fewer depressive symptoms, according to a 2013 article in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Caregivers should reflect on where their thoughts about gender come from and consider whether their preconceived notions might be harmful to their kids, Ehrensaft advises. Peer support groups and mental health professionals can be great resources for parents and caregivers because they can provide a non-judgmental space to work out concerns and questions about gender, Ehrensaft says.

If you need more direct help, you can contact Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), which helps encourage conversations among LGBTQ individuals and allies through outreach programs and offers teaching tools about gender. Or you can sign up for the gender education nonprofit Gender Spectrum’s monthly call-in support group.

3. Don’t shame children

When children are about three years old, they start to explore both their gender identity and expression says Olezeski. This can take the form of how they identify (whether that be male, female, neither, or somewhere in between), what they wear, how they act, and what toys they play with.

Caregivers might unintentionally shame their children if they say things like, “Oh no! Boys/girls don’t do that!” or using the terms “real boys” or “real girls,” which can imply there’s only one way to be a boy or a girl, explains Olezeski.

Kids will pick up these statements as a sign that adults don’t accept who they are and interpret that who they are and what they like is bad or unwanted, says Ehrensaft.

On the other hand, when adults allow children to express themselves authentically through play and dress, kids can build confidence in what they like, Olezeski says.

When caregivers tell Olezeski that their child wants to wear certain clothing or play with a toy considered to belong to the opposite gender, she explains that it’s normal and healthy for kids to explore their likes and dislikes.

Follow the child’s lead as to how they want to express their gender. You should pick up cues from them, such as if they say what gender they are or express what they like. They may play with trucks but also wear nail polish, Olezeski says.

You can ask children questions if they say or act in ways that might seem incongruent with their gender identity. Observe their body language (for example, if they avoid eye contact) to gauge if you think they’d be comfortable answering questions like, “What would you like me to call you?” and “Do you have a nickname or a preferred name?”

Doing something as simple as asking these types of questions gives a child autonomy and also lets them know you respect them.

“It is an easy intervention that costs nothing to do, but if we do not allow for this, there can be unintentional consequences, such as increased shame and internalized transphobia,” Olezeski adds.

4. Don’t gender genitalia

It can be easy to equate genitalia with gender when teaching children about their body parts, but Ehrensaft cautions against doing this.

Don't say, "if you're born with a penis, you are a boy. If you're born with a vagina or vulva, you are a girl," because this isn't true.

This can be damaging because kids will think people with male genitalia are always men and people with female genitalia are always women, Ehrensaft explains.

Instead you can say, "Some people are born with penises, some people are born with vaginas, and some people may even be born with a little bit of both."

If you'd like to delve further into the conversation, Ehrensaft recommends saying the following: "Most of the people who are born with vaginas grow up to know themselves as girls, but some discover they're boys and some discover they're somewhat in between." Then say, "Most of the people who are born with penises grow up to know themselves as boys, but some discover they're girls and some discover they're somewhat in between."

If your kid asks why, Ehrensaft suggests saying, "Your mind and brain tell you who you are; a boy, a girl, or somewhere in between."

5. Really listen to children

You might rush to immediately respond to what a child is saying about their gender, without actually listening to what they’re saying. The best-intentioned adults often make this mistake and it can lead to a miscommunication.

For example, a child who everyone thinks is a boy could say, “Mommy, I’m a girl and I want a Barbie doll.”

The mother might say in response, “No problem. You don’t have to be a girl to play with dolls. Let’s go out and get you one right now!”

This is meant to be supportive but it misses the point, Ehrensaft says. The child might not just be talking about dolls — they could be saying they are a girl and they want their caregiver to recognize that. Children want to be seen and understood and if they are misunderstood, they could become frustrated and give up on trying to get their message across.

It’s important to notice these moments when they come up and slow down to catch them by making sure you understand exactly what a child is trying to say. Asking a clarifying question like “I think you said x, y, and z, is that right?” can help. 

6. Take advantage of teaching tools

If you need additional support, a wealth of resources exist to teach children about gender. These objects and images can help kids visualize all the aspects of gender, where words might fail.

Ehrensaft advised that adults should explain the tools, so the child can hear their tone when they talk about gender. This way, the child will learn that their parent or caregiver accepts them for who they are, no matter how the child identifies,

The gender unicorn, for example, employs a colorful unicorn to teach children about gender identity, gender expression, what sex assigned at birth means, and how physical and emotional attraction works. You can sit with your child and explain what each term means and the different ways each can manifest.

Ehrensaft compares the excitement she's seen kids have about the gender unicorn with how they react to the tooth fairy — pure joy. Children are drawn to the idea that they could be as special as a unicorn, she says. Even if kids don't know how to read, it's still a good resource because it has a picture, she says.

You can gauge where the child is at developmentally to decide how much of the gender unicorn you should teach. For example, the sexual development spectrum (the "physically attracted to" and "emotionally attracted to" sections) might not be appropriate for young kids, Ehrensaft says.

She also points to the genderbread person, which similarly teaches kids about gender identity, gender expression, biological sex, and physical and emotional attraction, while also demonstrating where these traits stem from. Like the gender unicorn, you can walk your kid through each term and point to the genderbread to explain where these characteristics originate. But keep in mind how much information a child should take in, which depends on their cognitive and emotional development.

There are also children's books that discuss gender in kid-friendly ways. Ehrensaft recommends Stacey's Not a Girl, which takes kids on a journey with Stacey as they explore their gender identity.

Olezeski suggests this children's book list from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. The list includes culturally diverse stories about kids all over the gender spectrum.

Ehrensaft also raves about Mattel's gender-inclusive dolls. The kids Ehrensaft works with rip open the boxes because, she says, they can't wait to play with the dolls as they can make them into any gender they want, which children crave.

7. Integrate teaching moments into everyday life

You can throw sit-down lectures out the window, if that's not your style. They may not work well for young children who have trouble paying attention for long periods of time, says Edwards-Leeper. Instead, pop in bite-sized lessons during relevant, everyday moments.  

Edwards-Leeper, for her part, thinks the gender unicorn and genderbread person are good resources, though she's never actually used them with her own young kids. Instead, lessons about gender come up naturally.

For example, when walking by someone who looks like a man but has long hair, her children have both said, "that's a girl."

Edwards-Leeper corrects them by saying, "Actually, we don't know what that person's gender is. We don't know if they identify as a man or a woman, or something else."

At the end of the day, parents and caregivers just need to remember that no matter where your child stands on the gender spectrum, there should be room for all identities.

"Being able to live in your authentic gender is a human right, and it's not a disease," Ehrensaft says.


By                    :               Siobhan Neela-Stock

Date                 :               December 2, 2019

Source             :               Mashable Asia

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Free broadband: internet access is now a human right, no matter who pays the bills


The UK Labour Party is promising to provide free broadband internet to every British household by 2030 if it wins the 2019 election. To do this, the party would nationalise the broadband infrastructure business of BT and tax internet giants like Google and Facebook. Whatever you think of this plan, it at least reflects that the internet has become not only an essential utility for conducting daily life, but also crucial for exercising our political rights.

In fact, I recently published research that shows why internet access should be considered a human right and a universal entitlement. And for that reason, it ought to be provided free to those who can’t afford it, not just in the UK, but around the world.

Internet access is today necessary for leading a minimally decent life, which doesn’t just mean survival but rather includes political rights that allow us to influence the rules that shape our lives and hold authorities accountable. That is why rights such as free speech, free association, and free information are among the central rights included in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And, crucially, everyone needs to have roughly equal opportunities to exercise their political rights.

Before the internet, most people in democracies had roughly equal opportunities to exercise their political rights. They could vote, write to newspapers or their political representative, attend public meetings and join organisations.

But when some people gained internet access, their opportunities to exercise political rights became much greater compared to those without the internet. They could publish their views online for potentially millions of people to see, join forces with other people without having to physically attend regular meetings, and obtain a wealth of previously inaccessible political information.

Today, a large proportion of our political debates take place online, so in some ways our political rights can only be exercised via the internet. This means internet access is required for people to have roughly equal opportunities to make use of their political freedoms, and why we should recognise internet access as a human right.

As a human right, internet access should be “free” in two ways. First, it should be unmonitored, uncensored, and uninterrupted – as the UN’s General Assembly has demanded in a non-binding resolution in 2016. Second, governments should guarantee a minimally decent infrastructure that is available to all citizens no matter how much money they have. This means funding for internet access should be part of minimum welfare benefits, provided without charge to those who can’t afford to pay for it, just like legal counsel. (This is already the case in Germany.)

A political goal

In developing countries, digital infrastructure reaching everyone might be too expensive to guarantee immediately. But with the required technology becoming cheaper (more people on the planet have access to a web-capable phone than have access to clean water and a toilet), universal access could first be guaranteed via free wifi in public places. Supply can start off in a basic way and grow over time.

Still, expensive infrastructure isn’t the sole obstacle to universal access in developing nations. The spread of the internet could also be increased by promoting gender equality and literacy and digital skills. Developed nations ought to support these efforts by honouring their commitments to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Should everyone in Britain have free broadband in their homes? There are many good reasons to provide the best possible internet access to everyone, such as increasing economic productivity, sharing prosperity more evenly across the country, or promoting opportunities for social engagement and civic participation. And, as such, free broadband for all may be a worthy political goal.

But what is most important is ensuring that everyone has the kind of internet access required for roughly equal opportunities to use their political freedoms. Guaranteed internet access should be considered a human right in our virtual world, whoever ultimately pays the bills.


By                    :               Merten Reglitz (Lecturer in Global Ethics, University of Birmingham)

Date                 :               November 19, 2019

Source             :               The Conversation’

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