Human Rights

Will the real Aung San Suu Kyi please stand up?

When Aung San Suu Kyi delivered her landmark acceptance speech after being awarded the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, she made a plea on behalf of victims of persecution worldwide: “Wherever suffering is ignored,” she observed with characteristically understated defiance in her voice, “there will be the seeds of conflict, for suffering degrades and embitters and enrages”.  How right she was.  How different, though, from her non-committal response last week to whether Rohingya demands for justice in Myanmar should be satisfied: “I don’t know”.  Was it pusillanimity, hypocrisy or just a slip of the tongue? Whatever her justification, for the 800,000 Rohingya Muslims who have lived in Myanmar for centuries, “I don’t know” simply isn’t good enough.  Imagine being born country-less, with no state, no police force, no institution to represent you.  Imagine being marginalised, ostracised and ignored.  Imagine being incarcerated in your village, with no way of escape, no hope …

Stamping out FGM

In the time it takes you to read this article, over 50 young girls will have their clitoris hacked out. What are you going to do about it? Each girl will be pinned down, with no anaesthetic, whilst 8,000 nerve endings cringe at the touch of an unclean scalpel. Each girl will scream and writhe and howl – but you won’t hear them. Each girl will be irreversibly, unbearably, agonisingly mutilated. “I heard it,” described Ayaan Hirsi Ali, “like a butcher snipping the fat off a piece of meat. A piercing pain shot up between my legs”. Skin rips, blood pours, cries screech. But it wasn’t over for her just yet: next “came the sewing… the long, blunt needle clumsily pushed into my bleeding outer labia,” thread weaving through thread to leave behind only a miniscule opening for urination and menstruation. The scars of this torture, butchery on a factory-line …

“Working like a machine? Have a break. Have a Kit-Kat.”

In the shadows of a trade worth up to $80 billion per year lurks an industry notoriously shy of scrutiny. As we gorge upon our favourite luxurious treat, we don’t spare a thought for those involved in its production. A cloak of hideous secrecy tucks exploitation away, safe from ubiquitous discovery. The reality is harrowing: beneath the rich, luscious surface of our sweet delight resides a clandestine dystopia filled to the brim with the veiled stench of child labour. As helpless mothers mourn for their kidnapped sons in Burkina Faso, we shove chocolate bar after chocolate bar down our throats. There is something poignant about the fact that those who make our chocolate never get to taste the product they slave so desperately over, not to mention that they aren’t even paid and undergo dangerous manual labour with machetes and blades. It beggars belief that this injustice manages to skate …