Friday, March 31, 2006

Le Madame

There's all this excitement going on at Le Madame, and I haven't had a chance to go and witness it for myself. I also haven't been at all good at following the Polish press coverage so my knowledge is based on several subjective reports, accurate and vague, but I'm sure the Beatroot will bring us all up to speed with his journalistic connections and all.

I've been to Le Madame a couple of times. It's a great place to hang out on the sofas, catching up with friends, and the downstairs dancefloors are a good size. We had a refugee event there a few months back, with primarily African dancers and drummers, which was well attended.

In conversation it has sometimes come up that the powers that be want to close it, but I always heard the official 'the neighbours complain' reason rather than the 'it's a gay club and we are scared of homosexuals' alleged actual reason.

I thought the protests against the banning of the gay pride parades and the homophobic comments made by those in power were surprisingly weak, or maybe just not covered to any great extent by the media, but this sit-in might indicate a change.

It may be the start of a real battle between gay activists and Poland's homophobic leaders. Then again, it may just be a blip that ceases to be a problem for those in power once the police and skinheads are given the go-ahead to get heavy handed.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

International Volunteers' Day

Back in December I got together with some other EVS volunteers for a week of workshops and activities culminating in International Volunteers' Day 2005.

The Polish National Agency of the EU's Youth Programme have produced a short film, which is available here, and features an embarassing and brief example of my very basic level of Polish 3 months ago (I like pierogi...). The file (last in the list: Dzień Wolontariusza 2005) takes ages to download and may or may not be worth it...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day. Happy International Women's Day.

Eurostat have decided to celebrate by publishing a report with entitled 'How is the time of women and men distributed in Europe?'

Some of the findings are not so surprising: Women spend more time than men doing domestic work, and men spend more time than women learning or earning money. I think we all knew that gender equality is not a reality in Europe today.

Slightly surprisingly, there are more women than men with advanced education, so it's not due to lack of education that women spend such a proportion of their time cooking and cleaning. The study points out however that more women study subjects that are less likely to lead to employment (arts and humanities rather than technological qualifications).

The women of Europe are worse paid and have less leisure time. We are more likely to be unemployed or work longer hours if employed. It's not all doom and gloom though: we are better educated and we live longer.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Torture: from regress to redress

Neal Ascherson has written a brilliant article discussing the book by Kenneth Roth & Minky Worden (eds.), Torture: Does It Make Us Safer? Is it Ever O.K.?: A Human Rights Perspective (New Press/ Human Rights Watch, 2006)

He looks at the shocking regression which sees us debating state torture as an actual policy option, the arguments for and against such a possibility, and the failure of the EU to fill the leadership void created by US policies.

10 down, 2 to go

I've now completed 10 months of my year-long EVS project in Poland.

The Polish national agency for the EU's Youth programme has put a piece of mine on their website so if you have a free moment feel free to check it out.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Broken promises

Amnesty isn't at all happy with the UK. Not only have they written a letter to the Austrian Presidency of the EU about the UK's open and 'sustained attack' on human rights through its anti-terrorist laws, but they also refer to a recent report entitled Human rights: A broken promise.

The British governments' initial commitment to Human Rights provisions was commended by AI but since 2000, increasing numbers of laws have been introduced that have resulted in detentions without trial and poor treatment of detainees, not to mention situations such as the accidental murder of Jean Charles de Menezes.

The gradual degredation of human rights in favour of measures supposedly aimed at counteracting terrorism has many supporters. Commentors on this blog have often accused me of excessive pacifism and wanting to fight bullets with flowers, of being weak in the face of this enormous threat that is currently facing us. I still fail to understand however, how the tactics involving the wearing away of human rights is an effective method of countering this terrorism.

Koffi Annan at the Madrid meeting: Human rights law makes ample provision for strong counter-terrorist action, even in the most exceptional circumstances. But compromising human rights cannot serve the struggle against terrorism. On the contrary, it facilitates achievement of the terrorist’s objective — by ceding to him the moral high ground, and provoking tension, hatred and mistrust of government among precisely those parts of the population where he is most likely to find recruits.
Upholding human rights is not merely compatible with a successful counter-terrorism strategy. It is an essential element in it.

He's right. It's that simple. Torture doesn't result in reliable information. Detaining people without trial is wrong. If they are guilty, try and sentence them, if they are innocent, let them go.