Tunisia is the birthplace of the Arab Spring and has so far been the only affected country not to crush those demanding change, reverted back to authoritarian government, or become a failed state. The values of human rights, equality before the law and democratic elections were the promise of the Arab Spring and whilst human rights and democratic elections have been enshrined in the country’s new constitution, equal treatment for different groups of people has been harder to come by. However this appears to be changing for the better.
In the never-ending scramble of resources, governments around the world are turning over every stone so that demand and be satisfied. This demand is driving governments and corporations to do irreversible damage to our planet but the people that are increasingly on the front-line are indigenous populations. In the United States it was the Sioux Nation at Standing Rock who loudly opposed the Keystone XL Pipeline. In Australia aboriginal communities have protested attempts by the both the government and private companies to mine their lands for precious resources including uranium. It appears that this trend is also affecting the indigenous people of Peru and they need people to stand up to support their cause.
Tunisia is often portrayed as the poster-child of the Arab Spring as the revolution was peaceful and a relatively open democracy has been formed by the Tunisian people. As with many countries in North Africa, a key problem that has dogged their societies has been how women have been treated by regressively-minded citizens and conservative figures of authority. However a democracy can only truly function if all members in that society are free to express themselves without fear of repercussions. This requires a raft of civil liberties that are inalienable and defended by the judiciary and so long as women are subject to coercion and prejudice, Tunisia will not represent the views of all its citizens. Thankfully action has been taken.
Nigeria is a significant power in West Africa and what happens in the country is noted by people in other parts of the region, especially when it comes to Nigerian culture. But an area where Nigeria is similar to other parts of Africa is in its society’s anti-LGBT attitudes. Christian and Islamic conservatism in Nigeria has largely been peddled because of fundamentalists traveling to the country to reinforce existing anti-LGBT views with theological justifications. In Nigeria it is socially acceptable to persecute LGBT people and this is illustrated by the news coming out of Lagos state this week when 42 men were arrested for having homosexual sex.
The Secretary of State for Women’s and Equalities Justine Greening has announced that there will be a consultation on a piece of legislation that would significantly change the legal status of transgender people in British society. The government have also announced a change to the rules regarding blood donation that will benefit gay and bisexual men. These measures are important and should be welcomed, however that should not mean that pressure on the government should be alleviated. Additionally, some aspects of society are still hostile towards the very idea of transgender equality and conversations need to be had so that so that our fellow citizens feel welcome in society.
Described by some as the Mediterranean’s ‘liberal paradox’, the small island state of Malta has embraced LGBT rights at some one the fastest paces in the world despite its majority Catholic population. Same-sex cohabitation were first regulated in 2012 and civil unions were legalised in 2014. The Civil Unions Act of 2014 guaranteed that gay couples had all the same rights as married heterosexual couples including the right to jointly adopt children, a freedom that in many states where same-sex marriage was legalised earlier took many more years to achieve. Malta has now gone one step further and legalised same-sex marriage, only three years after civil unions were first introduced.
The BBC’s Sunday Morning Live is a topical debate show that discusses moral issues on broad number of topics. They often include ethical issues around healthcare, civil liberties, and dominant news stories of the day. Last weekend the panel of guests were faced with a number of interesting topics and the most interesting of these, in my view, was the following question: is there enough understanding of transgender issues? As the discussion progressed I found myself getting slightly enraged at the neutrality that BBC has to show because in my mind the answer was so clearly obvious. So let me elaborate.