No Foetal Pain Before 24 Weeks

Many weeks ago (sorry!!) the Guardian reported this:

The human foetus feels no pain before 24 weeks, according to a major review of scientific evidence published today.

The connections in the foetal brain are not fully formed in that time, nor is the foetus conscious, according to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

The findings of two reports commissioned by the Department of Health strike a blow to those seeking to reduce the upper time limit for having an abortion, currently at 24 weeks.

(Thanks Mr Jender, for sending on the link, and apologies again for taking so long to post it!)

Hypatia Conference Videos

Those of us (like me) who were unable to make the big Hypatia conference will be very pleased by Alison Wylie’s announcement:

The 25th Anniversary conference VIDEOS are now online and STREAMING!

We’re delighted to announce that all the keynote panels and an interview with
Hypatia founders and past editors are now available on Vimeo, linked to the
Hypatia editorial office website.

These videos were recorded by Joan Callahan as part of the oral history project she produces with Nancy Tuana, “Feminist Philosophers: In Their Own Words.” Here are links to the videos and to the oral history website:
Hypatia website
Vimeo folder
Oral History Project

Audio podcasts of many of the keynote panels are also available on the
Wiley-Blackwell Hypatia website. (When you reach this site, scroll down to find
the podcast page).

Sex work and UK jobcentres

Jobcentres in the UK currently carry adverts from companies seeking people to work in the sex trade, including posts as strippers, topless barmaids, and sexy webcam performers. Staff at jobcentres have to ensure that the unemployed people receiving benefits are actively seeking work, and applying to appropriate jobs. People can be told to look at the job adverts to see if there is something suitable for which they could apply before being allowed to sign on. The Minister for Employment, Chris Grayling, has stated that it is wrong for jobcentres to be displaying adverts of this nature. “It’s absolutely wrong that the government advertises jobs that could support the exploitation of people. We’ve taken immediate action today to stop certain adult entertainment vacancies from being advertised through Jobcentre Plus. We shouldn’t put vulnerable people in an environment where they’re exposed to these types of jobs and could feel under pressure to work in the sex industry.” A temporary ban on such adverts has been put in place whilst ministers prepare more permanent legislation. I’m not entirely sure what to think about this. My gut reaction is that this is a good thing. But my more considered response is that the issue seems complicated. One might think that there are plenty of exploitative jobs around – minimum wage, temporary contracts with no security, no benefits such as a pension. Why should sex work be considered more exploitative than these forms of work? Moreover, the best way to improve conditions for sex workers is to make the work more, not less, legitimate. But what do you think? You can read more from Reuters here.

British girls and Female Genital Mutilation

Between 500 and 2,000 British girls will endure genital mutilation during the Summer holidays. Some will be taken abroad; others will have the operation carried out by a woman already living here, or flown in from abroad to deal with several girls at once. The practice is an extremely old one. It pre-dates Christianity, Islam, and maybe even Judaism. The UK has legislation in place to prosecute people involved in the practice. It is an offence under the UK Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985 to perform FGM or to aid, abet or procure the service of another person to do so. The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, makes it illegal for FGM to be carried out on a permanent UK resident, anywhere in the world. But to date, no prosecutions have been made under this legislation. The reasons why families – often mothers – subject their daughters to the practice are complex. To fully stamp out the practice, the authorities need to understand these complex reasons and educate people about the dangers. People believe, e.g., that it is required by their religious beliefs. But there is nothing in either the Bible or the Koran stating that women should be circumcised. Simply telling people that this is the case is often enough for them to decide not to have their daughters circumcised. In addition, many people do not know what the practices of FGM actually involve. Once informed, they again choose not to subject their daughters to any of them. You can read more here.

Full female cover

I was under the mistaken impression that it’s just European countries that are concerned with females covering up. Politicians in both Belgium and France have voted in favour of a ban on the burka, Italy are apparently considering a similar move, and there has been talk of such things in the UK in recent times. But concern over this form of female covering is not just a European foible. A small group of Israeli women in the city of Beit Shemesh have taken to covering their faces with veils, and dressing in multiple layers of clothing to hide their shape. They consider this to be a requirement of modesty. Several rabbis have criticised the trend, but the women have ignored them, claiming that the rabbis are too moderate. Now, however, the Eda Charedit rabbinic organisation – a religious body respected by even the religious hardline in Israel – is set to issue a statement condemning the practice. Rabbi Pappenheim is quoted as saying, “There is a real danger that by exaggerating, you are doing the opposite of what is intended [resulting in] severe transgressions in sexual matters.” You can read more from the Jewish Chronicle here.

There have also been concerns with full female cover in some Arab countries. Syria has banned the niqab from it state universities. Women who wear it will not be allowed to study or teach there. Many primary school teachers who wear the niqab have also been removed from their posts and given administrative jobs. The Syrian authorities say the move is necessary to protect Syria’s secular identity. It does not affect the hijab – head scarf – which is a far more prevalent form of veiling than the Niqab in Syria. Other secular-leaning Arab countries are similarly concerned with the wearing of the niqab, and have tried to dissuade their female population from the practice. You can read more from the Hurriyet here.