The Guantanamo Bay detention camp is a detainment facility of the United States.
The facility was established in 2002 by the Bush Administration to hold detainees from the war in Afghanistan and later Iraq.
"These are the worst of a very bad lot. They are very dangerous. They are devoted to killing millions of Americans, innocent Americans, if they can, and they are perfectly prepared to die in the effort" - Dick Cheney, Jan 27th, 2002 commenting on Guantánamo detainees [ Fox News]
"Few of the approximately 750 individuals who have passed through Guantánamo or are still imprisoned there were devoted to killing Americans in any active sense, and the people who really fit this description now in US custody have never been held in Cuba. The evidence suggests that large numbers of the Gitmo prisoners, running into the hundreds, were absolutely innocent of the least involvement in anything that could reasonably be described as terrorist activity" - David Rose, Guantánamo. America's war on human rights [Pg9]
Many people held in Guantánamo were not actually captured in Afghanistan at all. They were literally kidnapped or abducted in flagrant contravention of various national and international laws from places like Zambia, Gambia, and Pakistan.
In November of 2001, President George W. Bush issued a presidential order, that captured Al-Qaeda terrorists would be tried by special Military commissions, free of the restrictions imposed by civilian courts. This order was later expanded to include members of the Taliban. Detainees would be treated as unlawful combatants, and under legal advice provided by the Justice department in the person of Alberto Gonzales (in an internal memo dated January 25th 2002), would not come under the jurisdiction of the Geneva Convention.
Note: The Geneva Conventions comprise four treaties, and three additional protocols, that establish the standards of international law for the humanitarian treatment of the victims of war.
Key Players: Role of NGOs
•Amnesty International (Human Rights Group) released its annual report calling the facility the "gulag of our times.“
•The International Committee of the Red Cross(ICRC) inspected the camp in June 2004. In a confidential report issued in July 2004 and leaked to The New York Times in November 2004, Red Cross inspectors accused the U.S. military of using "humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions" against prisoners.
•Human Rights Watch: has criticized the Bush administration over this designation in its 2003 world report, stating: "Washington has ignored human rights standards in its own treatment of terrorism suspects. It has refused to apply the Geneva Conventions to prisoners of war from Afghanistan, and has misused the designation of 'illegal combatant' to apply to criminal suspects on U.S. soil."
Key Players: Role of IGOs
•In November 2005, a group of experts from the United Nations Commission on Human Rights called off their visit to Camp Delta, originally scheduled for December 6, saying that the United States was not allowing them to conduct private interviews with the prisoners. The group, nevertheless, stated its intention to write a report on conditions at the prison based on eyewitness accounts from released detainees, meetings with lawyers and information from human rights groups.
In February 2006, the UN group released its report, which called on the U.S. either to try or release all suspected terrorists.
Key Players: Governments
•European leaders have also voiced their opposition to the internment center. On January 13, 2006, German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized the U.S. detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay: "An institution like Guantánamo, in its present form, cannot and must not exist in the long term. We must find different ways of dealing with prisoners. As far as I'm concerned, there's no question about that," she declared in a January 9 interview to Der Spiegel.
•Meanwhile in the UK, Peter Hain, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, stated during a live broadcast of Question Time (February 16, 2006) that: "I would prefer that it wasn't there and I would prefer it was closed."
•His cabinet colleague and Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, declared the following day that the centre was "an anomaly and sooner or later it's got to be dealt with.“
Key Players: Individuals
•The book, Inside the Wire by Erik Saar and Viveca Novak also claims to reveal the abuse of prisoners.
•Investigative Journalists: David Rose
Key Players: Working Together
•In March 2007, a group of British Parliamentarians formed an All-party parliamentary group to campaign against Guantánamo Bay. The group is made up of Members of Parliament and peers from each of the main British political parties, and is chaired by Sarah Teather with Des Turner and Richard Shepherd acting as Vice Chairs. The Group was launched with an Ambassadors' Reception in the House of Commons, bringing together a large group of lawyers, non-governmental organizations and governments with an interest in seeing the camp closed.
'Discrimination against women is still a global social epidemic today.' Is this true?
·Make a clear stand as to whether discrimination against women today is still a global social epidemic compared to the situation in the past.
·Show a clear understanding of key terms:
vDiscrimination against women: unfair treatment of women as a result of their gender by individuals or groups with unfair gender policies or practices.
vGlobal social epidemic: discriminatory practices against women are pervasive problems that are spreading and inflicting harm across societies worldwide
·Evidence of various forms of discrimination against women cited must be current because of the time frame 'today' and must involve comparison with evidence of past discriminatory practices that still persist till today across many countries.
·Provide balance by providing reasons (e.g. education, outlawing or legal protection by governments, pressure by aid agencies or human rights groups) why some forms of discrimination are no longer a global social epidemic as they are diminishing and practised only among smaller pockets of people in some societies and the harm inflicted is under control.
·Candidates should cite specific evidence to substantiate their viewpoint.
·Some possible specific examples:
vfemale genital mutilation still practised in 28 African countries and some groups in , and immigrant communities in , , and the on 2 million girls and women to limit women's sexual desires (WHO statistics)
vhonour killings of 5000 women and girls every year overwhelmingly associated with certain Muslim cultures in 22 countries ( UN statistics) due to women's unsanctioned sexual behaviour or behaviour of relatives bringing such shame on family that any female accused or suspected must be murdered
vdomestic violence and abuse against 3 million women across the world each year ( Commonwealth Fund 1998 statistics)
vmillions ofcases of female infanticide practised since ancient times in , , South and due to preference for sons ( Society for Prevention of infanticide)
v120,000 women and girls in poor countries trafficked every year into for the sex industry (International Organisation of Migration statistics)
vCould account for the persistence of such discriminatory treatment ( deeply entrenched social attitudes and prejudices, difficulty of persecution and intervention by different governments and NGOs)
·Cite specific examples for balance ( e.g. the confinement of some forms of discrimination to only one country such as annual dowry deaths of 5000 brides only in India; discriminatory practices confined only to poor rural communities;pledge by 189 governments and the law in many countries today to fight against discrimination against women in all forms, according to 1995 UN World Conference on Women in Beijing)
·Candidates can cite evidence of new possible forms of discrimination that were not practised previously.
‘There has never been a better time to be a woman.’ Is this true of the developed world today?
Candidates would have to address the underlying assumption mentioned in the statement that now is the best time to be a woman, in the context of the modern developed countries. They are also expected to compare life as a woman in the developed world today with that of the past. In doing so, relevant characteristics of the developed world in the past and today would have to be evaluated/ discussed. Some of these include an increased awareness of gender equality, the increasing education levels of women, how traditional roles of women are increasingly challenged, and the legislation and organisations set up to protect the interests of women. Candidates may consider the changing expectations and responsibilities of women, and how women are now given more opportunities to pursue what they want personally and professionally. These candidates may also discuss the observation that with increased opportunities, women are now expected to juggle between work and family, whereas in the past women need not face such pressures. The discussion should cover different aspects of a woman’s life.
Better essays are likely to demonstrate the awareness that certain stigma and prejudice against women still exist today, and that women have to battle that while managing the increased expectations.
Candidates should not discuss at length the difference in the treatment of women in the developed with that in the developing world. The focus should always remain on the situation of women in the developed world. Candidates should not merely describe the life of a woman in the past/today without explaining how it has been made better or worse.
Stereotypes are generalizations that should not exist. Comment.
While it is not an absolute must to state the definition of stereotype, students who can do a good job of providing one should be rewarded. It would also help them understand the implications of the question better.
Stereotypes (n) – beliefs or ideas of what a particular type of person or thing is like, but are often unfair and untrue
Stereotypes should not exist
§Stereotyping often results from, and leads to, prejudice and bigotry and unchecked prejudice and bigotry leads to discrimination, violence, and, in extreme cases, genocide (e.g. the Holocaust)
§Can be an impression of a select few of the group, but not representative of the wider community. Or be representative of the majority, but not to every individual (e.g. I might be the only football fan in my group who does not like beating somebody up but I am still a football fan). The important point is while there may be truths to stereotypes, it must never threaten the knowledge that every individual is unique.
§Can inflict a profound sense of injustice in the victim, which leads to the victims taking retaliatory action, either through aggressive acts, or simply stereotyping their accusers, which promotes a vicious cycle.
Stereotypes should exist
§Most stereotypes are unfair but not completely unfounded. There is usually some truth to them, either by common observation, or in some cases actual statistical evidence.
§It provides a reference point for the community to examine itself (without having to agree with their accusers).
§Could be more true than false in some cases, and the ‘victim’ are the only ones who think the ‘stereotype’ is unfair
A more nuanced approach will perhaps acknowledge that that some stereotypes are more benign than others (the computer geek vs Islamic ‘terrorists’), and while even computer geeks may laugh about their being stereotyped that way, Muslims are at the end of a very unfair and potentially explosive stereotype, which must be stopped.
Students can approach this essay by raising some common stereotypes, and using them as reference points to examine the statement. Some of these that might be raised are:
- Gender stereotypes (Man strong – Women weak / Men violent – Women nurturing etc)
- Racialstereotypes (Chinese are short and mercenary, African Americans are tall and violent, Jews have large noses and are calculating etc)
- Cultural stereotypes (Americans are all liberal, Singaporeans are all apathetic, the British love to talk about the weather etc)
- Religious stereotypes (Muslims are terrorists, Jews are self-centred, Christians are overly-passionate about evangelism etc)
- Other stereotypes (Football fans are hooligans, Computer Programmers are geeks, Rock stars can’t read)
7. A woman has to make an extra effort to succeed. How far is this true in today’s world?
Make an extra effort – having to make greater efforts/sacrifices compared to their male counterparts, going the extra mile/trying much harder to overcome the odds; more is expected of them
Succeed in life – to excel, to be recognized in both the private (eg: family, marriage, relationships) and public spheres (eg: career/work life, political participation etc)
-Socially constructed gender roles imposed on women – long been entrenched in cultures and people’s mindsets - a shift in cultural paradigm may take time – hard to break away from the rigidity of their socially assigned roles in life- makes it harder to defy the rigidity (eg: a working mother is expected to excel in both her career and her domestic responsibilities in family- double amount of expectations imposed on her compared to a husband – people tend to frown upon a working mother if she fails to take care of her family responsibilities)
-Sexism/gender discrimination/inequalities are still the order of the day in many countries – manifested in the various social policies in society – Eg: employment policies (the perceived inferiority of women for certain high positions in a company; “glass ceiling” imposed on women in terms of pay and career advancement), limited political participation and access to education and healthcare (women in Afghanistan under the Taliban’s rule; women in certain developing countries), domestic/family violence (eg: victimization of abused women, arranged marriages for women) – hence women do need to make an extra effort/try much harder to overcome these challenges/inequalities imposed on them
-Push for gender equality/feminist movements is still a snail’s pace in many countries – faced with great resistance – tremendous efforts have to be made to educate people/to inspire social changes - the fact that women/feminist activities have been trying so hard to champion for women’s rights (as seen in the 1st Wave and 2nd Wave of Feminism) clearly shows that women do have to make an extra effort to overcome the social stigma that they face in life
-Women in developed countries – Because of the higher level of education, it may be easier for women in developed counties to be treated with equal social rights with men – there is greater social understanding and opportunities are already made easily available to them to excel and succeed in life (the idea of a “level playing field” in today’s modern society) - hence they do not need to try as hard as other women in other less developed countries
-Feminist movements are really gaining speed around the world – there is greater social awareness now than in the past-various policies have been made to redress gender inequalities – eg: affirmative action policies in employment and educational institutions – Equal Employment Opportunity Act in the U.S serves as a safeguard against sexism -“Sisters in Islam”, an organization formed by a group of Muslim women who seek to educate people on issues of women’s rights among the Muslim women – greater state’s intervention in the area of maternity leave (eg: Sweden is one country which provides generous parental leave (for both working mothers and fathers) in connection with the child's birth) – There are also more women than men in the new Spanish cabinet
-A revolutionized image of a “modern woman” – a complete paradigm shift in today’s society-there is greater empowerment among women - it has become common that many women nowadays are educated, financially independent and having their own identities – many of them are charismatic/capable leaders in many major areas such as world businesses and politics (Hilary Clinton, Carly Fiona, Glorio Arroyo, the late Benazir Bhutto, democracy icon Aung San Su Kyi)
-The changing roles of men in society – the traditional gender roles are becoming less rigid in today’s modern society – there is better understanding and collaboration between two gender groups – equal distribution of power and resources both in the private and public life
‘Civilised society is characterised by tolerance.’ Discuss.
Students should define the keywords ‘tolerance’ and ‘civilised society’.
·Tolerance- a fair, objective, liberal and permissive attitude toward ideas, opinions, values and practices that differ from one's own (race, religion, language, nationality, sexual orientation etc); freedom from bigotry.
·Civilised society- educated and sophisticated populace; gracious community, one that is humane, caring and showing concern for others.
·Students should consider the extent to which tolerance is a good indicator or measure of a refined society.
·A society that does not respect differences or diversity can be economically developed but morally impoverished (e.g. foreign workers and domestic maids who are marginalised by society, which does not view them as equals). The extent of care and concern for minority groups in society also reveals if a society is civilised.
·It is important for a civilised society to be inclusive and open to alternative viewpoints. This is the only way to ensure progress and development. (Students could refer to the recent AWARE saga and consider the implications when religious values encroach upon social space. Would greater tolerance prevent such an episode from threatening to polarise society?)
·Tolerance is the key to social and political harmony. Prejudice and discrimination are not marks of a civilised society. Racist bloggers and Danish cartoonists who produced caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad are examples of people who lack tolerance for other cultures and religions, their actions resulting in social tensions and upheavals.
·Developed countries like the are regarded as advanced societies because they celebrate diversity and embrace it (e.g. election of the first African-American president in the history of the country). Tolerance alone is insufficient to bring about change. Genuine respect and appreciation are required for the development of a progressive nation.
·Debate and argument are still important for a society. Tolerance may stifle a diversity of views from being expressed (e.g. stringent censorship laws enacted in the name of religious/racial tolerance). A civilised society needs to value freedom of expression and democratic principles.
·Social activism and the degree of open discussion are thus more important measures of a civilised society. Attempts to reconcile differences will only be possible through a passionate sharing of diverse views (e.g. online forums and blogs).
3. How far do you agree with the view that gender equality remains a distant dream?
Gender equality - the idea of levelling the playing field to provide equal rights and opportunities to both men and women in society
A distant dream - implies that gender equality is unattainable or hard to achieve/realise; a utopian ideal in society
Students are required to analyse the different challenges/stumbling blocks that societies encounter in the process of advocating gender equality. A balanced analysis is required as students also need to consider the reasons why gender equality need not be a distant dream in society. Students must take a stand by weighing and evaluating these different reasons.
Reasons for gender equality to be a distant dream-
·Socially constructed roles still imposed on both men and women – long been entrenched in cultures and people’s mindsets - a shift in cultural paradigm may take a very long time – hard to break away from the rigidity of their expected roles in life – women largely confined to their expected/rigid gender roles - makes it harder to defy the rigidity (eg: a working mother is expected to excel in both her career and her domestic responsibilities in family- greater expectations imposed on her compared to a husband – people tend to frown upon a working mother if she fails to take care of her family responsibilities -gender roles of men and women are rigidly defined in Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea).
·Sexism/gender discrimination/oppression is still the order of the day in many countries – manifested in the various social policies/practices in society – employment policies (the perceived inferiority of women for certain high positions in a company; “glass ceiling” imposed on women), limited political participation and access to education/healthcare (women in Afghanistan under the Taliban’s rule; under-representation of women in politics in many countries), domestic/family violence (victimisation of abused women).
·Gender equality/feminist movements are still at a snail’s pace in many countries – faced with great resistance due to traditions/cultures– tremendous efforts have to be made to educate people/to inspire social changes - the fact that women/feminist activities have been trying so hard to advocate women’s rights (as seen in the 1st Wave and 2nd Wave of Feminism) clearly shows that extra efforts have to be made to turn gender equality into a reality.
·Critics also argue that gender equality is sometimes pursued at the expense of men’s welfare as well- gender equality tends to focus too much on women’s rights, causing men to be disadvantaged in today’s world and leading to greater inequalities between men and women–eg: men tend to lose out in legal battles over custody rights of children and alimony – men are sometimes denied access to female-dominated professions such as nursing-eg: the emergence of male movements such as Promise Keepers, the Million Men March and the Daddy Movement signifies that men are downtrodden and their welfare is greatly neglected by society too.
Reasons for gender equality to be an achievable goal
·Feminist movements and gender equality are really gaining momentum around the world, with fairly tangible achievements – there is definitely greater social awareness now than in the past-various policies have been made to redress gender inequalities – e.g.: Affirmation action in employment and educational institutions – Equal Employment Opportunity Act in the U.S serves as a safeguard against sexism -“Sisters in Islam”, an organisation formed by a group of Muslim women who seek to educate people on issues of women’s rights among the Muslim women around the world – Countries like Rwanda, Sweden and Denmark have rather high ratios of female representation in politics (taking almost half of the seats in the parliaments)– There are also more women than men in the new Spanish cabinet.
·Gender equality in developed countries – Because of the higher level of education and social awareness, it may be easier for gender equality to be advocated and sustained in the developed countries - there is greater social understanding and opportunities are already made easily available for women to excel and succeed in life - hence gender equality need not be a distant dream entirely.
·The brand-new image of a “modern woman” – a complete paradigm shift in today’s society-there is greater empowerment among women - it is common that many women nowadays are educated, financially independent and having their own identities – comparable to their male counterparts, many of them are charismatic leaders in many major areas such as world businesses and politics (Hilary Clinton, Condolezza Rice, Carly Fiona, Glorio Arroyo, the late Benazir Bhutto, democracy icon Aung San Su Kyi).
·The changing roles of men in society- the traditional gender roles are becoming less rigid in today’s modern society- there is better understanding and collaboration between two gender groups – both striving towards equal distribution of power and resources both in the private and public life.
“A society intolerant of differences”. Is this an accurate assessment of your country?
Topic: general, includes prejudice and discrimination
Issue: Whether your country () makes room for differences
Keywords: intolerant, accurate assessment - suggest the statement is absolute
Context: your country- , mainly present
-Discuss 2-3 different areas where shows tolerance/intolerance
-There may be lack of examples but P and R are reasonably sound
-Able to show that within the same perspective there is tolerance in some areas and not others
-Able to see that tolerance level is different at individual, societal and country levels.
Differences in age in somewhat tolerated in ..
-In the workplace, younger workers are favoured in place of older ones. However, government agencies are trying to change mindsets of employers by highlighting the value of older workers. They also encourage older workers to constantly upgrade themselves so that they are still useful in the workforce.
-However, in terms of housing and access to public facilities and amenities, the elderly’s needs are being considered and met.
-Those over 40years old find it more difficult to find a job.
-In retrenchment exercises, those who are older are more likely to be retrenched.
In the Singaporean society, equality for all can be a possibility, but is not likely in the near future. Meritocracy may make equality for all a reality eventually. However, at present equality for all remains far from being a reality in Singapore due to the existing gender and age discrimination.
Sexism is evident in the workplace and the female workforces are at a disadvantage. The gender equality taught in education does not automatically translate into gender equality at work. In fact, women still face persistent obstacles in the workplace because this domain has largely remained male-dominated. Males are traditionally thought to be the sole breadwinner of their family, while females are thought to stay at home and watch over the matters of the household. Young women who are just entering the workforce have a lower chance of getting employment as compared to men. This is because they may require maternal leave if they get pregnant and will be seen as a liability to the company.
Even if females get jobs, they are often low-paying and low-skilled ones. Moreover, career advancement opportunities are rare for women since they are thought to be unable to fulfill their job responsibilities due to their family commitments, which men are traditionally not subjected to. This inequality is evident in the persistent wage gap between the male and female workers in Singapore. Generally, it is observed that it is a consistent trend for males to earn higher wages compared to females. Hence, gender discrimination results in unequal remuneration between the male and female workforce.
Ageism is another kind of inequality prevalent in the Singaporean society. Age discrimination especially towards the elderly is often based upon the stereotypes which regards the elderly as ‘useless’. The elderly persons can only take up unskilled jobs. Many employers are often quick to turn away older job applicants as they judge them based on their physical indication of their age. We often hear of elderly workers being rejected from job when employers come to know about their age.
Such discrimination leads to poverty and helplessness among the elderly population. Instead of enabling our older workers to acquire new jobs with satisfactory remuneration, they are forced to work on low wages. This leads to lower self-esteem in the aged people. The 2010 census shows that the supposed prime age of unemployment is over 65 years. However, this may be due to the stability in jobs as these jobs are usually not meant for career advancements. Nevertheless, ageism puts elderly in a pathetic situation as they are treated and paid unfairly.
However, the meritocracy system is in effect in Singapore which can help reduce the inequality based upon age and gender. The fundamentals of meritocracy is that people should be rewarded based on what they do, not who they are. The system of meritocracy ensures that the best and brightest, regardless of race, religion and socio-economic background get the opportunities they deserve. Everyone has access to education, which equips them with skills and knowledge to earn a better living. This means that everyone gets equal opportunities to do well and is rewarded according to their merits. For example, all Singaporean students in government and government-aided schools, junior colleges/centralized institute, independent schools or institutions, specialized schools, etcetera who are not recipients of any “Edusave Scholarship” are eligible to apply for the “Edusave Merit Bursary” if they are within the top 25% of each level and stream in their schools and meet the testing criteria of not exceeding $5,000 monthly gross household income.
In conclusion, equality for all is far from reality at present. Age and gender discrimination, more or less, exists in Singapore. However, the government can begin salvaging the current situation through education. Schools are where many young people shape their way of thinking and build up their perceptions about people and other things. Therefore, the government can work hand in hand with the ministry of education to incorporate awareness about such discrimination in the curriculum itself, and make equality for all a reality before it becomes too late.
Written by: Annabel Fung