human rights

74 Years of Irish Slavery

From 1922 to 1996, more than 30,000 young women were sent to live in church-run laundries, where they worked unpaid, prohibited from freedom of movement, usually for offenses like unwed pregnancy or being regarded as morally loose. On Tuesday, Irish Senator Martin McAleese released a report indicating the government’s guilt in enabling the enslavement.

The key findings are:

  • More than a quarter of the women held in the laundries for whom records survived were sent in directly by the state. This numbers at least 2,500 women.

  • The state gave lucrative laundry contracts to these institutions, without complying with fair wage clauses and in the absence of any compliance with social insurance obligations.

  • The state inspected the laundries under the Factories Acts and, in doing so, oversaw and furthered a system of forced and unpaid labour, in violation of countless legal obligations.

Shameful. For additional details about the conditions these women suffered, see this article at The Irish Times.

Via The Frisky.

Pope Blesses Backer of Ugandan Anti-Gay Bill

You heard that right. Pope Benedict XVI met with Rebecca Kadaga, the Ugandan Speaker of the House, and gave her a blessing.

Uganda has been a target for western evangelicals who see that they’re losing the gay marriage battle in their own countries. Religious leaders and rightwing groups, including Rick Warren and the National Organization for Marriage, have gone to Uganda for years to spread anti-gay propaganda and bolster homophobia. These religious leaders position themselves as experts, telling Ugandans that gay people sodomize children, spread Aids, destroy marriage, break up families and pose an imminent threat to society—and then they feign shock when Ugandan leaders decide that the legal punishment most befitting these child-raping, society-crushing individuals is death.

In the meantime, gay, lesbian and transgender Ugandans face vigilante attacks daily, and are routinely raped, beaten, ostracized, tortured and murdered.

Do I have any Roman Catholic readers? If so, I encourage you to read Jill Filipovic’s whole piece here about the Church’s patriarchy problem. Even adjusting for her disinterest in the Bible’s take on ethics, doesn’t it seem like Filipovic has a number of solid points that Vatican leaders should really be considering?

The "God Gulf"

Christianity Today published a great interview with Nicholas Kristof, writer of Half the Sky. Marian V. Liautaud, who conducted the interview, focused—a little unnecessarily in my opinion—on sex-selective abortion, but she also asked Kristof about the disconnect between Christian and non-Christian women’s right’s activists. Here’s part of his response:

On a lot of humanitarian issues, people on the secular and evangelical sides have strongly held beliefs that create deep, political polarization. Each side propels itself toward areas that are hardest to find agreement on because they’re the areas that are defined as most important. Instead, we should be focusing on areas where there is common ground.

It’s a short interview, so take the time to absorb Kristof’s thoughts on the shifting landscape of gender equality in the Far East.

The Religious Right Supports Uganda's Anti-Gay Legislation

I didn’t realize how serious I was being when I related conservative Christians’ talk of theocracy to the Ugandan bill that would punish homosexuality with death. While the death penalty clause may have been removed (some confusion remains), the law would still allow life in prison for even those advocating on behalf of gay rights.

Apparently, that is A-OK with the likes of the American Family Association and the New Apostolic Reformation, while Tony Perkins of Family Research Council praised Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni for his stance on behalf of “traditional values” without mentioning the bill.

First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the socialists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller

A threat to anyone’s freedom is a threat to everyone’s freedom.