The Positive Correlation between Women in Parliament and Standard of Living in High Income Nations.

¨The religious heterosexual male majority has homogeneously denied women´s inclusion¨

For high income nations there is a correlation between the percentage of women in parliament (congress) and the standard of living in a society. According to the World Bank, a high income nation can be described as a country whose working citizens earn above $12,746 per capita (2013). Countries with high incomes have intricate and diverse economies that allocate taxes in order to provide services for the population that support it. The doctrine of ¨No Taxation Without Representation¨ was part of the English-speaking world´s Enlightenment period, but it still rings true today in that women, who represent 50% or more of the human population, are not properly represented in various governments worldwide.

¨Rich¨ countries are able to provide more social services from taxes than ¨poor¨ countries. High income nations have a focus on the family, health, education, equality, and security; while acts of aggression like war, the death penalty, and lengthy incarceration are not priority. In all these cases, the United States and Japan seems to be the outliers, but in two distinct ways.

Data provided for this opinion and social commentary come from a website that monitors women in government. Because of failure of transparency and disclosure of information, commentaries are made based only on the number of women in the lower house of parliament. For Americans, the graph represents the percentage of women in the House of Representatives, not the Senate.

 

women in parliaments

 

Not included on this graph is the country of Rwanda, whose parliament is composed of 63.8% women. It is currently the only country in the world where women form the majority of the lower or single house. Rwanda, although it had a devastating civil war and genocide in the 1990s is beginning to recuperate and reconcile with those who had committed atrocities. Now it is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.

Andorra, a principality located between Spain and France, has a General Council that is 50% women.  The country has the third highest life expectancy in the world at 82 years. Andorra, like many European nations, enjoy a free healthcare system and free higher education.

Nordic countries like Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and Denmark have a range between 39% – 45% women in their lower houses of parliament. These countries are known for their high standards of living, low crime, human rights, and gender equality. Free education and healthcare are values that have become a thing of culture, not politics.

The Romance-speaking countries like Spain, France, Italy and Portugal vary with respect to women and their representation in government. Spain has the highest number of women in their lower house (Congress of Deputies) at 39.7%; France has the lowest at 26.2%. These countries are still bastions for Catholicism, whose doctrines are opposed to women´s reproductive rights like abortion, birth control instruments like the IUD, and contraception medication, yet politics and religion do not get in the way of women´s health.

All four of these countries also have a higher life expectancy than the United States maybe because their healthcare system is subsidized by the everyone, including the government, much like the Nordic countries, to ensure  that a larger portion of the population have free and easy access to a doctor. There is recognition among political leaders and citizens in these countries that contraception medication is not only for preventing pregnancy, but for preventative health against tumors, to regulate hormones, and some types of cancers. The Spanish government, currently ruled by the conservative People´s Party, decided to restrict women´s access to abortion and birth control. No one is really sure how the law works, or when it goes into effect, but it is understood that state-run hospitals (under social security) no longer provide abortions, it must be provided by a privately-run hospital with private healthcare*.

Anglophone countries like New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom and Canada also have free healthcare and free higher education. They also have higher life expectancies than the United States as well.  Generally, Western Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have higher life expectancies based on their social systems that have more women in government. These high income nations can afford to balance their mixed economies in order to provide for a well-educated public where political debate on whether or not citizens should be offered free health services is a ¨no brainer.¨

¨On a substantive level, studies systematically show that female politicians are more likely to concentrate on issues that matter more to women such as daycare, gender equality, reproductive rights, flex time, elderly care, children’s welfare.1 It seems pretty intuitive that there are some issues that are more important to women and affect them more. It also seems like common sense that women would be more likely to focus on these issues than men.¨ Christine Cheng

Maternity leave, which also includes paternity leave in progressive countries, is another concept foreign to the general American citizen. Although Americans would claim that they live in the richest and best country in the world, it provides about as much subsidized, ¨free¨ healthcare and maternity leave as the Democratic Republic of the Congo – zero.

 

Maternity-leave-chart-final

 

The United States government does not have provisions for maternity leave. After giving birth, you basically have to get back to work in 3 days or quit your job.

The United States has a lot in common with countries that have poor records in human rights or countries that have very restrictive women´s reproductive rights. At 27.7% and 25.3%, Afghanistan and Iraq both currently have more women in their lower house than the United States. Only 18.2% of the House of Representatives is represented by women in the United States.  Saudi Arabia has 19.9% in their lower house and women aren´t even allowed to drive! Qatar, a major U.S. ally in the Middle East currently has 0.0% women in their government. Apparently, they currently have no restrictions on women running for positions in an Advisory Council. Qatar is technically the richest country in the world per capita, and like Saudi Arabia, is ruled by a family monarchy.

Ireland, although lauded for its high standard of living and general health of the public, has maintained a strict anti-abortion policy. There was a fire storm in Ireland in 2012 when a woman of Indian heritage, who had severe pain and was miscarrying, was repeatedly denied an abortion. She was denied because ¨Ireland is a Catholic country and the fetus still had a heartbeat.¨ She eventually died of sepsis (septicemia). Another case involves a woman in Ireland – apparently suicidal – who was also repeatedly denied an abortion. They ¨legally¨forced her to submit to a C-section at only 25 weeks of pregnancy after her attempts at a hunger strike.

Pro Life Campaign spokeswoman, Dr Ruth Cullen, said the news “underlines the horror and deep-seated flaws of the government’s legislation”.

“To induce a pregnancy at such an early stage inevitably puts the baby at risk of serious harm, such as brain damage, blindness or even death,” she said.

The lower house in Ireland is composed of only  15.7% women. This could be a direct correlation of how women´s health is buried beneath the apparent Catholic theocracy in Ireland.

India, the world´s largest democracy has a huge problem with women´s rights, rape, sexual assault and other indigenous beliefs that force underage women into marriages with significantly older men. In a country with more than 1 billion people, women are only 11% of the lower and upper house of parliament. The lack of representation in India has serious consequences in that male sex offenders are often not punished for violating women.  In the heart of Africa, there is the problem of female genital mutilation, which is performed in countries, where women represent less than 11% of the parliament (Kenya, Nigeria, Cote d´Ivoire, Mali, Sudan, Congo etc). They are forced against their will to submit to a barbaric practice for the benefit of men who want women to remain virgins.

The main outlier in this correlation between standard of living and women in parliament is Japan, where women represent only 8.1% of their 480 seats of the house. Japan, which has one of the lowest birthrates in the world and second highest life expectancy, is struggling with internal issues that would need to be further studied by sociologist and anthropologists specializing in Japan. Recent sexist comments by Japanese parliament members like ¨ Breed, don´t lead¨  have cause a wave of protests. Low birth rates were attributed to both men and women: women, who under threat of losing their jobs after taking maternity leave, prefer to keep working in order to maintain their careers; and men, who have similar goals, have replaced physical contact with ¨digital contact.¨

In Iran, the Ayatollah called for a ¨population boost¨ effectively banning ¨permanent¨ birth control for men and women in various forms. Doctors can be imprisoned for performing vasectomies, abortions or other operations like installing an IUD. This is an example of a theocratic government controlling reproductive rights for men and women in a country where their lower house in parliament is only 3% women. Controlling the population by prohibiting birth control can be seen as an act of aggression in that more soldiers are wanted for an anticipated war.

The United States still hovers around 20% women in the House of Representatives and 20% in the Senate. In 2016, American citizens might have the opportunity to elect the first female U.S. president. Hillary Clinton is closer than any other women in history due to her popularity among Americans of all walks of life. But electing just the first female president is not enough to close the gender gap in congress. Hopefully in the midterm elections there will be a cultural shift to honor the demands of the nation´s women and promote the diversity that makes the United States unique. LBGT peoples and minorities should also be represented in all facets of life and protected by the law (the religious heterosexual male majority has homogeneously denied their inclusion). Americans have to decide whether civil rights for all people will be distributed by force or by principle. As Abraham Lincoln famously said:

¨A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free.¨

 

By: Opton A. Martin

 

* http://www.para-abortar.es/aborto/ley-actual-del-aborto-2014-enero/

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Are Reparations Still Relevant? Who Deserves it and When is It Acceptable?

 The controversial topic that debates whether or not monetary reparations are justifiable for people of African descent in the 21st Century.

It might be too late for some reparations, but not soon enough for others.

The question of whether or not European and American governments should give reparations for slavery to people of African descent in the form of money or land comes from a few different sources: African-Americans (in all of the Americas); Haiti, for declaring their independence in 1804; and the people of the continent of Africa, for the European Scramble for Africa.

Every region of the world has experienced epic tragedies that involved the massive loss of human life in the most inhumane ways possible. In order to recuperate from past injustices of human culture, sovereign nations have been trying to readjust their societies in order to prevent dissent, violence and mass-murder, but when profits are to be made from chaos, consolidation of power, and human exploitation, morality takes a dive, and unethical laws are written in order to protect the ruling class from future prosecution.

Using the logic of those in favor of reparations, there are a myriad of historical events in which those who had suffered, or their descendents, should also be given compensation for their suffering: The Nigerian Civil War, the Colonization of the Americas, Rwandan Genocide, Genocides in Armenia, Cambodia, and Bosnia are just a few examples of people being singled-out because of their religion or race, and subjected to imprisonment, forced labor and death.

Reparation activists worldwide point to the fact that other peoples have been offered reparations by governments for forced labor, genocide, confiscation of lands, and for losing an armed conflict (war reparations). West Germany paid $35 billion to Israel between 1953 and 1992 in an attempt to pay for subjecting the Jewish communities to forced labor, “apologize” for the rise of Nazi Germany, and for how they were brutally and systematically round up, forced into concentration camps, tortured, and killed. They were stripped of all their assets, wealth, and above all, were subject to genocide as part of a fascist, anti-Semitic ideology.

African-American reparation activists point to other examples of reparations like the Native-American community and their inclusion in the U.S. Government’s policy of establishing Indian Reservations and paying out millions of dollars to compensate for 19th Century Manifest Destiny land grabs.

Reparations for people of African-American descent: Should it be a reality? The answer is, it should have been, but now it is too late. Those who had lived through slavery, or at least their children, were going to be honored a small compensation for their labor in the form of property ownership, one of the pillars of capitalism, but the U.S. Government at the time had a history of breaking promises not only to Native-Americans, but African-Americans as well. Considering that the British and U.S. Governments had broken over 500 treaties with Native-Americans over profitable and valuable land, African-Americans were also denied what was promised, especially those promises that were made after the American Civil War during what historians refer to as the Reconstruction Era.

40 acres and a mule was an agreement met between African-American ministers, abolitionists and Union General William T. Sherman, who promised to some 40,000 freedmen land and seafront property, which was confiscated from the Confederates. Sherman’s Special Field Order No. 15, which occurred shortly after the American Civil War, was a way to punish the South for their attempts at succession, attacking the Union, and to break the link holding the finances between southern slavery and the Confederacy (not because of 250 years of chattel slavery). The 400,000- acre strip of land from South Carolina to Florida could have changed almost everything about modern American society and race relations in terms of education, culture, equality, and wealth in the African-American community.

The reason why so many people, black and white, are against reparations is that there is a cultural and temporal disconnect with previous generations in that Americans do not want to be held accountable, and are generally ashamed for their ancestors’ actions. Most importantly, in terms of the U.S. economy, the methodology of calculating and paying out 250 years worth of labor to descendents of Africans and African-Americans is culturally complex in that people will always contend whether or not some people of African descent deserve remuneration or not.

Whether or not reparations should be paid out, it will never happen because there are conflicts between American culture and economics. The majority of Americans are against reparations. The idea of giving a minority group of people ¨free money¨ because of a past injustice might not have the effect one would think from a cultural point of view.

Reparations for the people of Haiti: Should it be a reality? The answer is yes. The Haitian Revolution that resulted in the declaration of independence from France in 1804 came with extreme consequences. France demanded that Haiti pay 90 million gold francs for the loss of slaves and the French side of the island Hispaniola, which was called St. Dominique at the time, or risk another French invasion. From 1825 to 1947 Haiti continued to pay its “declaration of independence debt” to France, which was estimated to be more than $20 billion. Decades of economic warfare by the international community; the coup d’ état, which was suspected to be supported by the U.S., France, and allies; and the 2010 earthquake, which killed 100,000 civilians or more, were all recent events that have further crippled the sovereign nation of Haiti. At the very least, Haiti’s external debt was cancelled amidst the devastating earthquake, and $9 billion was giving in relief efforts, but it still falls short of the $20 billion that was extorted from Haiti post-independence.

Reparations for the people of Africa: Should it be a reality? The answer is yes, but not in the form of a simple payout. Reparations will come only in the form of true socioeconomic development. But first, bribery, corruption, and theft of capital must be identified, exposed, and dealt with in a way that prevents net wealth from leaving the continent.

An obvious, but not popular solution to corruption and embezzlement is transparency. Being able to track the flow of money between companies, governments, and banks will better inform the public of how their labor is paid, taxed and redistributed. To prevent government leaders from funneling money back to the U.S. or Europe, limiting the amount of money one can have in foreign bank accounts could help. However corrupt dictators may seem to the Western world, there are always enablers (Westerners) who permit this collusion of foreign aid by giving Africa money with one hand, while robbing with the other.

During the past few decades, government-to-government aid has not worked at all for economic development on the continent. Although the continent receives about $50 billion in aid each year, it is estimated that $1 trillion is stolen each year.  Most of that money ends up right back in Europe, the United States, and island tax havens. One of the best ways for economic development is to stop foreign aid as Zambian-born economist Dambisa Moyo describes in her critique of decades of failed policy.

“A constant stream of “free” money is a perfect way to keep an inefficient or simply bad government in power. As aid flows in, there is nothing more for the government to do — it doesn’t need to raise taxes, and as long as it pays the army, it doesn’t have to take account of its disgruntled citizens. No matter that its citizens are disenfranchised (as with no taxation there can be no representation). All the government really needs to do is to court and cater to its foreign donors to stay in power.”

Economic development cannot occur if local markets are flooded with free goods that could be produced locally. Agriculture and manufacturing take a big hit when products are routinely sent to Africa. One might think that it is generous to do so, but it effectively puts local companies out of business. Moyo offers another simple example of how foreign aid is having a reverse effect.

“A Western government-inspired program generously supplies the affected region with 100,000 free mosquito nets. This promptly puts the mosquito net manufacturer out of business, and now his 10 employees can no longer support their 150 dependents. In a couple of years, most of the donated nets will be torn and useless, but now there is no mosquito net maker to go to. They’ll have to get more aid. And African governments once again get to abdicate their responsibilities.”

In order to properly gird these concepts into the theme of reparations I must say that foreign aid to Africa does not count as reparations. The scramble for Africa by European powers in the 19th and 20th centuries absorbed all but two (Ethiopia and Liberia) sovereign states into their empires, and the amount of wealth that was stolen by declaration of war against indigenous people continues to this day with the extraction of minerals and precious metals and the round-the-clock coup d’états that occur with the help of Western interests. The exigency in which raw materials are extracted from the continent to be sent to manufacturing plants in the European Union, China, U.S.A. and Russia, leave very little to be circulated within the continent – the flow of raw materials needs to be diverted inward.

The best kind of reparation high-income nations can give to Africa is to offer something tangible like renewable energy in the form of wind turbines and solar panels to help with their energy crisis. Combining the aforementioned with proper water irrigation systems and desalinization plants are also other true forms of economic development in which all citizens could eventually build upon and stabilize their societies. Only then will much of the conflict areas soon turn into places with cultural standards in which subsisting on foreign aid and pity will be a thing of the past.

 

By Opton A. Martin