Saturday, May 22, 2010
Swedish princess emulating 'sexist British tradition' of giving bride away
Congratulations to Her Royal Highness
The Crown Princess of Sweden has upset the country's church leaders by announcing she wants to be given away by her father when she marries next month, a practice which the Swedes consider sexist.
In Swedish tradition, the bride and groom walk down the aisle together, however, Crown Princess Victoria wishes to walk to the altar at Stockholm Cathedral on the arm of her father, King Carl XVI Gustaf, at her wedding to Daniel Westling, a commoner.
The decision has prompted the head of the Swedish church, Archbishop Anders Wejryd, to take the unusual step of issuing a public statement expressing his disapproval at the adoption of such an Anglo-Saxon practice.
"Being given away is a new phenomenon which occasionally occurs in the Church of Sweden. I usually advise against it, as our marriage ceremony is so clear on the subject of the spouses' equality. The couple know where I stand on this matter," he said.
One in 10 Swedish brides is now given away, but the Church fears that such a high profile Royal wedding - the first in 34 years - will spark an unwelcome trend in a country which takes equality of the sexes very seriously indeed.
Annika Borg, a priest and theologian, said modern brides were being influenced by the fairytale weddings featured in Hollywood films.
"I think it's unfortunate that Sweden's future head of state has chosen to follow a practice that is not Swedish tradition. The idea of the couple entering the church together symbolises that the man and the woman are entering the marriage of their own free will," she said.
"We've got a carefully worked-out position on this matter in the Swedish church, and in the future it is going to be very hard for us to resist requests from brides who want to be given away."
There is a Royal precedent. When King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia married in 1976 they walked down the aisle together.
However, the king's sister Princess Margaretha was given away by her grandfather, Gustav VI Adolf, when she married Englishman John Ambler in Stockholm in 1964.
The Royal Court said Princess Victoria's decision was a symbolic one. "This has a bigger dimension. This isn't a father giving away his daughter to another man. The symbolism is that the king is leading the heir to the nation's throne to the altar - and to the man who has been accepted," said spokeswoman Nina Eldh.
Princess Victoria is the heir-apparent to the throne, after Sweden changed its Act of Succession in 1980 to introduce equal primogeniture.
In other ways too, this will be a very modern Royal marriage. Mr Westling is a personal fitness trainer and gym owner who met Princess Victoria in 2002 when she hired him to supervise her workouts. He moved into an apartment in the Royal palace two years ago.
The wedding will take place on June 19, the same date on which Princess Victoria's parents married in 1976. Thereafter, Mr Westling will go by the title of Prince Daniel, Duke of Västergötland.
Dick Harrison, an expert in Swedish history from Lund University, said the Royal family had moved with the times. "By far the most common practice in Sweden is that the couple walk to the altar together. But if you are looking at Royal tradition, the normal situation would be for her to have married a foreign prince - and in previous centuries that would have meant two marriages in two different countries."
The Swedes have become used to colourful episodes in the lives of the younger Royals. Princess Victoria's younger sister, Princess Madeleine, called off her wedding to Jonas Bergstrom last month after a Bournemouth university student told a gossip magazine that she had a fling with him during a ski trip.
Her brother, Prince Carl Philip, is dating a model and reality television star notable for posing topless with only a python to protect her modesty. The Prince is a racing car driver and nightclub regular who has designed his own range of cutlery.
Official support for female circumcision stirs controversy in US
Another cringing response to Muslim barbarism
The review by a prestigious US medical academy of its policy on female genital cutting has triggered a storm of protest from lobbyists, women's groups and feminist bloggers.
The Academy of American Paediatrics has been accused of sanctioning child abuse and of behaving unethically. Among its critics are many US medical practitioners.
"Have you all gone nuts?" one paediatrican demanded of the academy's bio-ethics committee in a website exchange.
"Just a little female circumcision? There's no reason to do this procedure and to condone any form of it is not acceptable."
Intact America, a non-profit group that campaigns against all forms of circumcision - male and female - accused the academy of deliberately softening its stance to avoid a double standard because it tolerates male circumcision.
"This is gender equity run amok," claimed the group's founder, Georganne Chapin.
The offence was not caused by the committee's final recommendations, which endorsed the academy's previous opposition to female genital cutting, last reviewed in 2007.
Rather, the outrage was invoked by the committee admitting in its report the quandary of some paediatricians who argue that offering a form of "ritualistic genital nick" might help dissuade families from taking their daughters overseas where they would be more likely to undergo life-endangering surgery and mutilation.
The bio-ethics committee noted the sensitivities surrounding the issue and explicitly said it was not advocating surgery in the US. Female genital cutting has been outlawed in the US since 1996 and is illegal in many Western countries, including Australia.
Coincidentally, two members of Congress last month introduced a bill which would make it illegal for anyone to take girls out of the US for the purpose of genital cutting.
The committee stressed the need for doctors to counsel parents on the dangers of female cutting, especially in the case of more extreme surgery in which the entire clitoris and some, or all, of the labia minora are removed.
However, it raised the prospect of tokenistic surgery.
"There is reason to believe that offering such a compromise [of a 'nick'] may build trust between hospitals and immigrant communities, save some girls from undergoing disfiguring and life-threatening procedures in their native countries, and play a role in the eventual eradication of [female cutting]," wrote the committee, which includes three women ethicists.
The chairman of the committee, Dr Doug Diekema, a Seattle paediatrician and bio-ethicist, told the Herald most paediatricians in the US would never have faced the dilemma recounted by the committee.
But in areas with large numbers of east Africans - in Seattle and Minnesota, for example - it was clear that just saying no was often inadequate.
"We had families explicitly tell [paediatricians] that if we did nothing they would take their kids back to Africa where they would not have control over how harmful a procedure was done," Dr Diekema said. "What they needed was something that satisfied what they believed were the demands of their religion."
The committee's concept of a nick was far les intrusive than infant male circumcision.
"[It] would remove no tissue, would not touch any significant organ but, rather [it] would be a small nick of the clitoral hood which is the equivalent of the male foreskin - nothing that would scar, nothing that would do damage," Dr Diekema said.
He said the ethical rationale for such a suggestion was "harm minimisation".
"My feeling is that this certainly would not increase in any way more harmful procedures … It could only decrease them. I don't think you're going to have families who currently do nothing suddenly wanting the procedure. The only thing you would see is a flow of families who would otherwise get a more dangerous [procedure] moving towards one that doesn't harm their girl."
He said some Western physicians working in Africa believed a ritualistic "nick" had been used to satisfy parents wanting the procedure for their daughters. He said the academy meant to speak "to all paediatricians, including those in countries where this hadn't been precluded by a law".
Banning the Veil
The French government this week decided to fine Muslim women who wear a full-face veil in public -- and France is only the latest in a series of European countries seeking to ban the religious garb. Is this an infringement of religious liberty intended to discriminate against Muslims? Or is the measure necessary to protect the security of others? The answers are a lot more complicated than you might think.
A minority of Muslim women actually wear the burqa or niqab in Muslim countries or the West. The garb consists of a gown and headdress that covers the woman head to foot, revealing only her eyes. Obviously, it is impossible to determine who is under the veil -- even whether the person is male or female. In Paris recently, a group of armed robbers pulled a heist wearing burqas, which made it not only impossible to identify them but easy for the criminals to conceal their weapons when entering the bank.
And the burqa presents even greater challenges when it comes to national security. Increasingly, we rely on cameras and facial recognition software to aid in protecting us against terrorism in public places. What's more, one of the most effective means for airport screeners to detect a potential terrorist is to assess the person's facial reactions: Does he or she appear unduly furtive or nervous, for example. But these techniques are impossible if the person is wearing a burqa.
As Jean-Francois Cope, majority leader in the French National Assembly, wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed, "(The burqa) is not an article of clothing -- it is a mask, a mask worn at all times, making identification or participation in economic and social life virtually impossible." And that is also its intent: to isolate the wearer from all aspects of public life.
As Cope notes in his op-ed, the Koran does not tell women they must cover their face, and most Muslim women do not do so. The burqa goes far beyond protecting a woman's modesty; it transforms a woman into a non-person. She becomes a shrouded creature whose face and body are undistinguishable as a unique human being.
Two decades ago, it was exceedingly rare to see burqas in public in the United States. But, depending on where you live, burqas are now visible at shopping malls and on the street. What strikes me most when I encounter burqa-clad women is the contrast between their dress and their male companions'. Most of these women are covered in thick, black cloth, even in Washington's 90-plus degree summers, while the men wear short sleeves and light khakis.
Here's a challenge to Muslim men who believe that the wearing of the burqa is no hardship on women. Don one yourself and wear it for a week. Wear it to work and see if it impedes your ability to do your job. Wear it when you go out in public and see what it's like to try to interact with others. Wear it when you go to the local mall or the park or take your children for a walk. And, by all means, do so on the hottest day of the year.
The First Amendment would likely make a broad ban on the burqa in the United States unconstitutional, though some states have restricted its wearing for such activities as obtaining a driver's license. But it would be a false tolerance to suggest that we should treat the burqa as a symbol of religious freedom. The burqa is a statement about the woman's status more than a religious one. The burqa-clad woman is not an individual with rights; she belongs to a man -- her husband, father or brothers -- whose "property" must be protected from other men's gaze. We may not ban the burqa here, but we can and should disapprove of it.
Australia: Former staff member says juvenile detainees running Victorian detention centres
CIVIL rights of young inmates have overtaken common sense in juvenile justice as staff are subjected to constant assault, a former staff member claims.
They cannot even raise their voice in retaliation, former unit manager Colin Richardson says.
In recent weeks, a pregnant officer at the Melbourne Youth Justice Centre was threatened with death by an inmate and another officer lost two front teeth in an assault.
"Nobody gets charged. And if you yell at an inmate you get stood down," Mr Richardson said. Metal detectors and strip searches were banned, so drugs and weapons were common inside the centre. He said of about 140 officers at the centre, he believed up to 70 per cent had made injury or stress-related WorkSafe Claims.
"They can't even isolate inmates if they misbehave - it's all about rewarding good behaviour with things like takeaways and outings," Mr Richardson said. "And this is the breeding ground for inmates to go onto bigger and worse things." He said youth officers gave the inmates too much trust, when many were locked up for serious crimes.
WorkSafe spokesman Michael Birt said staff at the centre had made 136 claims to Work Safe since 1996. That amounted to about 10 claims per year, which was "not astronomical" given the nature of the work.
Last year DHS's youth justice custodial services branch won a Work Safe award for its strategy to deal with stress, trauma and burn-out amongst staff.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.