Dr. Sylvain Ehrenfeld, the IHEU representative to the UN, and Dr. Reba Goodman, member of ECSBC
The painful reality of prejudice and discrimination is a global issue. Shiite and Sunni Muslims are
killing each other. Anti-Semitism surged nearly 40% in Europe and especially in France. Feeling against gays is high in many countries. In 76 countries, homosexuality is a crime. Many of these countries are in Africa, in Islamic areas and in Russia. Not surprisingly, the Pew Research organization found that there is less tolerance for homosexuality in more religious countries. Another example of ongoing discrimination is the treatment of Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank.
According to UNICEF and Human Rights Watch, caste discrimination affects an estimated 250 million people and is prevalent mainly in Asia. In India, discrimination of DALITS (formerly known as untouchables) was recently declared illegal but is nevertheless pervasive. The most flagrant violation of human rights is discrimination and often violence against women as well as of people of color.
Condition of Women
A recent UN report found that women worldwide have made progress; they live longer, have fewer children, are less likely to die in childbirth and have made strides in literacy. However, the story is different in the poorest communities, where women’s status, maternal death, child marriage and other indicators of women’s well-being have seen little progress. According to the UN Population Fund, women continue to be paid less. Also, one in three women reported being physically or sexually abused. More than 125 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to genital mutilation across Africa and the Middle East.
Every year, since 2006, the World Economic Forum has published a Global Gender Gap Report based on data from 145 countries. Countries are ranked by evaluating four areas: Health (life expectancy etc.), Access to Education, Economic Participation (salary, job type and seniority) and Political Participation.
According to the 2015 report, an additional quarter of a billion women have entered the global work force since 2006, but wage inequality persists with women only now earning what men did a decade ago. The global gender gap across health, education, economic opportunity and politics has narrowed by only 4% in the past 10 years. The top leading countries in the ranking are Iceland (1), Norway (2), Finland (3), Sweden (4) and Ireland (5). The US ranks 28, due to fewer women in high government jobs and less wage equality. On average, women in the US make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. For African-American women, it is 64 cents.
Catherine Hill, director of research for the American Association of University Women, said overt discrimination is less an issue; more implicit bias still hampers women in the workplace. She cites a paper that says when the identical resume was sent to university faculty, the applicant listed as “John” was more likely to be hired and offered a bigger salary than the applicant listed as “Jennifer.”
The UN is currently in the process of choosing a new Secretary General. Never in its 70-year history has a woman been Secretary General. Many experienced and capable women are running for the job, but it is likely that a man will again be chosen. The UN is still a man’s world. In 2015, the bulk of the senior appointments were men. Twenty years ago, the UN set a goal of appointing 50 percent of the top jobs to a woman. It is nowhere close to meeting this goal. World wide, women’s condition has improved, but much work remains to be done.
Racial inequality in the US is as urgent an issue as ever. Blacks still face many obstacles. Many experience more lack of jobs and being treated less fairly in the workplace or when applying for a loan or a mortgage. Further difficulties they face are dealing with the police or the courts as well as experiencing lower quality schools for their kids. These are ongoing issues that can lead to explosions at any time.
The killing of young black men by the US police sparked the current wave of protests. In 2015, the number of young black men killed by US police was 1,134, five times higher than the rate of white young men of the same age. The camera has made all the difference. A camera means there is less ambiguity about what happened.
Sixty-nine percent of people, in a recent poll, said race relations are generally bad, and some were not hopeful race relations will get better in the near future. When asked to rate the job their local police are doing, four in five whites said excellent or good. A majority of blacks answered fair or poor. Many blacks said the police make them feel more anxious than safe.
The US Justice Department has criticized a number of police departments nationwide for unfairly targeting blacks. The report about the Baltimore police was scathing. Boston, with a history of racial tension, has been comparatively calm in recent years. In an interview, the police chief of Boston said police involvement in the community is crucial. The police appear at school events, have coffee chats with local citizens, stage peace walks and generally work to obtain public trust.
The US Justice Department has examined police officer training, which varies from state to state. The average officer training in the US is only 761 hours. In St Louis, it requires about 6 months. Ironically, to become a certified barber requires twice as much time. In contrast, Denmark requires a 33-month program and Austria, 24 months.
We clearly need an adequately trained police force. They often have to function in difficult situations. The pervasiveness of guns makes their job even more difficult. Their training is of vital concern.
What about the future? In the near run, it looks pretty bleak. However, based on US and world history, we are hopeful.