Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

Zooming In

December 19, 2007

When Phobias and Diplomacy Collide

Gelf highlights overlooked coverage from local media around the world. In this edition: a giant gender gap in India; a ruckus in the South Korean congress; intolerance in Latvia; and more.

Adam Conner-Simons

Some of the most insightful writing from outside the US comes from local media. In this occasional feature, Gelf identifies noteworthy stories that haven't gotten much attention outside local borders.


Recent research shows that India's sex ratio has become even more skewed in the past six years, with infant girls consistently being aborted or left to die because of a societal preference for boys. In a survey released last week by the advocacy organization Action Aid, researchers found that boys made up as much as 77 percent of the youth population in urban areas of India like Punjab's Fatehgarh Sahib district. A spokesperson for the Centre for Women Development Studies called the sex ratios "disastrous" and said that the Indian trend towards one-child families has led many parents to make sure their one child is a boy. The practice of men receiving dowries from women's families in exchange for marriage—and their ability to inherit property—makes sons far more in-demand than daughters, and has led to many instances of infanticide and illegal abortions.


On December 10, a prominent Roman Catholic cardinal suggested that gays be banned from public office, and said that no prime minister candidate who supports gay rights should be nominated. A week after Latvian Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis resigned from the position, Cardinal Janis Pujats called on the three candidates— all of whom have voiced tolerant attitudes towards gays and bisexuals—to be "ready to defend the Latvian nation against the invasion of homosexuality." Pujats has previously described homosexuality as an "unnatural form of prostitution." (Is there a "natural" form?) The LGBT blog "Party for the Rights" questioned the celibate cardinal's right to speak on the subject, asking, "What sort of sexual knowledge does Mr. Pujats have, to be able to [pontificate] about what's good for me and my fellow Latvian homosexuals?"

South Africa

south africa
Sunday marked the institution of South Africa's new Sexual Offences Amendment Act that, among other things, makes prostitution illegal and extends the definition of rape to include gay, lesbian, and female-on-male rape. Deputy Justice Minister Johnny de Lange said that the act celebrates the government's commitment to addressing sexual abuse of women, children, and other vulnerable groups. The act is not without critics, however: Eric Harper, the director of the advocacy group Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce, said that the new law would "drive sex work underground and make access to legal protection more difficult," ultimately leading to more violence against prostitutes. South Africa has an incidence of rape that is three times that of the US, with almost 150 reported cases a day.

South Korea

south korea
South Korean politicians came to blows Friday, in a fight involving chains, power saws, and about 100 members of parliament. At least one legislator was carried from the building on a stretcher after the scuffle, involving members of the main opposition Grand National Party and the ruling United New Democratic Party. The brawl started after GNP members barricaded themselves inside the National Assembly's main chamber with chairs and metal bars. They were respondin to a motion to re-open a probe investigating GNP presidential candidate Lee Myung-Bak, who has been accused of being involved in stock-price manipulation. In response to the GNP's barricade, UNDP members used their bare hands and chain saws to chop through the barriers. The GNP's efforts were for naught, as parliament voted to re-open the fraud probe on Monday.


Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni reportedly refused to shake hands with visiting Congolese delegates Friday due to fear of contracting the Ebola virus. Representatives who included the Democratic Republic of Congo's foreign affairs minister were given a mere wave from the president, who earlier this month urged Ugandan citizens to avoid handshakes to help prevent the spread of a disease that has infected at least 122 individuals and killed at least 35. This marks the second time that the president has refused handshakes due to communicable diseases, as he avoided making hand-to-hand contact with his own citizens in the town of Arua because of the highly prevalent cholera epidemic at the time.

Adam Conner-Simons

Adam Conner-Simons is a freelance journalist in Boston.

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Article by Adam Conner-Simons

Adam Conner-Simons is a freelance journalist in Boston.

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