Posts Tagged 'government'

Egypt bans porn sites

Yesterday’s decision by one of Egypt’s highest courts to ban porn sites is yet another example of the government’s losing battle to control the thoughts and actions of its people. arabicporn

The Administrative Court, based in Cairo, has ordered the government to block the sites in response to a case brought by Muslim lawyer Nizar Ghorab, who filed the case under his own initiative.

He welcomed the decision today, saying: “Thank God we won. Now the government should stop these electronic dens of vice immediately.”

Arguing in court, Ghorab cited the case of a senior civil servant and his wife who were arrested last year for holding “swinger” parties after soliciting other parties over the internet.

Although the decision can be appealed to a higher court, Ghorab believes that this is unlikely as it would put the government in the uncomfortable position of being seen to protect pornography.

“Freedoms of expression and public rights should be restricted by maintaining the fundamentals of religion, morality and patriotism,” the AFP news agency quoted the court as saying in its ruling.

Freedom of speech has long been under fire in Egypt. The country has been held in a state of perpetual emergency rule since President Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party came to power in 1981. An estimated 18,000 people are in prison under Egyptian law, which allows police to arrest people without charge, while media organisations are kept firmly under the yoke of state control.

This curtailment of civil freedoms on the street has led many young Egyptians to turn to the virtual highway. According to government figures from 2007, Egypt has around 12m internet users, one in nine of the country’s population, making it the largest online presence of all the Arab nations.

080729%20egyptNine per cent of this – around 800,000 people – use the social networking site Facebook, which has become a powerful voice for the country’s youthful population. Epitomised in the April 6 Youth Movement, a political group created during last year’s protests which now has more than 700,000 members, social networks are taking on a political face.

Within hours of the first bombings of Gaza by Israel in January, around 2,000 people had organised a n ad hoc demonstration using Facebook and taken to the streets, many of them voicing their anger at their own government for what they saw as collusion with Israel.

In this light, the Egyptian court’s ruling to try to censor the internet is a cynical and hollow attempt to extend its waning power to the untapped domain of the internet. Pornography may often typify the exploitation of society’s most vulnerable and expolited, yet it also represents  the power of freedom of expression in the face of moral censure from mainstream society.

Love it or loathe it, porn is a barometer to a country’s politics. And the more the Egyptian government tries to restrict the freedoms of its people in the name of “religion, morality and patriotism,” the closer it will come to its own demise.

I’m a barbie girl in a barbie world

Tall, blonde, blue-eyed and with breasts that defy gravity (and god). Is it Claudia Schiffer, Monica Bellucci or even Madonna? No, this is Angela Merkel, as created by Barbie.

To celebrate half a century as the world’s most iconic toy, Barbie manufacturer Mattel has brought out a version modelled on the German chancellor.

Today, mini-Merkel stole the show at the the 60th annual international toy fair in Nuremberg, south Germany.

She will soon be available in shops for €20 (£17.50).

A spokeswoman for Mattel said that they had chosen to portray Merkel because she, like Barbie, embodies the dreams of ambitious little girls around the world.

She said: “She’s simply a good role model for girls around the world.”

As Germany’s first female Chancellor, it would be hard to argue that Merkel is not a good role model for little girls, whatever you may think of her policies (or lack of them). But does she really represent the kind of woman that girls aspire to become?

Looking at the state of the UK government, it would seem not. Despite speeches, promises and policies to the contrary, women are still sorely underrepresented in British politics.

In the House of Commons only 1 in 5 MPs is a woman. And while local government is doing somewhat better, still only 30 per cent of all local councillors are female.

That places the UK 18th out of 27 European states in female representation in national government, and 21st when it comes to female MEPs, which account for less than a quarter, according to 50/50, a European women’s lobbying.

By comparison, Sweden 57 per cent of seats in Sweden’s government are occupied by women.

Is this disparity down to a lack of interest among women in going into politics, or is it more pervasive? Is there something innately macho about the structure of government that precludes women from entering into the hallowed halls of Westminster?

The UN answers yes. According to a report by iKnow Politics based on research by the UN, most local governments are inherently patriarchal institutions.

It states: “Their structures and procedures are designed for and by men and they do not take into account women’s multiple responsibilities in their homes and communities, or differences of communications and decision-making styles existing between men and women.”

Hardly news. It has long been remarked that the structures of power, be it government, education or business, are innately geared towards men. Yet I believe that there is one decisive factor that differentiates politics when it comes to vilifying women: the media.

Women in politics almost invariably get a bad press. If they are strong or defiant, they are painted as witches or harpies in the eyes of the public. If they are quiet or attractive, they become reduced to classic stereotypes of the Madonna or the whore.

Take the uproar that greeted some recent ill-judged remarks from the Parliamentary Under Secretary, Baroness Vadera. Ill-judged though they undoubtedly were, very little of the media coverage of the incident actually referred to her comments.

Instead, we were shown some kind of evil incarnation of Xena Warrior Princess. In the Spectator she was an “assassin … ass-kicker … axe-wielder”, in the Mail she was given the moniker of “Shriti the Shriek”.

Even the BBC decided to get its penny’s-worth, with Nick Robinson on the Today programme saying: “Civil servants call her Shreiky Shriti. Others choose to leave.”

It is as if we are in the school yard, gossiping in corners about the popular girls in the year.

But at least the UK is not alone. Last year’s US Presidential Elections were one of the most openly bitchy displays of character assassination by the media in history.

While Obama stormed to victory, much of the rest of the press devoted their time to a face-off between Sarah Palin and Hilary Clinton. And it doesn’t take much to see who won.

So, maybe in the end Barbie really does have it right. If you want to get ahead in politics, it’s better to be made of plastic.

 

 

 

 

 


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