Censoring China

April 07, 2013

China’s new president must make his country an attractive place for young people to live, and that includes a space for free expression

“Legalizing all pornography would be wrong; it would lead to more rape and unnatural sex. I commend this measure to the house.” Zeng is an undergraduate at Sichuan University, taking part with 300 others in a debating championship in the thriving port city of Qinhuangdao in northeast China.

Nearby is the seaside resort of Beidaihe, the official summer holiday haunt of communist leaders from Chairman Mao onwards. But this is the new China, where students don’t shy away from topics like: Should the children of government officials be banned from public jobs? Would Chinese universities be more competitive if they were privatized? Should China stop subsidizing labor-intensive industry? Put condom machines in schools? And yes, should China legalize porn?

It’s fair to say … [more]


The price of honour

April 06, 2013

Riahana was smuggled into the UK when she was only 19. After a rudimentary education in Kurdish Iran, she found herself in the Midlands married to a man who abused her, and forced her to abort her baby. At 24— pale with luminous dark eyes—she was clearly terrified. “I can’t trust anybody, I am too afraid. At night I dream about my baby, I think he has come to say goodbye to me. One day I may kill myself, I have already tried.” She spread her hand on the table helplessly, “Really, I am lost.”

Riahanna was a victim of honour violence, a practice which has led campaigners to criticise government policy which they believe has appeased traditional ‘community leaders’ who don’t go far enough in condemning such attacks. One well known case was that of Kurdish teenager Tulay Goren, who’s father was sentenced to 22 years in prison for her murder in 2009. “Tulay’s father was treated like a hero in his community f… [more]


Breathing new life into Italy

February 27, 2013

Italy needs new blood, but that is the one thing it is certain not to get in the country’s upcoming elections that have resembled a popularity poll for aging—many thought politically-dead—statesmen, with TV soundbites providing an endless background drone in millions of homes otherwise depressed by a stagnant economy and systemic lack of opportunity.

With one of the most fragmented political systems in Europe, Italians can choose between a dizzying array of 215 parties, including the ‘Black Rose’ movement which supports right-wing gay rights, and the ‘Ordinary Guy Front’. The names of many such groups, displayed along the hallway of the Interior Ministry in Rome, reveal what many Italians think of the state of their nation— and whom they hold responsible.

Yet it seems likely that the ‘Stop Taxes and Bank’ movement and ‘Half the Salaries of Politicians’ will be little more than a weak pro… [more]


Feminism's new frontline

January 30, 2013

It started with a trip to see the film, Life of Pi, and ended with Jyoti Singh Pandey’s final words on her deathbed in a Singapore hospital: “I am so sorry, mummy.”

The 23 year old physiotherapy student from New Delhi was horrifically injured in a gang rape on board a moving bus. Yet her plight did little to stir politicians or India’s justice system into action until a wave of protest across the country forced the systemic abuses against women into the spotlight. A victory of sorts, but not for Jyoti Singh Pandey.

Similarly, for Malala Yousafzai the outcry surrounding her attack probably did not feel like a triumph. The 14 year-old Pakistani was shot in the head by Taliban assailants on her way home from doing the thing that enraged them most: going to school. Her condition remained critical for days, but male Pakistani commentators, like Syed Fazl-e-Haider from the Dawn newspaper, quickly proc… [more]


Reversal of Fortune

December 15, 2012

How Latin Americans, like Venezuelan Alberto Vollmer, are changing their continent from within.

Alberto Vollmer is the old new face of Latin America. Old because, even though he’s only 44, the rum baron’s lineage stretches directly back through Venezuela’s ruling oligarchy to the day in 1818 when independence hero Simón Bolívar declared an end to slavery on the porch of the family hacienda in the Aragua Valley. New because, while the Vollmer family symbolizes the kind of land-owning aristocracy reviled by left-wing President Hugo Chávez, eldest son Alberto has turned around the family firm, Santa Teresa Rum, and established successful land reform and gang reconciliation projects.

The sound of thwacking rugby balls and the whistle of the steam train bringing tourists to the Santa Teresa hacienda can add a deceptive air of calm, but the reality is brutal. Since Chávez came to power almost 14 years ago… [more]



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