Category Archives: Issues

More on the daughter deficit – how it fuels the "sex trade"

Vietnam – Birth Trend May Fuel Sex Work, Trafficking – UN  
09 Sep 2009
HANOI, Sept 9 (Reuters) – The ratio of boys born in Vietnam compared with girls has grown at an unusually rapid pace in recent years and could lead to a rise in sex work and trafficking, the United Nations said.
The sex ratio at birth was 112.1 male births per 100 female births in 2008, up from an estimated 106.2 in 2000, the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) said in a report.
With growth since 2006 of one percentage point per year, the ratio might cross the 115 mark within three years, it said.
By 2035, the surplus of adult men would be 10 percent or more of the female population if the sex ratio did not return to 105 male births per 100 females, it said.
“Scarcity of women would increase pressure for them to marry at a younger age, there may be a rising demand for sex work and the trafficking networks may also expand in response to this imbalance,” UNFPA said.
“Examples of gender-based violence and human trafficking have already been observed in Vietnam and point to some of the risks faced by vulnerable girls and women.”
A key factor behind the rise in the number of male births to female births is increasing access to sex-determination and sex-selection technology, “which has allowed couples to pursue their desire for one or more sons”, the UNFPA said.
Vietnam, which has had an agriculture-based economy for centuries, has a population of nearly 86 million with a strong preference for sons.

Motherhood 'devastates' women's pay, research finds

Amelia Gentleman, The Guardian, Friday mother10 July 2009

Mothers earn around 22% less than their male colleagues. Photograph: Ariel Skelley/Blend Images/Corbis

Women with children earn about 22% less than their male colleagues, according to a new report that explores the “devastating” impact of motherhood on earnings.

“Before becoming parents, men and women are equally likely to be employed, but childbirth marks the start of a great divide, which continues even after children have left home and does lasting damage to women’s careers,” the report finds.

Around 57% of mothers with children under five are in paid work, compared with 90% of men, according to the research published by the Fawcett Society. Partnered women without dependent children earn 9% less than men on average, but for mothers working full-time who have two children, the pay gap with men in the same situation is 21.6%.

“For each year she is absent from the workplace, a mother’s future wages will reduce by 5%,” says the study, entitled Not Having it All: How Motherhood Reduces Women’s Pay and Employment Prospects. Mothers are also much more likely than fathers to adjust their work to fit in with their children’s schedules. Continue reading

The Daughter Deficit !

The New York Times
August 23, 2009

In the late 1970s, a Ph.D. student named Monica Das Gupta was conducting anthropological fieldwork in Haryana, a state in the north of India. She observed something striking about families there: parents had a fervent preference for male offspring. Women who had given birth to only daughters were desperate for sons and would keep having children until they had one or two. Midwives were even paid less when a girl was born. “It’s something you notice coming from outside,” says Das Gupta, who today studies population and public health in the World Bank’s development research group. “It just leaps out at you.”

Das Gupta saw that educated, independent-minded women shared this prejudice in Haryana, a state that was one of India’s richest and most developed. In fact, the bias against girls was far more pronounced there than in the poorer region in the east of India where Das Gupta was from. She decided to study the issue in Punjab, then India’s richest state, which had a high rate of female literacy and a high average age of marriage. There too the prejudice for sons flourished. Along with Haryana, Punjab had the country’s highest percentage of so-called missing girls — those aborted, killed as newborns or dead in their first few years from neglect. Continue reading

Think before you say 'she's a man'

Thursday 20 August 2009 14.30 BST

caster_semenyaSemenya has had to undergo gender verification tests. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

Everyone, it seems, is talking about Caster Semenya, the 18-year-old South African who has had to submit to gender verification tests after posting some excellent 800m times this summer, among them last night’s gold medal-winning 1 minute 55 seconds in Berlin. Unfortunately not everyone has mustered the sensitivity such topics demand: the Sun’s “800m and two veg” headline is crass; the announcement by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) a matter of hours before yesterday’s final was rather more surprisingly tactless. Continue reading

Happy International Women's Day!

Happy International Women’s Day and Happy New Year!  As ever, there is a lot to celebrate and a lot to continue to challenge, including the news that the government is planning to axe pay equity research.  This was the subject of a great faxathon last Friday, but it is an ongoing campaign and you can find more details at

I’ve pasted below some news from a Women’s E-News service I subscribe to which gives us a good mini-overview of some news coming out prior to International Women’s Day.  Have a happy one!


Women’s Day Celebrated; Global Wage Gap Grows
Cheers and Jeers(WOMENSENEWS)–


thumb pointing upWorldwide, women are continuing to achieve upticks in political representation in national assemblies and legislative bodies, according to the annual report card of the Inter Parliamentary Union. In 2008, women’s representation increased to 18.3 percent from 17.7 percent in 2007, with a 60 percent overall increase in female representation since 1995. The ranks of female lawmakers still fall short of a 30 percent benchmark target set by the United Nations in 1995, the Associated Press reported March 5.

To mark International Women’s Day on March 8–and the 30th anniversary of the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women–the United Nations has increased its calls to end violence against women. Events in nations around the world are drawing attention to anti-violence efforts, including rallies, press conferences, exhibits, concerts, panels and seminars.

“This year there is much to celebrate,” UNIFEM executive director Ines Alberdi said in a prepared statement. “The vision women marched for over a century ago, of a life free of poverty and violence, has spread to countries around the globe. People everywhere believe that lives of men and women can be different, and governments have the fundamental obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights.”

More News to Cheer This Week:


  • “The Hijabi Monologues” is catching on with audiences and challenging perceptions of women who wear the Muslim headscarf, the Los Angeles Times reported March 6. The play was written by three women in 2007 and, like Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues,” gathers women’s stories about their experiences covering their heads. The play has had fewer than a dozen performances in the United States, but interest has picked up rapidly in the past few months, with performances planned in more U.S. cities and additional women writing monologues.  
  • Members of the First Inclusive Women’s Sagarmatha Expedition–the 10 Nepali women who climbed Mt. Everest in May 2008 to become the first all-women expedition to summit the world’s highest peak–have started a project presenting a video of their story to schoolgirls around the country, the Inter Press Service reported March 2. The mountaineers are hoping to inspire other Nepali women to climb the peak, which is scaled each year by several thousand people, mostly male and foreign. Before 2008, only seven Nepali women had climbed Everest.  
  • Girls have tentatively been returning to school in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, the United Nations’ IRIN News reported March 4. Taliban militants had banned girls from attending school in the region in December.  
  • Vietnamese women form 50 percent of the paid work force, comprise 83 percent of those participating in economic activity and hold 30 percent of seats in their national assembly. Vietnam was recognized as the Southeast Asian nation that has done the most to eradicate the gender gap over the past 20 years, Vietnam News reported Feb. 27. The country ranked 68th among 130 world nations in the 2008 Global Gender Gap report and continues to experience high rates of domestic violence, increasing HIV rates among women and an imbalanced sex ratio between male and female infants.  
  • Discussion of abstinence-only sex education is “unpopular on Capitol Hill these days” and the Democratic Party’s control of Congress signals the “beginning of the end” for the curriculum, CQ Weekly reported March 2. Annual funding provided to states to pay for abstinence-only programs currently amounts to $95 million, but political support has waned. Abstinence education has been assaulted by reproductive health advocates as ineffective, deeply flawed and even harmful to women’s health.

Herald Columnist Garth George

Garth George: Abortion at the heart of all abuse

4:00AM Thursday Nov 27, 2008
By Garth George
The New Zealand Herald

Predictably, the convictions for the inhuman torture and murder of little Nia Glassie have generated the usual outrage, breast-beating, anger, criticism and demands for something to be done.

It is sound and fury, signifying nothing. Because child abuse, sometimes fatal, is here to stay. And the same goes for violence against women.

We have brought it on ourselves. We have bowed to the blandishments of liberalism, immorality, materialism and hedonism and have set aside most of the moral and legal strictures which for centuries formed the mortar which held societies together and kept them from self-destruction.

For nearly 50 years, we have presided over the gradual unravelling of the fabric of our nation through the breakdown of the traditional family unit upon which community cohesion has always depended.

And we have allowed the wondrous differences between men and women to become so blurred that we no longer know whether we’re Arthur or Martha.

So now we are beginning to pay the price. No matter what we try to do, the price will get ever steeper in misery, pain, terror and despair for the victims, and frustration, anger and shame for the nation.


They will treat symptoms, rarely with success, but the fundamental causes, which are now so firmly embedded in our way of life that they are irremovable, will continue to fester and erupt and spew out their poison.

I have said it before and I say it again: The number one cause of abuse against women and children is abortion.

Listen to the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Never mind that she was a Catholic nun; her views are held by scores of thousands of New Zealanders, and their logic is inescapable.

“… the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion,” she said, “because it is a war against the child – a direct killing of the innocent child – murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?

“… The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships.

“It has aggravated the derogation of the father’s role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts – a child – as a competitor, an intrusion and an inconvenience. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching the people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want … It is a very great poverty to decide that a child must die that you might live as you wish.”

It was never intended that the law should provide open-slather abortion, but it was framed with at least one loophole so big that the pro-abortion protagonists were through it in a flash.

The second major cause of violence against women and children is the belief held by too many women that they should not just be equal to men but, in all but physical appurtenances, are the same.

This is an illusion: men and women are different physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It astounds me that in this age in which knowledge of the makeup of the human being is greater than at any time in history, we will not concede that men and women are genetically programmed for differing roles.

The assumption by so many women of the roles traditionally exclusive to men has left many men in confusion, frustration and anxiety, and more are lashing out because they feel their maleness is under threat.

I find that inordinately sad. You can call me a sexist until you run out of breath, but I believe that God left creating woman until last because he wanted to make sure he got it right. The result was the creation of the most perfect and wonderful creature in the world.

There are other reasons for the violence that riddles our society – multiculturalism, greed generating poverty and a growing deprived underclass, television and the internet, for instance. They, too, present insoluble problems.

So we will continue to reap what we have sown. Be assured that the harvest will be bountiful.

Take Back the Night Auckland Saturday November 1

I thought you would be interested in this upcoming event.  I have participated in many Take Back the Nights in Australia and Canada and am looking forward to this one – what a great event!



Tena koutou, 


We’re writing to let you know about Take Back the Night, which will be held this year in Auckland on Saturday, November 1st.  There will be a rally (with food and speakers) at Aotea Square in Auckland City at 7pm, followed by a march to Basque Park. 


Take Back the Night is a long-running international event that asserts women’s right to feel safe at night and to live in a world without rape and violence. It is an event that raises awareness of and bears witness to the violent crimes perpetrated against women, children, transgendered, and intersexed persons everywhere. It is also an empowering opportunity for women to recognise their shared experiences and unite in the struggle for a world without violence.

From the street to the home, in many spaces women, transgendered and intersexed persons are harassed and subject to many different forms of abuse. These include rape and physical violence, the pressure to conform to men’s expectations, and in some cases, murder – on average a woman in Aotearoa is killed by her (ex-)partner every six weeks.  
By marching, we are powerfully standing together to let the world know that abuse against women, children, transgender, and intersex people is unacceptable, and that all should be allowed to live their lives without fear.


All women, children, transgendered, takaatapui, fafafine, and intersexed persons are invited to join us in ‘Taking Back the Night’. We ask men to support Take Back the Night by respecting our need to organise independently against violence and to use this time to ask how they can best fight rape and violence. 
To present a strong message it would be fantastic if we could get a big number of marchers. Please pass this email on to interested persons, tell your friends, whanau, colleagues and neighbours, and print out the attached poster. We look forward to seeing you at Aotea Square on November 1st. 
Please email us if you require any further information. 


Standing united,
Auckland Take Back the Night Working Group.


If Women Were More Like Men: Why Females Earn Less

By John Cloud

Friday, Oct. 03, 2008
Taken from Time Online –,8599,1847194,00.html

One of the oldest debates in contemporary social science is why women earn less than men. Conservatives tend to argue that because women anticipate taking time off to raise children, they have fewer incentives to work hard in school, and they choose careers where on-the-job training and long hours are less important. Liberals tend to focus on sex discrimination as the explanation. Obviously some mixture of those factors is at work, but academics have long been frustrated when they try to estimate which force is greater: women’s choices or men’s discrimination.

A new study looks at this problem in a wonderfully inventive way. In previous studies, academics have looked at variables like years of education and the effects of outside forces such as nondiscrimination policies. But gender was always the constant. What if it didn’t have to be? What if you could construct an experiment in which a random sample of adults unexpectedly changes sexes before work one day? Kristen Schilt, a sociologist at the University of Chicago and Matthew Wiswall, an economist at New York University, couldn’t quite pull off that study. But they have come up with the first systematic analysis of the experiences of transgender people in the labor force. And what they found suggests that raw discrimination remains potent in U.S. companies.

Schilt and Wiswall found that women who become men (known as FTMs) do significantly better than men who become women (MTFs). MTFs in the study earned, on average, 32% less after they transitioned from male to female, even after the authors controlled for factors like education levels. FTMs earned an average of 1.5% more. The study was just published in the Berkeley Electronic Press’ peer-reviewed Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy.

The men and women in the study had already gone to school and made their career choices. Some of them changed jobs after they transitioned, and some stayed in the same jobs. Some were out to their employers; others started completely new lives as members of the opposite sex. Regardless, the overall pattern was very clear: newly minted women were punished, and newly minted men got a little bump-up in pay.
Still, the paper is complex, so it’s useful to step back first and look at where the larger debate over the gender wage gap stands. After all, isn’t that gap narrowing to the point of obscurity? Actually, no. The Russell Sage Foundation published the most authoritative work on the gender wage gap in 2006, The Declining Significance of Gender?. In the book, Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn, both Cornell economists, show that the average full-time female worker in the U.S. earns about 79% of what the average full-time male worker makes. Women employed full-time actually tend to have slightly more education than men, but women are still more likely to work in clerical and service jobs. Blau and Kahn say women do make different choices when they decide on college majors and jobs — even highly educated women more often choose “female” occupations that pay less — but the authors also note that discrimination persists. As one example, they cite a 2000 study which found that when symphony orchestras switched to blind auditions — those in which the musicians play behind a screen — women had a significantly better chance of being hired.

The good news is that the gender wage gap has narrowed. In 1978, full-time women workers earned just 61% of what full-time men did, compared to 79% now. But what to make of the big difference in the experiences of those transgenders who have become women versus those who have become men? Schilt, one of the authors of the new article, interviewed a female-to-male transgender attorney a few years ago. As a younger attorney, the lawyer had been Susan; now he was Thomas. He told Schilt that after he transitioned from female to male, another lawyer mistakenly believed that Susan had been fired and replaced by Thomas. The other lawyer commended the firm’s boss for the replacement. He said Susan had been incompetent; “the new guy,” he added, was “just delightful.” (Later, Ben Barres, an FTM neurobiology professor at Stanford, told The Wall Street Journal of a similar experience. An attendee at one of his lectures leaned over to a colleague and said, “Ben Barres’ work is much better than his sister’s.”)

Such stories help explain an interesting feature of transgender life: men who want to change outward gender wait an average of 10 years longer to transition than women, according to the new article by Schilt and Wiswall. “MTFs attempt to preserve their male advantage at work for as long as possible,” they write, “whereas FTMs may seek to shed their female gender identity more quickly.” It should be noted that many transgender men do experience discrimination, especially if they are short and if they don’t look convincingly male. Also, it’s harder for MTFs to pass than FTMs: men who become women still have large hands and bigger frames. The less-convincing appearance of MTFs probably explains part of the reason they earn so much less after they transition. Still, the new paper suggests an entirely new vein of research in the field. It also suggests that if you’re thinking about changing sexes, you should carefully consider the economic consequences.

Finally, a Feminist Perspective on the Current Global Financial Crisis

Women must occupy their rightful place
By Aude Zieseniss de Thuin

Published: October 15 2008 18:30 | Last updated: October 15 2008 18:30

Now, in the midst of a global financial crisis, a stock market crisis, looming economic recession and a general crisis of confidence, everyone agrees that we are living a historic moment. Everyone is worried and asking questions. Etymologically, ”Krisis” in Greek designates a key moment that demands a decision – that demands action; the use of the word in ancient medicine meant the critical threshold of an illness that can go either way, better or worse. So today let us use this troubled situation to make changes; let us make the decisions necessary to push things in the right direction. Let us understand this crisis, as in Chinese terminology, in its twin senses of both danger and opportunity.

What are the opportunities available to us? What must be changed in this economic and financial world that has gone awry? People are challenging the very basis of the capitalist system. It is impossible not to reflect on a system that engenders or at least allows such events to happen. The subprime crisis seems to be the exacerbated expression of a market economy gone wild. But without going into a philosophical questioning of our economic system, there is one subject that can be addressed immediately in order to bring about change: the way our companies are run. This crisis is not the result of chance; decisions were taken and acted upon; the governance of companies is seriously at cause. ”We are nearing the state of crisis and the century of revolutions,” wrote Jean-Jacques Rousseau* in 1762. We are there now. Has not the time come for a revolution in governance?

Without a doubt, the time has come for women to occupy their rightful place. Why? Would the crisis have been so serious if there had been more women on the boards and in top management? Do women have a better sense of risk management? While history cannot be rewritten, one must ask the questions. In any case, a higher proportion of women in company management is essential because diversity in points of view and approaches engenders discussion. The advantage a feminisation of governance provides is virtually mechanical: multiplicity of ideas and sensibilities leads to more balanced and reasonable consensus decisions. And this is true not only for governance and crisis situations. Multiple studies attest to the importance of women in top positions. Women Matter 2, just published by McKinsey & Company, shows on a worldwide scale that women more frequently develop the leadership qualities needed to reinforce the competitive edge in companies’ finance and organisation than men do. Closing the gender gap in decision-making thus increases competitiveness. In stock exchanges, banks, financial institutions and, more generally, at every level of the economic, legislative or political chain of our societies, doing without the women’s approach means giving up the balance and moderation that gender equality brings. Today more than ever, all the institutions of the world still showing a strong gender gap need renewal, they need to diversity their profiles and approaches, they need to give themselves – and the world – a new chance.

The crisis provides the opportunity for women to claim their rightful place in corporate decision-making. But let us make no mistake, this is a collective opportunity for everyone and must be understood as such. Allowing women the possibility to express their point of view is not a gender issue but a revindication for a world that cannot change, evolve and progress without women’s vision and contribution.

While these ideas have already been developed and fought for, they have not been implemented; gender equality has even regressed. That is why they must be forcefully supported and rightfully claimed. This is what we are doing at the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society in Deauville, October 16, 17 and 18, 2008. We are debating and discussing with 1,200 women from 88 countries to make our international contribution on the crisis. With progress as the theme of our meeting, we are looking at the rightful place women must occupy today in the construction of a society that has but to learn from the current crisis. New models will surely be imagined. With one certainty: you cannot do it without us.

*Ipsos survey, October 10 and 11, 2008, on a representative national sample of 1007 people, 15 or older, questioned by telephone at their homes.

*J.J. Rousseau, Emile, III.

The writer is founder and chief executive officer, Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society