Category Archives: Discrimination

New laws on labour trafficking: the need for defining conditions in SG

Bar on what is forced labour should not be set so high that new law ends up nailing no one


A group of Bangladeshi men arrive in Singapore expecting to earn a basic monthly salary of $600 plus overtime because that is what they were told back home when they were recruited to be construction workers. The amount is stated in the approval letter from Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) which they receive before they board the flight. Within days of arriving, however, their employer gives them the lowdown: their basic pay will be $520, and they will have to sign a fresh contract reflecting the reduced terms. Having taken loans of more than $3,000 to land their jobs here, the men sign on the dotted line. If they refuse, they know, they might be sent home penniless to face a huge debt.

They start work and soon learn that other workers have been similarly deceived by the same employer, who also makes them work extra hours without overtime pay. There are illegal deductions too and some months their basic salary dips to below $200.

This is a hypothetical case, but such practices are not uncommon here, say migrant worker advocates who deal with foreign workers in various states of distress. If migrant workers facing such multiple forms of abuse complained in Europe, the United States, Canada or Australia, their allegations, if true, could be prosecuted under laws banning human trafficking. In those countries, the law covers vulnerable migrant workers who are deceived or coerced into commercial sex or labour and exploited.

Singapore is planning a dedicated law to combat human trafficking, but judging by discussions so far, such cases may fall outside its purview. Public consultations on the Prevention of Human Trafficking Bill, likely to be introduced in Parliament by November this year, ended on April 18. It covers sex and organ trafficking, which are already illegal here, as well as labour trafficking which is not prohibited under current laws. Continue reading

Is the Internet facilitating inequality?

 JAN 28 2014, 4:34 PM ET

In the 1990s, the venture capitalist John Doerr famously predicted that the Internet would lead to the “the largest legal creation of wealth in the history of the planet.” Indeed, the Internet has created a tremendous amount of personal wealth. Just look at the rash of Internet billionaires and millionaires, the investors both small and large that have made fortunes investing in Internet stocks, and the list of multibillion-dollar Internet companies—Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Amazon. Add to the list the recent Twitter stock offering, which created a reported 1,600 millionaires.

Then there’s the superstar effect. The Internet multiplies the earning power of the very best high-frequency traders, currency speculators, and entertainers, who reap billions while the merely good are left to slog it out.

But will the Internet also create the greatest economic inequality the global economy has ever known? And will poorly designed government policies aimed at ameliorating the problem of inequality end up empowering the Internet-driven redistribution process?

As the Internet goes about its work making the economy more efficient, it is reducing the need for travel agents, post office employees, and dozens of other jobs in corporate America. The increased interconnectivity created by the Internet forces many middle and lower class workers to compete for jobs with low-paid workers in developing countries. Even skilled technical workers are finding that their jobs can be outsourced to trained engineers and technicians in India and Eastern Europe.

That’s the old news. Continue reading

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Student commentaries – on how science has attempted to justify racism

Some very good research and writing from Daniel and Caleb from 1T20.

You can read Caleb’s Research on Discrimination,  in particular, the section on how various branches  of ‘science’ has tried to explain innate differences, and hence water down the act of discrimination is worth reading (probably clearer than mine!). Daniel sets the context below, thoroughly explaining how science has been perverted to explain discrimination – and it’s place in the natural order.

Only until the last century, over the last half of a millennium, openly blatant and public racial discrimination has been shamelessly justified by calling it science – resultantly defiling the practice of science and all the works scientists had contributed along with it. This highly repugnant behaviour leadsone to wonder how a heinous atrocity of such a magnitude could exist for so long in Man’s history. ‘Credit’ is either due to the perpetrators’ excellent job of masquerading their distasteful practices or the victims’ fear (or genuine inability) of speaking out for themselves. Hence, the notion of science itself – an abstract incorporeal notion – is merely a tool or means utilised by past men belonging to the ‘upper echelons’ of society to justify racism and other forms of prejudices; it cannot attempt to “justify racism” per se, and any failed attempts would be due to the perpetrators. With regard to the success of the perpetrators-of-prejudice, it should be jarringly obvious from the disregard for this notion today that it has ceased to be an acceptable reason for discrimination. Although racism is pervasive, this fact should not be attributed or associated to the success of justification of discrimination by scientific means. Racism has long existed before scientific racism set in – anti-semitism is said to have existed since 300 BC – muddying our early perceptions of what is truly ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and the demarcation between them, so the existence of racism today is not due to scientific racism efforts in the past. Few can refute if one were to say that scientific racism propagated discrimination and contributed to its longevity, but the crux of this discussion is whether science has been successfully used as a means to justify racism, and it most definitely has not been convincing to the victims even during the eras of when scientific racism was a commonplace, and the so-called scientific racism was seen a legitimate field.

Continue reading

What is the real terrorist threat in America?

Domestic terrorism in the US is hardly an outcome of Islamic militanism, yet terrorism is largely associated with the muslim community in and outside of the US. 

The New Yorker – Posted by 


Satwant Kaleka, who served as president of the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, arrived in the United States from India three decades ago with thirty-five dollars in savings. By last Sunday, he owned several gas stations, according to the Los Angeles Times. He turned up early that morning at his temple to oversee worship and preparations for a large birthday party.

Wade Michael Page, a former bassist and guitarist in a white-supremacist rock band, drove to Oak Creek just after 10:15 A.M. He pulled out a pistol and shot worshipers remorselessly. An eleven-year-old-boy, Abhay Singh, watched him shoot one victim seven or eight times.

Kaleka tried to tackle the gunman. Page shot him, too; Kaleka dragged himself away, but he bled to death. He was sixty-two years old.

Sikhs in the greater Milwaukee area face discrimination “on a daily basis” because of the visible markers of their faith, such as the turbans that believing Sikh men tie on, Kaleka’s brother said later, and yet Kaleka held onto a belief in an “American freedom dream.”

Page’s other five victims were all immigrants to the United States from India’s Punjab province, where there is a large Sikh population. Among them were Suveg Singh Khattra, an eighty-four-year-old farmer who came to the U.S. to live with his son, and Paramjit Kaur, who worked more than sixty-five hours a week at a Wisconsin medical-instrument factory; she was the mother of two college-age sons.

There is no hierarchy of hate crime or racist terrorism, but Page’s massacre has a distinctive, sickening quality, set amid ignorance and reflecting a pattern of underpublicized bias of a sort that is often directed at the smallest of minority groups.

It’s not clear whether the shooter, like some Americans who have violently attacked Sikhs before, mistakenly believed that his victims were Muslims. In any event, the outrage would be the same if Page had shot up a mosque. The killer seemed to hate all brown people, regardless of their religious affiliation.

Yet the mass murder at Oak Creek took place in a context of persistent discrimination against Sikhs. During the months and years after September 11, 2001, Sikhs have been attacked and in at least one instance murdered by vigilantes who mistook them for members of the Taliban. Nor is this bias only a fringe problem of skinheads. At American airports, it is the policy of the Transportation Security Administration to always single out turban-wearing Sikh men for secondary screening and pat downs, no matter the traveller’s age or profile. (Turbans can in theory hide explosives, as suicide bombers in Afghanistan have demonstrated, but the procedures and explanations of the T.S.A. about its rules, as described by the Sikh Coalition, an advocacy and education group, suggest a blanket policy that would not likely be applied to a religious group with a higher profile and more numerous advocates.) Continue reading

Saudi Arabia’s women-only cities are no blueprint for liberation


A plan for cities of female workers will not increase women’s independence. It is akin to US-style Jim Crow racial segregation

‘How can further segregation be expected to solve the problems caused by discrimination?’ Photograph: Hassan Ammar/AFP/Getty Images
Aug 13 Monday, The Guardina

Are radical feminist separatists infiltrating Saudi Arabia’s ruling elite? Have the women of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia undergone a wild revolution,read Love Your Enemy? and decided to eschew all male company to create their own political systems and free themselves from the patriarchy? I hope so, because otherwise it’s hard to imagine the convoluted logic behind a decision to build all-female cities to boost women’s employment.

The country already has separate schools, segregated universities (and thebiggest all-female university in the world) not to mention offices, restaurants and even separate entrances for public buildings. Now industrial hubs are to be built so that women can be hidden away even further than their current dresscode of abaya, headscarf and niqab allows.

The country’s segregation is so extreme the plans bring to mind the US’s racial divide under the Jim Crow laws, ensuring “separate but equal” institutions for black and white people. And like the legalised discrimination in the US, “equal” in this context means no such thing. The female half of the adult population of Saudi Arabia is considered unfit to control their own lives. Women cannot decide whether to leave the house, whether or who to marry, whether to work or study, whether to travel, what to wear, or even whether to have major surgery – without the consent of a male guardian.

In a country of such startling misogyny, which treats women like children, it is hardly surprising there are few women in work and that it is becoming a crises the ruling elite is being forced to take notice of. Almost 60% of the country’s college graduates are women, but 78% of female university graduates are apparently unemployed – despite the fact more than 1,000 hold a doctorate degree. In total only 15% of Saudi Arabia’s workforce are women. And unlike in many recession-hit countries, there are more than enough jobs to go around – the economy apparently booming.

Yet with women refused driving licences for fear it will lead to social disintegration, education for girls failing to fit them for the workplace, and businesswomen still expected to have a male representative to deal with government agencies, not to mention the pressure to provide women with separate offices, employers naturally favour men. With sexism so central to the system, women are also largely restricted to traditionally female-oriented fields in the public sector and less than 1% of decision-making posts are held by Saudi women. Continue reading

Watch out for divide between old and young

July 28 2012, Phua Mei Pin, STraits Times

THE population question today pits the citizen against the foreigner. Yet the real showdown to come is not between those born in different countries, but those born in different eras.

Last week, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned that a new fault line is forming in Singapore between new and old citizens. The tension is not only over different cultural norms, but that foreign workers and new citizens add to the competition in schools, workplaces, housing market and even for a bus seat.

As long as Singaporeans are focused on this fissure, they may not notice a serious crack forming within the citizen population itself: the divide between young and old.

It is a fault line that will widen and deepen in the very near future. Because it involves the citizen population, it will also be ripe for politicisation and has the potential to cause lasting tears in Singapore’s social fabric.

The basics of Singapore’s ageing population woes are well-rehearsed. As life expectancy lengthens and the birth rate lingers among the lowest in the world, its population looks set to shrink from 2025.

The likely outcome: fewer working adults will shoulder the responsibility of supporting more retired elderly, most obviously by paying higher taxes. Either state funding in some areas will have to be cut, or new sources of funding will have to be sought.

What sounds like the old story of not enough babies is actually the even older story of not enough resources, especially in the face of diverging and intensifying interests.

In this story, the old citizen will bare knuckles against the younger citizen over limited land and funds. Osteoporosis notwithstanding, the older citizen looks set to put up a fierce fight.

The retired elderly are more likely to plumb for taking the economy to a lower gear, arguing against investments and measures for long-term growth. As consumers rather than workers, they will have little interest in job opportunities or wage levels, but will oppose the inflation that comes with higher levels of growth. Continue reading

A history of racism: BBC Documentaries

Excellent video resource:

A great overview (if a little theatrical at times) of the history of racism as an invented concept with the onset of the colonialism and the slave trade. Watching all the way till part 6 gives you an in-depth understanding of how racism has manifested across the centuries, and the web of causes that shape discriminatory practices.  The world’s first death camp – the Heroro tribe in central Africa is also explained here.

For the scientifically inclined:  Looking at Scientific Racism, invented during the 19th century, an ideology that drew on now discredited practices such as phrenology and provided an ideological justification for racism and slavery. These theories ultimately led to eugenics and Nazi racial policies of the master race

– The third and final episode examines the impact of racism in the 20th Century. By 1900, European colonial expansion had reached deep into the heart of Africa. Under the rule of King Leopold II, The Belgian Congo was turned into a vast rubber plantation. Men, women and children who failed to gather their latex quotas would have their limbs dismembered. The country became the scene of one of the century’s greatest racial genocides, as an estimated 10 million Africans perished under colonial rule. Contains scenes which some viewers may find disturbing.

What’s stopping women?

This illustration is by Jon Krause and comes from <a href=""></a>, and is the property of the NewsArt organization and of its artist. Reproducing this image is a violation of copyright law.

PRINCETON – When I wrote the cover article of the July/August issue of The Atlantic, entitled “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” I expected a hostile reaction from many American career women of my generation and older, and positive reactions from women aged roughly 25-35. I expected that many men of that younger generation would also have strong reactions, given how many of them are trying to figure out how to be with their children, support their wives’ careers, and pursue their own plans.

I also expected to hear from business representatives about whether my proposed solutions – greater workplace flexibility, ending the culture of face-time and “time machismo,” and allowing parents who have been out of the workforce or working part-time to compete equally for top jobs once they re-enter – were feasible or utopian.

What I did not expect was the speed and scale of the reaction – almost a million readers within a week and far too many written responses and TV, radio, and blog debates for me to follow – and its global scope. I have conducted interviews with journalists in Britain, Germany, Norway, India, Australia, Japan, the Netherlands, and Brazil; and articles about the piece have been published in France, Ireland, Italy, Bolivia, Jamaica, Vietnam, Israel, Lebanon, Canada, and many other countries.

Reactions differ across countries, of course. Indeed, in many ways, the article is a litmus test of where individual countries are in their own evolution toward full equality for men and women. India and Britain, for example, have had strong women prime ministers in Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher, but now must grapple with the “woman-as-man” archetype of female success.

The Scandinavian countries know that women around the world look to them as pioneers of social and economic policies that enable women to be mothers and successful career professionals, and that encourage and expect men to play an equal parenting role. But they are not producing as many women managers in the private sector as the United States is, much less at the top ranks. Continue reading

Chile passes anti-discrimination law after brutal hate crime

SANTIAGO (AFP) – Chile enacted an anti-discrimination law on Thursday, fully seven years after it went before Parliament, amid horror after suspected neo-Nazis killed a young gay man.

The bill condemns discrimination based on gender, race and religion, among other factors. It was presented to parliament in 2005 but not approved until May 2012, after the initiative was stalled by conservative legislators.

It introduces the concept of ‘arbitrary discrimination’ into the Chilean legal system and punishes violators with fines ranging from US$400 (S$508) to $4,000.

Some on the Chilean right feared the law might lead to the legalisation of gay marriage and held up the bill’s progression. The political logjam only broke after the killing of 24-year-old Daniel Zamudio on March 27.

The new law has been dubbed the ‘Zamudio Law.’ Pictures released by Zamudio’s family showed how the attackers inflicted a head wound, burned him with cigarettes, and carved Nazi symbols and slogans on his body. Zamudio spent three weeks in hospital before dying.

Chile’s political left ruled the country at the end of roughly two decades of dictatorship, until 2010, when right-wing President Sebastian Pinera was elected to office.

‘Thanks to Daniel’s sacrifice, now we have a new law I’m sure will help us confront, prevent and punish acts of discrimination, which cause so much pain,’ Mr Pinera said, as his enacted the new law at the presidential palace.

Zamudio’s parents attended the ceremony.

‘I am very proud that the law was passed and that it is named for Daniel,’ said Daniel’s mother, Jacqueline Vera. ‘My son will never be forgotten.’

Representatives of Chile’s Jewish, Arab, indigenous and disabled communities were also present at the ceremony.

The law defines ‘arbitrary discrimination’ as ‘any distinction, exclusion or restriction made without reasonable justification by state employees or private individuals that would deprive, disrupt or threaten fundamental rights.’

Chilean gay rights group The Homosexual Liberation Movement reports that 17 people have died and some 800 have been assaulted in crimes against Chile’s gay community since 2002. –  20Jul, 2012

Gender inequality – what women need. (Observe the evaluative language)

Naomi Wolf, Project Syndicate, 4 Jul 2012

NEW YORK – We are just recovering, in the United States, from the entirely predictable kerfuffle over a plaint published by Anne-Marie Slaughter, former Director of Policy Planning at the State Department and a professor at Princeton University, called “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.” The response was predictable because Slaughter’s article is one that is published in the US by a revolving cast of powerful (most often white) women every three years or so.

The article, whoever has written it, always bemoans the “myth” of a work-life balance for women who work outside the home, presents the glass ceiling and work-family exhaustion as a personal revelation, and blames “feminism” for holding out this elusive “having-it-all ideal.” And it always manages to evade the major policy elephants in the room – which is especially ironic in this case, as Slaughter was worn out by crafting policy.

The problems with such arguments are many. (EV) For starters, the work-family balance is no longer a women’s issue. All over the developed world, millions of working men with small children also regret the hours that they spend away from them, and go home to bear the brunt of shared domestic tasks. This was a “women’s issue” 15 years ago, perhaps, but now it is an ambient tension of modern life for a generation of women and men who are committed to gender equality. (EX – explaining why it is no longer a women’s issue) 

Such arguments also ignore the fact that affluent working women and their partners overwhelmingly offload the work-family imbalance onto lower-income women – overwhelmingly women of color. (EV – making a judgement/providing personal opinion) One can address how to be an ethical, sustainable employer of such caregivers; nannies in New York and other cities are now organizing to secure a system of market-pegged wages, vacation time, and sick days. Or, as so often happens in a racist society, one can paint the women who care for the elite’s children out of the picture altogether.

Moreover, an inflexible and family-unfriendly corporate environment is no longer the only choice for working women. Many, particularly in the US, have left that world to start their own businesses. Continue reading