We live in a time that is certainly more tolerant and accepting than many centuries previously. Advantages in women’s rights, race relations and LGBT emancipation have been numerous and the activism of those groups of people agitating for change shouldn’t be minimised. However it would be foolish to argue that systemic prejudices remain commonplace in Western societies. New evidence of discrimination on the grounds of race has been revealed by data collected by the TUC. Structural disadvantages for people of colour can only be rectified if there is a popular demand for change to force the government into decisive action.
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.
Malaysia has decided to adopt incredibly antiquated and oppressive views to sexual minorities by endorsing gay conversion therapy. Federal authorities claimed in a video that a person’s sexual orientation can be ‘cured’. Ironically, the video in question was an attempt by the Malaysian government to prevent people in the country’s Muslim communities to be hostile towards LGBT people. Indeed, the video says at one point: “the fact is, there are those among Muslims that have non-heterosexual orientation but remain steadfast on the path of Islam”. The video may have been intended to reduce discrimination towards the LGBT community, but the language used reveals just how far equality campaigners have yet to go.
Following the 2010 General Election the Conservatives reinvigorated the Right to Buy scheme which had originally been instituted by Margaret Thatcher. The issue of Right to Buy has always been a contentious issue, not so much the principle of council residents buying their own homes but what would happen to the money raised from these sales. In the 1980s critics of the scheme said that the money generated from the sale of council houses wasn’t reinvested in building new council homes. Now the 21st Century incarnation of this policy is accurately receiving the same criticisms.