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July 13, 2010 / Cactus

UK and European News Roundup

Hello, I’m Cactus. Those of you who read Jezebel might already know me. In real life I live in Yorkshire, England where I’m surrounded by cats and old copies of The Guardian. In good old Guardian-reader fashion I also grow my own bean sprouts and knit my own yoghurt – It’s pretty much mandatory. And so, with the introductions over I just need to dust down my political muumuu (pinstriped, of course) and remove a cat from the laptop. Let’s begin.

The British Supreme Court Rules on Landmark Case

You may have already heard about the British Supreme Court’s decision to grant two gay men asylum in the UK. Prior to the Supreme Court verdict, the Home Office stance had been that sexuality can be hidden to avoid persecution. I won’t detail the whole story here because it’s already old news but I have linked to a roundup of broadsheet and tabloid reactions to the case. Lord Roger summed up the verdict with a sound bite friendly but perhaps ill-advised statement.

“What is protected is the applicant’s right to live freely and openly as a gay man. To illustrate the point with trivial stereotypical examples from British society: just as male heterosexuals are free to enjoy themselves playing rugby, drinking beer and talking about girls with their mates, so male homosexuals are to be free to enjoy themselves going to Kylie concerts, drinking exotically coloured cocktails and talking about boys with their straight female mates.”

Of course, the tabloids chopped his quote up and ran with it. Maybe he should have gone with Lord Hope’s more elegant statement: “to compel a homosexual to pretend that their sexuality does not exist or can be suppressed was to deny him his fundamental right to be who he is.”

Would Suspect Anonymity Deter Victims from Reporting Rape and Sexual Assault?

British MPs from all major parties have condemned a government proposal to grant rape suspects anonymity before they are formally charged. It had been described as ‘simple reform’ but has sparked controversy because rape and sexual assault are set to be the only crimes where suspect anonymity would be granted. Maria Eagle, a Labour justice spokeswoman, warned that by singling out one offence, ministers were in “danger of sending a clear signal to victims: you will not be believed”.

Belfast Riots ahead of Twelfth Night Parades

3 police officers have been shot and 24 other officers injured after disturbances in North Belfast on Sunday night. The police were attempting to keep a group from a Republican area away from a Loyalist Eleventh Night bonfire.

Should a GP be doing the Work of a Hospital Manager?

Perhaps inspired by recent American healthcare reform; the British Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has announced that the NHS in England will undergo a massive restructure. All Local Health Authorities will be abolished and replaced by groups of GPs who will work together to manage local services and take responsibility for how NHS funds are spent. The restructure is an attempt to cut both bureaucracy and costs.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes? Or the Easy Way to Feed a Growing Population?

Foodies might be interested to hear that the European Union is considering lifting a ban on GM crop cultivation. This would allow individual member states to draw up their own laws. Current laws allow genetically modified crops and products to be imported from outside of the EU but the crops themselves have not been grown in Europe since 1998. Spain, The Netherlands and Britain are among the countries in favour of growing GM foods. Good news if you’re in biotechnology, it looks like it could be a burgeoning new market.

Italian Military Police General Jailed

Italian General Giampaolo Ganzer has been jailed for 14 years for drug smuggling. He was found guilty of abusing his position in order to import and export drugs between 1991 and 1997.

French National Identity and the Veil

I’m leaving you today with an update of a story we’ve heard much of over the past few years. It’s a heady mix of French politics, national identity, veiled Muslim women and the concept of personal choice in a public arena.

This afternoon a ban on wearing the Niqab or Burka passed through the French Parliaments’ Lower House with overwhelming support. The bill still needs to pass through the second house and then the French Constitutional Council. It could also be challenged by the European Court of Human Rights. If this bill succeeds then it could come into effect as early as September.

The ban would cover wearing the veil in the street as well as in a public building and a woman found breaking the law could be fined up to 150 Euros per incident. Any man forcing a woman to wear a Niqab or Burka could be fined up to 30,000 Euros.

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3 Comments

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  1. NefariousNewt / Jul 13 2010 1:15 pm

    It is hard to imagine how an egalitarian nation such as France has allowed itself to be given over to anti-Muslim hysteria. I tend to cite how progressive Europe is when it comes to social issues, but now it seems as if, starting with France, Europe is catching a case of American Muslim Terrorist Syndrome. This has little to do with the actual wearing of the Niqab or Burka, as it does with widespread anti-immigrant sentiment with an undercurrent of “Muslims are terrorists” stereotyping. How does this help?

    • VirtuousVixen / Jul 13 2010 1:21 pm

      What makes me so mad about the ban is the fact that it totally takes away self-determination and freedom. They want to make women freer by removing male oppression, in the way of making it so men can’t force a woman to be veiled, but it completely takes away a woman’s choice to wear the veil if she so chooses.

    • cactusatjezebel / Jul 13 2010 2:21 pm

      You know those 1950’s adverts or sitcoms with the smiling all-American nuclear family? And everyone looks at them and thinks that life was so bright and innocent back then; when in reality they’re wrong. Life wasn’t better back then or maybe that life never really existed? That is what the French are going through now. They’re looking back at the changes that have occurred in the past 20 or 30 years and attributing them to Muslim immigrants instead of modern life and the passage of time. And maybe that chocolate box picture of France never really existed.
      I think in recent years there have been definite moves by the French Government to protect and preserve traditional French values. A mundane example would be the rule that states a certain percentage of music played on the radio or TV must have French lyrics. Some of the preservation is valuable, it’s what makes France uniquely French but much of it seems to be increasing harmful. The Government and public need to work through the idea that today, to be French doesn’t necessarily mean to be white. They also need to get their collective heads around the idea that immigrants haven’t come to destroy traditional French life and that there is value in immigrants’ contribution to their new society.

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