Let my people go

Today is International Women’s Day. As an international cynic, I wasn’t surprised to read that women are actually falling further behind men, rather than slowly catching up.

And no, I’m not talking about poverty-stricken Hollywood stars or starving Yahoo executives, I’m talking about the billions of other women all across the globe. In 2014, the World Economic Forum predicted it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity. Then one year later in 2015, they revised that estimate to 2133. When they re-run their calculations this year, it’ll probably be 2200 plus change. And I’m not sure quite how they expect it to happen at all unless the UN has plans to invade misogynist nations like India, Saudi Arabia, China, all of Africa, and the United States. But fuck it, I’ll be dead by then, so meh, carry on trading with women-hating bastards  and taking your cheap holidays in other people’s misery because hey, why the fuck not? Trickle down economics, right?

Did you know that twice as many girls as boys will never start school? That 55% of all modern day slaves are women or girls? And that two million of them a year are sexually exploited? ISIL is bad, mmmkay, but let’s not talk about the wider issue here because that might offend our friends and trading partners.

Because modern day slavery thrives on every continent and in almost every country, affecting the world’s most vulnerable people through practices such as forced labour, people trafficking, debt bondage and child marriage. The United Nations’ International Labour Organisation estimates that about 21 million people are living in slavery at any point in time, and says that up to ninety percent are being exploited by individuals or companies, while ten percent are forced to work by the state, rebel military groups, or in prisons under conditions that violate international standards.

If you’re a football fan, for example, and don’t have your head up your arse, you’re probably aware that the 2022 World Cup will probably be held in Qatar. And you’re probably aware that western media scrutiny has highlighted the plight of migrant workers in Qatar, where migrant is a word that means slave. Or, if you’re North Korean, someone else’s slave.

The Middle East has a deservedly foul reputation for its treatment of slaves, but hey, oil. And, according to the ILO, Asia as a whole accounts for more than half the estimated 21 million slaves in the world today. One prime example is Singapore where you can buy or rent a slave at the mall. Which brings us to the infomercial part of this presentation.

Hearts and Other Dead Things is a book published by some friends of Pankhearst that aims to raise money for a Singaporean charity called HOME, which works on behalf of migrant workers and trafficked victims in the city-state of Singapore. Where, yet again, “migrant” and “trafficked” are words that mean slave.

Author and prime mover behind Hearts and Other Dead Things, Charlotte Stirling describes modern day slavery as a “dark hypocrisy that seeps into every fibre of Singapore.”

I’m not suggesting that checking out a book is the most important thing you could do on International Women’s Day–or any other day–but it wouldn’t be the worst thing either.

You could also bookmark interweb pages like this and keep an eye on your favourite brands and vacation destinations.

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