International Headlines: Society


A Funeral for History Education, and Democracy, in Central SeoulThe Hankyoreh October 13, 2015

The Korean government announced it will take over the production of Korean history textbooks, sparking protests criticizing the government in various parts of Seoul. The Network Against State-Issued Korean History Textbooks, an umbrella group representing around 400 organizations, argued that “state-produced textbooks will teach that [Park Chung-hee’s coup] on May 16, 1961 was an inevitable choice and that the Yushin created the foundation for economic development, and they will obliterate children’s critical thinking skills and imagination. 1,991 history students representing 40 undergraduate history departments, 23 history education programs, and 3 graduate programs also published a statement expressing their opposition to the government plan. “I‘m ready to live as a history student should without becoming the mouthpiece for the government,” one said. According to some, this is an anti-constitutional action that violates the decision of the Constitutional Court, which ruled that the current review and approval system adheres more closely to the principles of the constitution than state-issued textbooks.

#FeesMustFall Brings South African Universities to a Standstill Global Voices October 23, 2015

The South African government intends to increase university tuition fees in 2016 by as much as 12%. Students argue that the increase will keep poor, mostly black South Africans from higher education. On Twitter the hashtag #FeesMustFall marks disapproval of the hikes. Protests against the proposed university fee hikes started at Witwatersrand University on October 14, and have spread to other major universities. The protests have also gained support in neighboring Kenya, which sees South Africa as a mentor, despite accusations of brutally heavy-handed police tactics and arrests. Hundreds of students stormed the gates at the South African Parliament on Tuesday, chanting “fees must fall.” On the same day, members of the opposition group Economic Freedom Fighters were kicked out of parliament, after showing their support by shouting the protesters’ slogan. President Jacob Zuma will meet students leaders on October 23 to discuss the issue. Wits University, where the protests began, has decided to suspend temporarily its plans to raise student fees 10.5 percent. Law professor Pierre de Vos warned that limiting poor students’ access to higher education could be unconstitutional. Higher education in South Africa is a right, and not a privilege. The Meeting of a Feminist and Communal School Venezuelanalaysis October 19, 2015

From October 2-4 of 2015, feminist movements and collectives from across Venezuela came together for the third National School of People’s Feminism: “Revolutionary Identities and Sexualities.” The school involved women from 25 communes across sixteen states in Venezuela and thirty organizations, collectives, and movement from Venezuela and two from Latin America. The topics included: feminist women challenging patriarchal logic and culture in their organizations and the role of women in their community’s struggles; the challenges in the current stage of the Bolivarian revolution under siege by imperialism, the national right wing, and enemies disguised as Chavistas; the need for socializing the common and unifying history of women in Latin American revolutionary struggles; the need for unity amidst diversity to defend and deepen the revolution and the fundamental role of feminist and LGBTQ women. The workshops covered: patriarchy and ways of combating it; the difference between emancipatory and romantic love; popular power against sexist violence; the communal feminist economy; revolutionary sexuality; feminist focus in people’s communication; communal planning from a feminist perspective; committees for women and gender equality; abortion; non-patriarchal ways of raising children; revolutionary identities and sexualities; new masculinities. The school also had socialized child care, men working in the kitchen, poetry, music, and dance. The closing plenary discussed the characteristics of feminist anti-patriarchal communes. Ultimately, all participants agreed that the to advance this struggle in the short term requires the strengthening and creation of committees for women and gender equality and productive economic networks to overcome the economic war and transition to a socialist economic model. Australia Antiterror Bill Includes Young Teens Boston Globe October 14, 2015

Australia’s government has proposed making people as young as 14 subject to “control orders,” an antiterrorism measure under which a court can impose restrictions on a person’s movements or communications. The proposal comes less than two weeks after a 15-year-old boy shot and killed a police accountant in Parramatta, an attack that the police are investigating as an act of terrorism. Revisions to Australia’s national security laws that included a new age threshold for control orders was already underway; however, the recent shooting is being used as justification for lowering the age limit to 14 from the current 16. The measure will be introduced to Parliament in a few weeks.

Japan Threatens to Halt Unesco Funding Over Nanjing Massacre Listing The Guardian October 13, 2015

Japan has threatened to withdraw its funding for Unesco after the UN body included disputed Chinese documents about the Nanjing massacre in its Memory of the World list, despite protests from Tokyo. Japan contributed ¥3.72 billion (US$30.898 million) to UNESCO last year, about 10% of UNESCO’s budget. Unesco’s director-general, Irina Bokova, approved the Nanjing inscription in Abu Dhabi last Friday. Japan’s foreign ministry said it was “extremely regrettable that a global organisation that should be neutral and fair entered the documents in the Memory of the World register, despite the repeated pleas made by the Japanese government”. The Nanjing documents relate to Japan’s bloody invasion of the south-eastern Chinese city in late 1937, during which troops murdered and raped tens of thousands of people. Officials in Tokyo called Unesco’s neutrality into question and accused Beijing of using the international cultural arena to promote its political agenda. Japan’s foreign ministry said the nomination “raises questions about the action of the international organisation that ought to be neutral and fair”, adding that “it is evident that there is a problem about the veracity” of the archives.

California Mandates New High School Lessons to Prevent Sexual Assaults The LA Times October 1, 2015

California now requires that health classes in high schools provide lessons in the prevention of sexual violence. The measure also requires lessons promoting affirmative consent before engaging in sexual relations. The law is the first of its kind in the nation and follows a measure signed last year requiring college campuses to improve policies to prevent sexual assault and to require that couples affirmatively consent before engaging in sex. “I firmly believe that by instilling in young minds the importance of affirmative consent and relationships built on love and respect, that we can reduce the sexual violence inflicted on young women,” said state Senate leader and co-author of the bill Kevin de León.