Brutal: A gruesome video allegedly showing the executions of two men accused of working as police spies has been released by Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram
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How men from Africa and Asia can easily migrate to Europe: Central Mediterranean route
The Central Mediterranean route remained under intense migratory pressure in 2015, although the total number of migrants arriving in Italy fell to 154 000 - about a tenth lower than the record set in 2014. The main reasons for the drop were the shift of Syrians to the Eastern Mediterranean route and a shortage of boats faced by smugglers in the latter part of the year. Smuggling networks remain well established in Libya, where migrants gather before crossing the sea. In 2015 Eritreans, Nigerians and Somalis accounted for the biggest share of the migrants making the dangerous journey.
People smugglers typically put migrants aboard old, unseaworthy fishing boats, or even small rubber dinghies, which are much overloaded and thus prone to capsizing. These vessels are generally equipped with poor engines, lack proper navigation systems and often have insufficient fuel to reach Europe. For these reasons, the vast majority of border control operations in the Central Mediterranean turn into Search and Rescue (SAR) operations.
Trends prior to 2015
The emergence of Libya as a collecting point for African migrants has long antecedents. Until 2010, Libya’s prosperity offered good job opportunities for migrant workers from African countries, who either used it as a final destination, or as a transit country where they could earn money to pay the smugglers for the last leg of their journey to the EU.
Khmer Rouge terror in Cambodia
Dubai’s dirty secret
MIDNIGHT in a crowded bar and prostitutes in short skirts and skyscraper heels are blatantly touting for trade – they do not have to wait long.
Some British tourists approach a couple of the girls, hand over £500 for an hour of their “company” and head off to a room in a nearby hotel.
There is no doubt the people here are buying and selling sex.
But this sleazy transaction is not taking place in some brothel in Eastern Europe — this is DUBAI, where the strict Islamic religion forbids holding hands in public, where homosexuality is illegal and sharing a bedroom outside marriage will get you banged up.
Shockingly, there are 30,000 prostitutes working in Dubai, the largest city in the United Arab Emirates.
Local women outside may be hidden from public view in burkhas, but inside the late-night venues are scantily clad call girls of every shape, size, nationality and ethnicity.
Dubai’s paid-for sex trade is accepted by expats and locals as the norm. Even the police seemingly turn a blind-eye to the sordid behaviour going on all around them, despite prostitution being illegal and the strict laws banning women from dressing “provocatively” in the street.
The oldest profession in the world is actively encouraged in the hotels and bars.
Some provide a free buffet and drinks vouchers for the working girls and others rent them regular rooms because of the big-spending clientele they bring in.
It is not just the hotels making a fortune from the lucrative sex trade.
Zara, 28, earns thousands of pounds from willing punters.
She says: “I go to Dubai a couple of times a year to work in the big hotels.
“Every bar is full of working girls — it’s the hidden culture out there.
“My main clients are businessmen from all parts of the world and local Arabs.
That shocks some people when I tell them.
“The businessmen pay £500 an hour and are just after straight sex.
“Arabs are slightly different because they have an obsession with cleanliness, so I spend most of the hour in the shower, which I find odd.
“With locals, the sex normally doesn’t last longer than ten minutes.”
She adds: “Businessmen automatically take you for a prostitute in Dubai if you are a woman alone in a bar and they’ll come and chat.
“I’ve been bought gifts of upwards of £5,000 on some shopping sprees.
“Any money I make I wire back to Britain because you can only take so much out of the country by law.”
Dubai gives the impression of being a safe holiday hot spot with its plush hotels, sandy beaches and — thanks to its strict Islamic religion — very little crime, alcohol or sex.
But behind the windowless bars and clubs, prostitutes are busy plying their trade. They come from all over — Nigeria, Philippines, China, Thailand, Europe and Russia.
The world is full of multimillionaires who can't handle money. Because, if you have money, the first thing you spend it on, is independence.
India's female genital mutilation: a thousand-year-old secret
So little was known, until recently, about the secretive practice of FGM in a small Muslim community that India is not even on the UN’s list of FGM countries.
India’s Dawoodi Bohra community has been so closeted about its practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) that its recent disclosure shocked even women’s rights activists. It was the highly publicised criminal trial of the FGM of two Bohra girls in Australia, in 2010 and 2011, which shattered the secrecy around this practice. Following investigation and trial, the mother of the girls, the midwife and a Bohra priest in Australia were sentenced to 15 months in prison in 2016.
They are a Shia Muslim sect that migrated to India from Yemen in the 12th century. Their custom of FGM probably originated in Yemen as it’s still a widespread practice there. The Bohra population is only about one million in size, with most settled in western India, and smaller communities in other countries.
Perhaps what shocks most is that this practice is being carried out among the Bohras who are regarded as a progressive, prosperous and well educated community. In fact, the Bohras are proud that their daughters are encouraged to excel in their education and jobs in much the same way as their sons. Most Bohra women are not veiled and choose modern, western attire and lifestyles. Even the burkha of Bohra women, called the Rida, is designed to reflect the community’s view of itself as being innovative and progressive. The Rida leaves the face uncovered, with a flap as option, and instead of the conservative black, it is always in bright colours like deep pinks, reds and greens, with lace and designs.
Nonetheless, recent testimonies and initiatives by Bohra women indicate that FGM is practiced widely. In 2015 a group of women launched ‘Sahiyo’ meaning ‘female friend,’ an online platform that aims to create a safe, women-supported space for Bohra FGM survivors to share their personal stories and to lobby support via a petition for a law to ban FGM in India. As there is no law in India banning FGM, a survey by Sahiyo indicates that the ratio of Bohra girls who have been subjected to FGM could be as high as 80 per cent. The survey also includes Bohra women in the US, UK and Australia. After India, the second highest proportion of women in the survey, 31 percent, are in the US.
The Bohras practice Type-I FGM which involves the partial or complete removal of the clitoris or clitoral hood. The clitoris is referred to as the ‘Haram ki boti’ or ‘sinful piece of flesh’ a recognition of its biological role in women’s orgasms and libido. Even though FGM is called ‘Khatna’ or ‘circumcision,’ which is a ‘coming of age’ social ritual and fervently discussed and debated among women in other communities, what makes it odd among the Bohras is that it appears to be an extremely clandestine procedure. Aarefa Johari, one of the co-founders of Sahiyo says it is never talked about even among girls and women. Testimonies from Bohra women, discussed in agonising details, show the procedure is carried out by impoverished women practitioners, (who probably just need the income) in unhygienic environments, using a razor blade without anaesthesia.
FGM should be relatively easy to eradicate in India. Clearly many Bohra women want this custom abolished. Public testimonies of survivors show extreme angst. Many women have admitted that this has affected their sex lives adversely. Others speak of a much deeper psychological scarring caused by this childhood trauma. As one woman says, ‘The pain was blinding and ravaging… At 33, I feel sick and mentally disturbed because still I remember that day… I can only believe that most of our women feel like me. But consider themselves weak to change. But I ask still, Why? How can we put our children through this horror of FGM?’ Oddly, even though many Bohra women are extremely uncomfortable about the practice and want it to stop, there’s no clear answer as to why or how it continues.
‘People fear ostracism in the community,’ explains Aarefa Johari. She says families who don’t do FGM stay silent about their choice. Dilshad Tavawala, a child protection lawyer in Canada, who believes FGM is a violation of child rights, also speaks about how ‘the backlash [of ostracisation] is considerable and many just won’t do business with you.’
While ostracisation is a powerful tool of control in small, homogenous, rural communities, it is generally non-effective for the urban, middle and upper income, educated strata because the environment offers alternatives. However, what makes the Bohras an exception, is that the community’s structure and function is akin to that of a cult.
The community is tightly controlled by the religious head, the Syedna. Every individual, from birth, is issued a Bohra identity card without which they are not even allowed to enter their mosques. Bohras are required to take an oath of allegiance (misaq) to the Syedna, and must obtain his permission not just for religious issues, but for all personal, familial and professional decisions. Furthermore, they have to pay a compulsory tax to the Syedna for every activity – including birth, death, marriage, business and education. They must acknowledge him as the ‘Jan-O-Mal ka Malik’ (The Lord and Master of Their Life and Properties) and have the inscription `Abde-Syedna' or ‘Slave of the Syedna’ on their wedding cards. The Syedna also asserts himself as the sole trustee of all the mosques and associated properties, trusts and monetary contributions. As Asghar Ali Engineer (1939-2013), one of the fiercest spokesperson of the Bohra reformist movement had said, ‘You can’t literally breathe without their permission.’ The punishments for noncompliance are severe and include not being allowed to pray in the mosque, bury a parent, being forcefully divorced, being forcefully disowned by families, physical harm, and sabotage of businesses and careers. In 1978, the Citizens for Democracy appointed the Nathwani Commission to investigate charges of tyranny against the Syedna. In its 220-page report, the Commission recounted testimonies of victims and said it had found ‘large-scale infringement of civil liberties and human rights.’ Strangely, most Indian media did not report on this. The India Today magazine did but found that witnesses, who had agreed to speak to them, suddenly withdrew. After receiving threats, the magazine was forced to conceal the reporter’s name.
Successive Prime Ministers from Indira Gandhi to Narendra Modi have pandered to the immensely wealthy Syedna, conferring political clout on his totalitarian control on the Bohra community. The Syedna has encouraged the Bohras to embrace Modi despite widespread aversion to his role as chief minister in the 2002 carnage of Muslims in Gujarat for which he has been rewarded by Modi with a Padma Shri, one of India’s highest civilian awards.
In a 2016 public sermon in Bombay, the Syedna instructed the community to continue with FGM. He was responding to the FGM trials and arrests in Australia that year. The Australian authorities had arrested a senior Borah cleric for attempting to thwart investigations and for directing ‘members of the community [in Australia] to give false accounts to the police.’ Fearing a similar crackdown, the Bohra clergy in the US, UK and Europe told their communities to comply with the laws of the land. This was probably just lip-service for it is understood that the Syedna, whose seat is in Bombay, is the ultimate authority for Bohras the world over. In his public sermon the Syedna emphasised that ‘the act has to happen…Stay firm…Even [for] the big sovereign states…we are not prepared to understand.’
It is critical for India to have an anti-FGM law and to enforce its implementation, especially as India’s medical community has failed to address the ethics of FGM and is inclined to exploit it. The danger here is the medical legitimisation of FGM as Shaheeda Kirtane, co-founder of Sahiyo, points out.
A public petition to the Indian government by the advocacy group Speak Out on FGM to outlaw FGM in India has garnered more than 80,000 signatures. The groups founder Masooma Ranalvi, a Bohra FGM survivor, who has also been pushing for the UN to recognize FGM in India, has launched a second petition to the UN . Inclusion in UNFPA and UNICEF’s Joint Programme on the eradication of FGM would give Bohra activists the much needed global support to nudge the Indian government into action.
Injections of Botox into the penis probably are the most effective treatment for erectile dysfunction. Every artery and vein in the body is surrounded by a layer of smooth muscle. Otherwise there could not be variations in blood pressure. When the muscles around blood vessels contract, this is called vadoconstriction. When the muscles around blood vessels relax, this is called vasodilation.
Japan's high-tech love dolls evolving with the times
TOKYO - Sex may be necessary for human procreation, but it's also a business. In Japan, much of it operates as part of the so-called underground economy, wherein massive amounts of money are believed to circulate.
Some sex-related businesses operate completely in the open, and particularly when it comes to dealing the sales of commodities as opposed to services, we are on firmer ground as far as scale of the business.
In recognition of the 40th anniversary of Orient Industries (Oriento Kogyo Co Ltd in Japanese) -- Japan's most exclusive manufacturer of ersatz female companions --- weekly business magazine Shukan Economist (June 27) delves into the subject of love dolls.
From May 20 to June 11, Orient Industry feted its anniversary with a special exhibit of its products titled "Love Dolls: Then and Now." Starting with the company's first product, named "Hohoemi" (Smile), which was launched in 1977, visitors were able to see how the mannequins have evolved over the past four decades, achieving an increasingly lifelike skin texture and physical appearance.
The old term used here for such products -- with no offense intended to the good citizens of the Netherlands -- was "Dutch Wife." The term supposedly originated from the Europeans who colonized the Dutch East Indies, the region around present-day Indonesia, who in order to cool themselves off on steamy tropical nights devised a rattan or bamboo tube the size of a small person that they would embrace in bed. The perforated woven structure being cooler than fabric pillows or sheets, the rationale went, the sleeper's body could be better exposed cooling breezes.
Those Dutch Wives of yore have come a long way. Shukan Economist's writer pointed out that many even today may still associate love dolls with the cheap, inflatable types sold in some "adult toy" shops. But Hohoemi represented a major breakthrough in that "she" was solid, composed of layers of natural latex. If sawed in half, one could see how the layers, resembling tree rings, were applied.
The dolls initially made news in Japan when it was reported that Japanese scientists had taken along several to keep them company at their experimental station in Antarctica.
After two decades of research and development, Orient Industry in 2001 announced the sale of its first generation of models using silicone. This gave the dolls' skin a more lifelike texture and was less cold to the touch.
"Many purchasers are men who have divorced, or widowers, or those with physical handicaps who have problems finding a partner," the article describes, noting that the company sells about 400 of its dolls per year. Its basic models are priced at about 700,000 yen, but many customers opt for various accessories (English URL here), pushing up the average selling price to around 800,000 yen.
"There are customers who use them for practical reasons (i.e., sex), but lately more people have been buying them just to appreciate looking at them," said Orient's president, Hideo Tsuchiya. "Maybe they're lonely and have nobody to talk to. Some find it relaxing just to talk to them."
The dolls are also finding other applications. One is for use in clinical training at Showa University's School of Dentistry. Dolls are also reportedly utilized in criminal courts, to reenact details of crimes before jury members so as to convey a sense of reality.
"We've been resisting the notion of making dolls that can speak, or move mechanically," says Orient's Tsuchiya. "Likewise, we have no plans to equip the dolls with artificial intelligence. That's because it's the owner who imparts them with a spirit."
Rather than high-tech enhancements, Tsuchiya said he'd prefer to find a means of holding down prices to "make the dolls more affordable."
Over the two weeks of the exhibit, more than 10,000 people are said to have flocked to Orient's showroom located in Tokyo's Ueno district adjacent to the famous "Ameya Yokocho" shopping street. The company told Shukan Economist some 60% of its visitors were female.
On some men, butea superba extract has a profound effect after just few dosages. It can kickstart testosterone tone for weeks on end. Users should watch out for signs of testosterone overdrive such as deep heartbeat with the slightest sexual thought.
Lost in Cambodia
The name of Malcolm Caldwell is remembered now by very few people: some friends, family, colleagues, and students of utopian folly. In the 1970s, though, Caldwell was a major figure in protest politics. He was chair of CND for two years, a leading voice in the anti-Vietnam war campaign, a regular contributor to Peace News, and a stalwart supporter of liberation movements in the developing world. He spoke at meetings all over the country, wrote books and articles, and engaged in public spats with such celebrated opponents as Bernard Levin.
The name of Kaing Guek Eav is, arguably, known by even fewer people, at least outside of Cambodia. Instead it is by his revolutionary pseudonym "Duch" that Kaing is usually referred to in the press. Duch is the only man ever to stand trial in a UN-sanctioned court for the mass murder perpetrated by the Cambodian communist party, or the Khmer Rouge, in the late 1970s. His trial on charges of crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, and homicide and torture concerning thousands of victims, drew to a close in November. Justice has taken more than 30 years, but a verdict and sentence are expected sometime in the next few weeks.
Although their paths crossed only incidentally, the two men shared two main interests. They both had a pedagogic background: Caldwell was a history lecturer at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, while Duch, like many senior Khmer Rouge cadres, started out as a schoolteacher. And they both maintained an unbending belief in Saloth Sar, the leader of the Khmer Rouge revolution, who went under the Orwellian party title of Brother Number One, but was known more infamously to the world as Pol Pot. It was an ideological commitment that would shape the fate of both men and they held on to it right up until the moment of death – in Caldwell's case, his own, for Duch, the many thousands whose slaughter he organised.
In each circumstance, the question that reverberates down the years, growing louder rather than dimmer, is: why? Why were they in thrall to a system based on mass extermination? It's estimated that around two million Cambodians, more than a quarter of the population, lost their lives during the four catastrophic years of Khmer Rouge rule. What could have led these two individuals, worlds apart, to embrace a regime that has persuasive claim, in a viciously competitive field, to be the most monstrous of the 20th century?
When Caldwell appeared at SOAS for an interview in the late 1950s, the senior faculty thought that they had landed one of the academic stars of the future. Caldwell, who took his PhD at Nottingham University, had gained a reputation as a bright young talent and, according to college legend, he presented himself as a sober scholar.
"So they hired him," recalls Merle Ricklefs, a former SOAS colleague and now a history professor at the National University of Singapore. "Then he showed up for lectures and suddenly he was this Scottish radical with long hair, looking unkempt, and they felt as though they'd been betrayed.
"I thought he was actually a very good economic historian," says Ricklefs, who remembers "an extraordinary character… very ideologically committed". He was also struck by his warmth and good manners. As a young American, who dressed in conservative fashion, arriving in England during the height of the Vietnam war, Ricklefs expected to be greeted with a certain amount of antipathy, but he found Caldwell to be "always cordial. Always looking slightly dishevelled and revolutionary, but never the slightest hint of discourtesy."
The picture of a friendly, if rather unconventional character, is confirmed by others who knew him. Professor Ian Brown was Caldwell's successor at SOAS and he was also his former student. "He was well liked – I suspect not by the SOAS hierarchy," says Brown, "but certainly loved by students and colleagues."
He describes a "skinny, somewhat emaciated, rather scruffy character who, bizarrely, always used to wear a suit – though it was clearly a suit that had been bought in the 1950s equivalent of Oxfam and not seen too many dry cleaners." Caldwell never hid his politics from his students, indeed he made a point of proselytising to them. One of his protégés was Walter Easey, who, according to Easey's obituarist, Caldwell converted to "a fierce and angry communism". But to Professor Brown, "he was a gentle person, quietly spoken, and very tolerant of opposing views. He treated everyone well. He was very encouraging and a really inspiring teacher."
Both Brown and Ricklefs use the same word to describe this well-travelled, extremely well-read and highly intelligent man: naive. SOAS, says Brown, was a college whose standing and ethos rested upon sound empirical study. "Everyone else in the history department went off every summer to the archives in Rangoon, Baghdad, etc, and got deep inside the data. Malcolm didn't. He was a man with very clear theoretical and ideological views and the empirical basis didn't seem to worry him hugely."
It's not that Caldwell was lost in bookish abstraction, for he did visit the various communist regimes he extolled. It was more that when he got there he was all too willing to accept state propaganda as verified fact. For example, he praised the "magnitude of the economic achievements" of Kim Il-Sung's impoverished North Korea and, returning from a trip to the highly secretive state, he wrote that the country was "an astonishing tribute not only to the energy, initiative and creativeness of the Korean people, but also to the essential correctness of the Juche line". "Juche" was the mixture of ultra-nationalism and self-reliance on which Kim built his monumental personality cult. About the totalitarian surveillance and ruthless political repression, Caldwell said nothing.
Although academic traditionalists may have disapproved of Caldwell's slanted scholarship, many idealistic students were inspired by his lectures. Tariq Ali, who became famous as a 1968 student leader, recalls going to see him talk on southeast Asia when Ali was at Oxford. They soon got to know each other and in the summer of 1965 went to a peace conference together in Helsinki. "We had to fly to Moscow," says Ali, "then there was a train, via Leningrad as it was then, to Helsinki. We talked a lot and became very friendly. It was later on that his Cambodian deviation was a bit off-putting. And he could never completely explain it."
At one time, the pair discussed opening a Vietnamese restaurant as a sort of act of antiwar gastro-prop. "He would say that after a few drams," Ali recalls. "He was a great whisky drinker. He was also a great cricket fan and an early Scottish nationalist."
Cricket is mostly followed in Scotland by the upper classes, but Ali got the impression that his old friend came from a middle-class background. His Wikipedia entry states that he was the son of a miner. "You know," says Ali, "we never bothered about these things. We were so totally immersed in politics and the state of the world, we never really talked about each other, our personal lives or social backgrounds."
In seeking to understand why this idealistic Scotsman became a cheerleader for Pol Pot, it would be wrong to consign him to the maverick margins. A member of the Labour Party, he stood as a candidate in the 1977 local elections in Bexley. John Cox, who followed in Caldwell's footsteps as chair of CND, is adamant that there was nothing out of the ordinary about his predecessor's politics. "He was well in the mainstream of what I would call generally progressive liberal thinking," says Cox.
This idea that support for the most illiberal systems of government is all part of the liberal tradition is one of the more bemusing aspects of progressive politics. But the missing factor in the equation is the view that the United States of America is the ultimate villain. The background to the brutality visited on Cambodia was the brutality visited on Vietnam by US forces.
Although the Vietnam war was more complex than is often acknowledged (the tensions between North and South, for example, long predated the war), the Americans essentially inherited France's colonial conflict. But they fought it in the context of the Cold War. As much as US administrations may have seen the battle as one between communism and the free world, to the majority of Vietnamese it was a liberation struggle.
In an effort to close down North Vietnamese supply lines to the South, the US also launched a devastating bombing campaign on neighbouring Cambodia. Instead of winning the war in the former, it served only to destabilise the latter. To make matters worse, an American-supported coup put in place the corrupt government of Lon Nol in Phnom Penh. So there was a tendency among many anti-war protesters to see the Khmer Rouge as just another national liberation movement, fighting to escape from under the American yoke.
One man who observed the truth up close, four years before the Khmer Rouge came to power, was a French ethnologist called François Bizot. In 1971, while out researching Buddhist practices, he was captured in the Cambodian countryside by Khmer Rouge insurgents. He was held captive with scores of Cambodian prisoners at the M-13 prison camp, a precursor to the 196 santebal (secret police) offices that were set up after the Khmer Rouge seized power. The head of the camp, and the Frenchman's tireless interrogator, was Duch.
Bizot wrote about the encounter in a remarkable memoir called The Gate. After three months, during which he was shackled and repeatedly accused of being an American spy, he was suddenly released – all the other prisoners were executed. So relieved was the Frenchman that he asked Duch if he would like a gift. His jailer thought for a while and then replied, "with the look of a child writing to Father Christmas, 'The complete collection of Das Kapital by Marx.'"
Three days before Christmas in 1978, Malcolm Caldwell received an early present. On the final day of a two-week tour of Cambodia, he was told that he would meet Pol Pot. This was indeed a rare privilege. Unlike most other communist leaders, Pol had not created a personality cult. There were no posters of him. He was seldom seen or quoted. Many Cambodians had not even heard of him. Only seven westerners were ever invited to what had been renamed Democratic Kampuchea. And Caldwell was the first and only Briton.
There were several reasons why Caldwell had been received in Phnom Penh. He was on good terms with China, Cambodia's main ally in the region. There were also growing tensions between Cambodia and its larger neighbour Vietnam and, fearful of an invasion, Pol Pot was belatedly attempting to improve Kampuchea's image abroad. Most of all, while other supporters had wavered, Caldwell had remained steadfast. Only months before, he had written an article in the Guardian, rubbishing reports of a Khmer Rouge genocide. He cited Hu Nim, the Kampuchean Information Minister, who blamed the deaths on America. Caldwell was unaware that Hu had himself already been tortured to death in one of Pol Pot's execution centres. Such killings that the Khmer Rouge had committed, argued the peace activist, were of "arch-Quislings who well knew what their fate would be were they to linger in Kampuchea".
Travelling with Caldwell were two American journalists, Elizabeth Becker and Richard Dudman. Becker had been a foreign reporter in Phnom Penh during the civil war that brought the Khmer Rouge to power. She knew the terrain, and had been to Thailand to talk to refugees. She and Caldwell argued endlessly about the true nature of the situation.
"He didn't want to know about problems with the Khmer Rouge," she says. "And that carried over to not wanting to know about problems between Cambodia and Vietnam. He was stuck in '68 or something."
Yet for all their disagreements, she liked Caldwell. "He was a lovely man, very funny, very charming," she says. "A real sweetie. He was also very homesick for his family and he said he'd never spend another Christmas away from them."
According to Becker, Caldwell had not read François Ponchaud's Cambodia: Year Zero, the book that first catalogued the Khmer Rouge genocide. A friend of François Bizot, Ponchaud was a Catholic missionary who was in Phnom Penh when the victorious Khmer Rouge army marched into town. His book became required reading for anyone interested in what was happening in Cambodia. "The fact that Malcolm, a professor, had not read it before he went, that I couldn't believe," says Becker. "I think it was almost ideological that he didn't read it."
It's perhaps not that strange that Caldwell had neglected to read Ponchaud, given that he had already dismissed the Frenchman's credibility in print. He based his damning opinion on a brief extract of Year Zero which the Guardian had published and a critique of the book by the American academic, Noam Chomsky. An icon of radical dissent who continues to command a fanatical following, Chomsky had questioned the legitimacy of refugee testimony that provided much of Ponchaud's research. Chomsky believed that their stories were exaggerations or fabrications, designed for a western media involved in a "vast and unprecedented propaganda campaign" against the Khmer Rouge government, "including systematic distortion of the truth".
He compared Ponchaud's work unfavourably with another book, Cambodia: Starvation and Revolution, written by George Hildebrand and Gareth Porter, which cravenly rehashed the Khmer Rouge's most outlandish lies to produce a picture of a kind of radical bucolic idyll. At the same time Chomsky excoriated a book entitled Murder of A Gentle Land, by two Reader's Digest writers, John Barron and Anthony Paul, which was a flawed but nonetheless accurate documentation of the genocide taking place.
We can never know if Caldwell would have taken Ponchaud more seriously had Chomsky not been so sceptical, but it's reasonable to surmise that the Scotsman, who greatly admired Chomsky, was reassured by the American's contempt. In any case, the 47-year-old Caldwell arrived in Cambodia untroubled by the story that Ponchaud and others had to tell. In fact, he had just completed a book himself that would be posthumously published as Kampuchea: A Rationale for a Rural Policy, in which he wrote that the Khmer Rouge revolution "opens vistas of hope not only for the people of Cambodia but also for the peoples of all other poor third world countries".
With Dudman and Becker, Caldwell was escorted around the country to a series of staged scenes. Alarmed by the changes she saw and frustrated by what she was not allowed to see, Becker grew increasingly combative with her hosts. "It was so clearly awful," says Becker. "One of the problems was the absence of what I saw. The absence of people. And that's a different kind of proof to 'I don't see any people being executed.'"
Caldwell was not unduly bothered. "He preferred to stay in the car and laugh at the clumsy photo opportunities prepared for us," Becker wrote in her book on Cambodia, When The War Was Over.
"He'd travelled to other communist countries," she tells me now, "and he knew exactly what the PR routine was and he thought that all governments do PR. He did not know Cambodia, and he didn't speak the language. If you don't speak the language, don't know the country, you can edit out a little more easily."
At the end of the tour, the party returned to Phnom Penh, which Dudman described as "a Hiroshima without the destruction, a Pompeii without the ashes". They stayed at a guest house near the centre of Monivong Boulevard, one of the empty city's main thoroughfares. Close by was the secret facility of Tuol Sleng, a former school that had been turned into an interrogation centre. Known as S-21, Tuol Sleng specialised in gaining confessions through torture. Between 14,000 and 16,000 prisoners – men, women and, most hauntingly, children – passed through its gates, including Hu Nim. Only seven survived. It was run by Duch.
Nowadays Tuol Sleng is a genocide museum, and an established part of the southeast Asian tourist trail. Although they were intent on erasing history, Pol Pot and his senior cadres were obsessed with the accomplishments of the 12th-century Hindu dynasty that built the temple complex of Angkor Wat and constructed elaborate dam and irrigation systems. They considered their own contribution to Khmer culture to be of a similar, if not greater, significance. It speaks eloquently of the Khmer Rouge's achievements that, while Angkor Wat remains the country's main tourist attraction, the next most popular sights for visitors are Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields at Choeung Ek, where the prisoners from S-21 were taken to be "smashed" – usually with an ox-cart axle. A ghost town under the Khmer Rouge, Phnom Penh is now a bustling, sprawling city, dense with people and commercial activity. In May 1975, one month after the Khmer Rouge evacuated the capital, the Swedish author Per Olov Enquist wrote: "The brothel has been emptied and the clean-up is in progress. Only pimps can regret what is happening."
If that was blatant wishful thinking, it's an unpalatable truth that the pimps have returned. A potent mix of Developing World poverty, cheap flights and sexual licence has made Cambodia a magnet for sex tourists and paedophiles. The upmarket hotels around the riverside are full of western and Japanese businessmen, and a certain kind of furtive middle-aged traveller, stubble-chinned and plump-stomached, is a conspicuous presence in the bars and clubs frequented by young and under-age prostitutes.
Cambodia has just two seasons: wet and dry. It either rains or it doesn't, a binary climate that may have helped shape the Khmer Rouge Manichean view of the world – revolutionary or counter-revolutionary, insider or outsider, good or bad. It was the dry season when I visited in late November, and a cooling wind blew through the hot, polluted streets. At first sight, Tuol Sleng's large courtyard, lined with coconut palms, provides welcome respite from the noise beyond. A respectful silence is maintained by visitors, including groups of western backpackers, with their cameras and guidebook glaze. The three-storey buildings have been left pretty much as they were abandoned in 1979, slightly dilapidated with jerry-built cells, barbed-wire fences and medieval instruments of torture. The effect is to transport the visitor not just back in time, but also into the reptilian depths of the imagination, a merciless place of zero compassion.
In the courtyard of the prison is a poster listing the rules of the camp. None of them makes for pleasant reading. For example, number 2 states in an imperfect translation: "Don't try to hide the facts by making pretexts this and that. You are strictly prohibited to contest me." It vividly articulates the mentality that shaped S-21, and indeed Kampuchea beyond, the relentless determination to remove every option from the prisoner – and citizen – to reduce them to absolute compliance. But perhaps the most disturbing is number 6: "While getting lashes or electrification you must not cry out at all." Denied every human and judicial right, the inmates were also refused the one prerogative of the tortured: the right to express pain.
I visited the archive on the second floor of the building, where some of the 4,000 files the Vietnamese discovered are housed. Here, I was brought the "confession" of John Dewhirst, a 26-year-old teacher from Newcastle who was captured in 1978, while sailing with friends through the Gulf of Thailand. Intercepted by a Khmer Rouge patrol boat, they were placed in S-21 and tortured over the course of a month. As the weeks passed, Dewhirst made a series of ever more bleakly surreal confessions. They start out as straightforward biography – he explains that he had studied at Loughborough University. Then he admits to being a CIA agent, recruited at Loughborough where the CIA, he is made to say, maintains one of its covert training bases. It "was housed in a building disguised as the Loughborough Town Council Highways Department Surveyor's Office". He also reveals that his father is another CIA agent, using the cover of "headmaster of Benton Road secondary school". Dewhirst was murdered by the Khmer Rouge in 1978.
S-21 was not concerned with the truth. Its only aim was to derive the fullest possible confession in accordance with party requirements. In his book Voices From S-21, the historian David Chandler quotes Milan Kundera's phrase (used to describe the Soviet bloc secret police) of "punishment seeking the crime" to sum up the prison's project. To this end, the most depraved techniques – electric shocks, rape, the forced eating of excrement, medical experimentation, flaying, and lethal blood extraction – were employed. It's hard to comprehend that these agonies were not just formalities, they were preliminaries. It wasn't a question, on arriving at the prison, that an inmate would be lucky to get out alive. He or she would be lucky to get out just dead. A guidebook for interrogators clarified the issue: "The enemies can't escape from torture; the only difference is whether they receive a little or a lot."
The precise level of punishment was decided upon by Duch. If the confession was not sufficiently elaborate, the punishment was increased. In these situations Duch impressed upon his staff that "kindness is misplaced". Some interrogators were more disposed to brutality than others. And some were simply demented sadists. The most sadistic of them all went by the name of Toy, a pitch-black irony that his English-speaking victims were in no position to appreciate. In recent testimony, a prison guard recalled that one of Dewhirst's party (either the young teacher himself or the New Zealander or Canadian travelling with him) was burned alive in the street. The order that they be incinerated came directly from Pol Pot. Just a few months after that grisly murder, Caldwell prepared himself to meet the man who commissioned it. The Scotsman knew little or nothing of Dewhirst's fate. Instead his mind was on agrarian revolution. Caldwell believed that the world was accelerating towards a global famine and that the answer was Developing World self-sufficiency. But Cambodia was a strange place to test his theory. As Professor Ian Brown notes: "This is a part of the world that historically had not been a food-deficient area, so you wouldn't go looking for a crisis there. Again, that seems to indicate a more fundamental flaw in his approach: he comes at it with a theoretical position. And therefore he'd search for an argument, not necessarily evidence, that will sustain that."
In Pol Pot, Caldwell found someone with an argument that suited his purposes. Pol's plan was a massive increase in rice production to finance Cambodia's reconstruction. It required collectivisation and slave labour, though Caldwell preferred to see the effort in terms of spontaneous revolutionary spirit. In the event, owing to the shortage of technicians and experts (who were killed as class enemies) and lack of peasant support, production fell well short of targets. But terrified of underperforming, regional commanders still sent their designated contribution to be exported. The result was the opposite of self-sufficiency: famine. Unable to accept the shortcomings in his plans, Pol instead blamed spies and counter-revolutionaries, and that meant that, in the absence of rice, spies and counter revolutionaries had to be produced. The network of torture camps was the only area of Democratic Kampuchea's infrastructure that met its targets.
Of these dreadful facts, Caldwell remained ignorant on the Friday morning in Phnom Penh that he was taken in a Mercedes limousine to see Pol Pot. The setting for the meeting was the former Governor's Palace on the waterfront, built during the French colonial period. In a grand reception room replete with fans and billowing white curtains, the two men sat down and discussed revolutionary economic theory.
Becker had met Pol Pot earlier the same day, and in When the War Was Over she writes: "He was actually elegant, with a pleasing face, not handsome but attractive. His features were delicate and alert and his smile nearly endearing."
The perennially shabby academic and the fastidious dictator must have made for an odd couple. In any case, Caldwell left the meeting a happy man. He returned to the guest house he was sharing with Becker and Dudman, full of praise for Pol Pot and his political outlook. "We went over stuff," says Becker. "He thought he had had a good conversation. He had avoided at all costs any discussion of Vietnam. And he was looking forward to going home."
That night they all had dinner together and afterwards Dudman went to his room. Becker and Caldwell "stayed at the table to have our last argument about Cambodia". He took the longer view and said that the revolution deserved support. She, on the contrary, was even more convinced of the refugees' testimonies. "That night," she writes, "Caldwell tried once more to get me to change my mind."
Becker went to bed at 11pm and was woken a few hours later by the sound of what she took to be dustbins. Coming to her senses, she realised there were no dustbins in Phnom Penh. What she had heard was gunfire. She opened her bedroom door to see a young man pointing a pistol at her. He was wearing two bands of ammunition and carrying an automatic rifle over his shoulder. She begged him not to shoot and locked herself in her bathroom.
Meanwhile Dudman had woken up and, looking out of his window, saw a file of men running along the street. He knocked on Caldwell's door. The two men spoke briefly and then a heavily armed man approached. The man shot at the floor and Dudman ran into his room. Two shots were fired through his door. The two Americans remained hiding in their rooms for the next hour before an aide arrived and told Becker to stay where she was. Almost another hour passed before she was allowed to come out. Caldwell, she was told, had been shot. He was dead.
The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) are located in a large, purpose-built court on the dusty outskirts of Phnom Penh. During the course of last year, hundreds of Cambodians made the trip out from the city and in from the countryside to bear witness to a long-overdue reckoning.
The lone defendant in the trial is a slim, well-preserved 67-year-old with small, sensitive eyes. With his thick grey hair and concentrated expression, he looks like a sprightly grandfather, a little stiff and formal, but sufficiently attuned to the contemporary world as to be smartly dressed in a Ralph Lauren shirt or, on another occasion, a cream cashmere roll-neck sweater. A giant bullet-proof glass screen divides the court from the auditorium, where 500 or more people sit watching the proceedings. Centre stage is Duch (pronounced "Doik" in Khmer), seated with his back to the audience. To his left is a bank of lawyers, and behind them in the corner the relatives of victims. In front of the defendant sit the judges, on an imposing two-tier stand. Ten years, some 400 staff, a dozen judges, a battery of international lawyers, an ongoing legal wrangle, and many millions of pounds is what it has taken to put Duch on trial.
Following Caldwell's murder, four guards assigned to the tourist's protection team were arrested and taken to S-21. Owing to the importance of their alleged crime, the commandant of the prison was instructed to head their interrogation. So the stories of Caldwell and Duch came together at the inevitable point of a torture camp. Here, amid bestial squalor, is where the liberation dream ended.
Two of the "confessions" made by guards referred to in their S-21 files as "the Contemptible Met" and "the Contemptible Chhaan", outline a baroque conspiracy involving many other people. The Contemptible Chhaan gives an explanation for the murder: "First, we were attacking to ruin the Party's policy, to prevent the Party from gathering friends in the world… And in attacking the guests on this occasion, we would not attack them all. It would be enough to attack the English guest, because the English guest had written in support of our Party and the Kampuchean people for a long period of time already… Therefore, we must absolutely succeed in attacking this English guest, in order that the American guests would write about it."
Whether this was yet another example of innocent men implicating other innocent men, it's impossible to know. Certainly there must have been some kind of in-house involvement, as the guests were guarded. But who instructed the guards, and why they did so, remains a subject of speculation. Some argue that the Vietnamese were behind the killing, others that it was a function of an internal party struggle.
Caldwell's brother, David, wrote a letter to the Guardian, expressing his belief that "Mal" had "discovered the truth about the Pol Pot regime" but "dared not admit this to either Becker or Dudman". This seems unlikely. David Chandler told me that he once met the translator of the meeting between Caldwell and Pol Pot, who remembered a very pleasant exchange conducted in a spirit of enthusiastic agreement. If that anecdote suggests Caldwell died a dedicated Pol Potist, it tells us little about Pol, a man for whom the word "inscrutable" might have been invented. As his deputy, Ieng Sary, later recalled: "Pol Pot, even when he was very angry, you could never tell. His face… his face was always smooth. He never used bad language. You could not tell from his face what he was feeling. Many people misunderstood that – he would smile his unruffled smile, and then they would be taken away and executed."
But why would he seek international support by killing one of his few remaining friends from abroad? It makes no sense. "Don't apply rational thinking to the situation," Becker cautions. "It was crazy. Crazy. Malcolm's murder was no less rational than the tens of thousands of other murders." The journalist Wilfred Burchett claimed to have seen a Cambodian report not long after Caldwell's death, which stated that he "was murdered by members of the National Security Force personnel on the instructions of the Pol Pot government". Burchett theorised that Caldwell had changed his mind about the regime, but all the available evidence indicates otherwise. In the end, Becker's conclusion seems to be the most satisfactory: "Malcolm Caldwell's death was caused by the madness of the regime he openly admired."
The confessions of Caldwell's alleged killers were completed on 5 January 1979. Either that day or the following one, the four men were bayoneted to death in the prison itself. They were very possibly the last killings to take place at S-21. On 7 January, the Vietnamese army arrived in Phnom Penh, and Pol Pot and his associates fled into the jungle.
The contrast between the care taken to observe Duch's legal and human rights and the indifference with which he dispatched his victims is lost on no one. But as Philippe Canonne, one of the lawyers representing the relatives of the victims, said of the urge to inflict on Duch what he had meted out to his prisoners: "We must give voice to this sentiment, but then have the strength to transcend it."
It's this sort of resolution that has made the trial a legal landmark in a nation that has had little experience of the rule of law. That it was ever staged at all is a major accomplishment. For 20 years after the Vietnamese invasion, Duch lived at liberty. At first he followed the bulk of the Khmer Rouge into exile on the border with Thailand. After the fall of the Khmer Rouge, the US and China refused to accept the Vietnamese puppet government installed in Phnom Penh. In a shameful version of the principle that my enemy's enemy is my friend, they instead persuaded the UN to recognise a coalition resistance movement, of which the Khmer Rouge formed the major player. Thus Pol Pot was afforded the support of China, the protection of Thailand, and the indirect recognition of the United States.
For two decades the Khmer Rouge waged guerrilla warfare against the government in Phnom Penh. Then, in 1997, Pol Pot was placed under house arrest by his fellow Khmers Rouges. He died peacefully in his sleep on 15 April 1998. A year later the photojournalist Nic Dunlop found Duch working for a Christian relief agency. An interview was duly published and Duch handed himself in to the Phnom Penh authorities.
In theory, the trial is a joint effort between the UN and Cambodia, but the effort has been all the UN's. The Cambodian People's Party, which has ruled since Pol Pot was overthrown, is led by onetime Khmer Rouge members who, under threat of purging, had defected to Vietnam. One of these is Hun Sen, a former revolutionary soldier, who has been prime minister since 1985. His government was accused by Amnesty International of widespread torture of political prisoners, using "electric shock, hot irons and near suffocation with plastic bags". And for many years, senior former members of Pol Pot's government lived under protection in Cambodia, some with family links to the government. So there were several reasons why a major trial with international media coverage was potentially embarrassing or inconvenient.
After much pressure, in November 2007 the Cambodians finally arrested the four most senior surviving Khmer Rouge leaders: Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith and Khieu Samphan. Their trial is scheduled to start in 2011, though few observers will be surprised if it is indefinitely delayed. All of them claim ignorance of any wrong-doing. Perhaps the most galling example is a long letter of evasion and self-justification that Khieu Samphan, Pol Pot's chief ideologue, wrote to Cambodian newspapers in 2001. "I do not see any importance in bringing up this tragic past. We would be better off to let everyone be at peace so that all of us can carry on our daily tasks… I tried my best for the sake of our nation's survival, so that we might enjoy development and prosperity like other nations. I am so surprised that this turned out to be mass murder."
In one form or another, this exculpation has been used over and again by the supporters of communist revolutions, from the Russian via the Chinese through to the Cambodian. Each new manifestation commanded the fervent advocacy of a new generation of radicals. Sooner or later the grim reality was revealed, which, paradoxically, only raised the hope that the next version would get it right. As the French philosopher Jean-François Revel has remarked: "Utopia is not under the slightest obligation to produce results: its sole function is to allow its devotees to condemn what exists in the name of what does not."
Somehow the link between Marxist-Leninist ideology and communist terror has never been firmly established in the way, for instance, that we understand Nazi ideology to have led inexorably to Auschwitz. As if to illustrate the point, earlier last year the ECCC announced that Helen Jarvis, its chief of public affairs, was to become head of the victims unit, responsible for dealing with the survivors, and relatives of the dead, of S-21.
Jarvis is an Australian academic with a longterm interest in the region, who was recently awarded Cambodian citizenship. She is also a member of the Leninist Party Faction in Australia. In 2006 she signed a party letter that included this passage: "We too are Marxists and believe that 'the ends justify the means'. But for the means to be justifiable, the ends must also be held to account. In time of revolution and civil war, the most extreme measures will sometimes become necessary and justified. Against the bourgeoisie and their state agencies we don't respect their laws and their fake moral principles."
Jarvis refused to speak to me about these matters. But Knut Rosandhaug, the UN's deputy administrator for the tribunal, said that the administration "fully supports" her. In this sense, although she was never a Pol Potist herself, Jarvis shows that the spirit of Malcolm Caldwell has survived the last century. It lives on in the conviction that the ends justify the means, and in the manner that liberal institutions can house the most illiberal outlooks.
The means, of course, always become the ends. Duch or someone like him is the method and the madness, the process and the final product. At least the man himself claims to grasp what continues to elude too many who should by now know better. In his deposition to the court, he said: "I clearly understand that any theory or ideology which mentions love for the people in a class-based concept is definitely driving us into endless tragedy and misery."
The following day, his lawyer, Kar Savuth, asked that Duch be acquitted and set free.
Caldwell didn't trouble himself with the means in Cambodia. He was too focused on an imaginary end, which meant that he never glimpsed the deadly real one approaching.
"He may have been starry eyed," says John Cox. "But we all do that. Even my local football team I support long after they've been destroyed match after match. It's a human failing."
A few days after Caldwell's murder, a testimonial was published in the Guardian.
"Caldwell," the writer said, "was an irreplaceable teacher and comrade whose work will undoubtedly suffer the customary fate of being better appreciated after his death."
As it turned out, history has forgotten Caldwell. But the amiable apologist for tyranny should be remembered, if only so that we don't forget history.
It is the secret dream of every Swedish or German woman to marry a black men, or at least have sex with a black man. Every smart young African man should migrate to Europe. Free money, nice house, good sex!
From sex toys to works of art: ‘Love doll’ maker seeks to shed seedy image
Japan’s oldest “love doll” manufacturer wants to strip the sex toys of their seedy image and encourage people to see them as works of art instead.
“Even now there is still a stigma,” said Junpei Oguchi, a representative for Tokyo-based sex doll maker Orient Industry, which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary with a three-week exhibition showing the evolution of its dolls that drew over 10,000 visitors.
“But at our exhibition there were lots of men and women visitors — more women than men, in fact,” he said. “There were young and old, men and women, a really wide range of people. I think people came because they had heard the reputation of how beautiful our dolls are. We want to get rid of the stigma.”
Orient Industry was founded in 1977 by former sex shop owner Hideo Tsuchiya, who noticed that customers who had bought inflatable latex sex dolls from his store were returning to complain of punctures. Tsuchiya sold his shop and used the money to set up his own business with the aim of manufacturing a more durable product.
Orient Industry, which is based in Tokyo’s Ueno district and has a factory in Katsushika Ward, now employs 26 workers including makeup artists and face sculptors, many of whom are art school graduates.
The dolls range in price from ¥262,440 to ¥685,000, come with removable heads and genitals, and are strikingly lifelike in appearance. The silicone skin is soft to the touch, joints are fully flexible, and real human hair and other details further fleshes out the illusion of reality.
“When the company started, the dolls’ faces looked like mannequins’ faces,” said Oguchi. “Now we have staff who mold the faces and they are highly praised for the way they look.
“In 2001, we started using silicone to make the dolls. By doing that and by molding the faces and using makeup, we were able to make dolls that looked much more realistic than before. We were able to increase the quality by using better materials, and that was a big step forward for us.”
Noted photographers such as Laurie Simmons and Kishin Shinoyama have made the company’s dolls the subject of books and exhibitions, with the latter showing his work at Orient Industry’s anniversary event that ran from May 20 to June 11 at Shibuya’s Atsukobarouh gallery.
Oguchi believes that validation from the art world is helping to shift attitudes toward sex dolls.
“We get a lot of different customers,” he said. “Some are only interested in buying dolls for sex, some want to buy them so they can take photos of them, and some want to take them out and about with them. Some have blogs where they write about living with them.
“A lot of our customers are over 40 but we also have customers in their 20s. It can be expensive to hire models, so photographers can use them for their pictures. We also have customers who buy them to use in shop displays.”
A survey released in February by the Japan Family Planning Association revealed that sexlessness among married couples in Japan is on the rise, with almost half admitting to not having made love for more than a month.
A record 35.2 percent of men surveyed cited “exhaustion from work” as the biggest reason for their indifference to sex, while 22.3 percent of women described lovemaking as “a hassle.”
An estimated 2,000 sex dolls are sold in the country each year. Oguchi believes that many buyers are looking for comfort as much as physical gratification.
“People in Japan generally live for a long time and a lot of elderly men lose their wives to old age,” he said. “Men in their 70s or 80s whose wives have died may feel lonely. They have lost a friend.
“Those men might buy one of our dolls to make themselves feel better. I hear that a lot. Our dolls can be useful in that regard.”
But Orient Industry has also come under fire for producing a range of dolls that resemble children. The childlike dolls stand just 136 cm tall, and are pictured wearing school gym gear on the company’s website.
“In every country there are incidents where elementary school or junior high school children are sexually abused, and Japan is no different,” said Oguchi. “Some people are sexually attracted only to them. We once had a customer who came in and all of a sudden he told us that he was only sexually attracted to children.
“Of course if you did anything to harm real children then you would be arrested. There would be real victims. So some people want to buy our products to use as an outlet. I think, in some ways, it can act as a deterrent.”
Orient Industry has an English-language website and receives orders from overseas. But the firm also faces global competition from a burgeoning industry looking to harness the latest technology in the service of sexual fantasy.
Dozens of companies in a “sex tech” industry worth an estimated $30 billion are developing dolls with features such as artificial intelligence, but Oguchi insists that Orient Industry is happy to follow its own path.
“Our love dolls are not robots,” he said. “Our aim is to make even better dolls. I have heard that there is a company in the Netherlands that uses AI in their dolls but they cost about ¥5 million each. Ordinary people can’t afford that.
“If you start to make robots that use AI, the price goes up. That isn’t something that our company is thinking about doing.”
Female sexuality is a trade merchandise. And in feminism, the seller and the merchandise are the same person. Merchandise that sells itself? That can impossibly work out. This is why the patriarchy is the only sensible form of human social organization.
Pakistan issues its first third-gender passport
PESHAWAR: Farzana Jan’s became the first ever person who was issued a passport on Saturday which included an option other than male or female in its gender column.
According to details, Farzana Jan is a transgender who had applied for an urgent passport. However, it had taken her six months to get the document processed and have included a separate column for the gender X option.
Speaking to a local daily, Farzana said that she was first told by the NADRA authorities that including a separate column could not happen since the entire database would have to be changed.
“But I hadn’t abandoned the task of adding a separate column, and finally they (Nadra authorities) have added the column for transgender,” she said.
“I am so happy to be recognised by the Directorate General of Immigration and Passports that I am a human and has a gender other than male and female,” she added.
Farzana is the co-founder and president of TransAction Alliance, a non-profit organisation which works for the rights of the transgender community in the country.
In 2011, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had ruled in favour of allotting a separate column for transgenders in NICs and passports.
Why is sex so important? Because everything else is just irrelevant.
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