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AsiaGlobal Voices

Trending Opinions From Across the Region

AsiaGlobal Voices is a curated feed of summaries of opinion articles, columns and editorials published in local languages in media from across Asia.

The publication of AsiaGlobal Voices summaries does not indicate any endorsement by the Asia Global Institute or AsiaGlobal Online of the opinions expressed in them.

Do Not Regulate School Uniforms Based on Faith
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
Do Not Regulate School Uniforms Based on Faith

Laila Afifa, editor, in Tempo (March 6, 2021) 

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Abdul Rahman)

Do Not Regulate School Uniforms Based on Faith

The government policy on uniforms and attributes worn by students at state elementary and middle schools deserves support. The decision underlines the government's resolve to not interfere in matters concerning students' religious beliefs. Therefore, the reaction by the Indonesian Ulema council (MUI) asking the government to give regional governments the authority to regulate school uniforms in line with student's religions is a step backward. This must be strongly opposed. As public education institutions, state schools must not reflect any religion.

The concern from the MUI that the government decision will see the end of local wisdom is also mistaken. Uniforms based on the teachings of religion will instead lead to a uniformity of culture. This will bring about an end to the diversity that is a characteristic of Indonesian culture.

It is important to realize that school policies requiring students to wear uniforms based on religious teachings are a form of political intervention in students' bodies, particularly females. Whatever form it takes, this type of pressure must be rejected. So must the banning expressions of religious faith such as when headscarves were banned in schools.

Politics that tries to force students to wear the same clothing gives rise to discrimination. The duty and responsibility of the government is to guarantee every student, no matter what their religion or faith is, the freedom to express their beliefs. The government must protect them from threats and pressure from any person.

Indonesia is not a state based on religion. This nation was born from agreement among various religious and faith groups. Efforts to move the nation towards the values of a particular religion must be prevented because this would lead us towards fragmentation. President Joko Widodo must not hesitate in clearly emphasizing this.


Women and Political Inequality: Exclusion Cannot Be Allowed To Persist
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
Women and Political Inequality: Exclusion Cannot Be Allowed To Persist

Umair Javed, Assistant Professor, Lahore University of Management Sciences, in Dawn (March 8, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Commonwealth Secretariat)

Women and Political Inequality: Exclusion Cannot Be Allowed To Persist

Gender inequality takes a variety of forms in Pakistan, but a fundamental one is political inequality. Gender-based variation in politics include barriers to voting, barriers to seeking elected office, barriers to access within political parties, and barriers to representation in policymaking and governance.

Leaving other aspects aside for the time being, it is worth starting with the most basic act of political participation: voting. Out of Pakistan’s nearly 106 million registered voters, only 44 percent are women, at least 6 percent less than their actual proportion in the adult population. These issues are compounded at two levels – eligible female voters not being registered on electoral rolls, and women not being registered as citizens at all.

Even if women are registered, female turnout tends to be lower than male turnout across the country. The male-gap in voter turnout in the 2018 general elections stood at 9.1 percent, with 11 million more men voting than women.

So what factors are responsible for driving this suppression of women voters, and what can be done to mitigate it? Evidence from the authors’ prior fieldwork in Lahore suggests that gatekeeping by male household members remains a persistent factor, even in urban centres; 8.3 percent of male respondents said it was not appropriate for women to vote in a general election.

Outside of household dynamics, the lack of engagement by political parties also contributes to inequality in voting outcomes. It is this last factor, which highlights both a central problem, as well as a pathway towards reduced gender-based political inequality. Political parties face the greatest responsibility in minimizing exclusion. If resolving this issue requires legislation and its implementation, political elites should work it out through legal reform. What is clear is that the current state of exclusion cannot and should not be allowed to persist.


No To Misogynists: What We Women Can Do
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
No To Misogynists: What We Women Can Do

Solita Collas-Monsod, broadcaster, economist, writer and minister of economic planning of the Philippines (1986-1989), in her Get Real column in Philippine Daily Inquirer (March 6, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: AlanMotus/UN Women)

No To Misogynists: What We Women Can Do

Let us look at how President Rodrigo Duterte affected the pace of advancement of women. Let us look at his speeches and actions toward women. In this age of information and communication technology, where every little word or action is recorded, you have a damning picture of a man who thinks of women as lower class, or that deserve less equal treatment than men, or just objectifies them.

Let us talk about his remarks in the past four or five years. The worst in my opinion is when he talked to the graduating class of the Philippine Military Academy and made what his spokesperson called “mischievous” remarks about rape. A joke? About rape? To the military? In a commencement address?

As if that were not bad enough, his remarks about women not belonging in the political arena strongly call to mind what the dictator Ferdinand Marcos said, referring to Cory Aquino, that women belonged in the bedroom. The man is in a time warp. He is an anachronism.

The worst of all, though, is his ability to make up any story that he wants about the women he fears or hates the most. Look at the untruths he has spread about Vice President Leni Robredo, Senator Leila de Lima, former chief justice Meilou Sereno, and journalist Maria Ressa – untruths that his underlings took as gospel and fight to present as gospel.

Women have complained bitterly about this treatment. We have talked the talk. Now we have an opportunity to walk the walk. Will we take it? Or are we Filipino women content to accept those who lie, cheat, are misogynists and anachronisms, and cheapen their office and their country with their bad manners and worse conduct as leaders? No? Then start working on next year’s elections.


Stop Gender Stereotyping As Everyone Is Different
Tuesday, March 9, 2021
Stop Gender Stereotyping As Everyone Is Different

Kayama Rika, psychiatrist and writer, in Mainichi Shimbun (February 9, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Christopher Eden)

Stop Gender Stereotyping As Everyone Is Different

Remarks discriminating against women made by former prime minister Yoshihiro Mori have become a major issue. As a result of longstanding habits, we tend to stereotype people based on their gender.

Historically, women in Japan have been placed at a disadvantage in many ways compared to men. For example, it was only after the end of World War II, in 1946, that women were elected to the Diet for the first time. It is hard to imagine that there were no female politicians before then, but when people now in their 80s were children, women were finally able to participate in politics.

Since then, we have been working hard to create a society where men and women can live equally. However, if someone makes a particularly negative judgment generalizing women, our efforts will be overshadowed by remarks such as "See, I knew that".

It is fine for men and women to express their opinions and sometimes criticize each other. However, please do not generalize about women and say, “All women are like this”, because that will lead to prejudice.

In the medical field, there is almost no distinction between men and women, and everyone is doing their utmost as an individual to do the best they can. Let us hope that soon everyone will be able to live one's own life and take care of each other.


Having It All, Redefined: Every Woman Gets To Have Her Own Definition
Tuesday, March 9, 2021
Having It All, Redefined: Every Woman Gets To Have Her Own Definition

Ruchi Saini, research scholar, University of Maryland, in The Times of India (March 7, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: UN Women India)

Having It All, Redefined: Every Woman Gets To Have Her Own Definition

“Having it all” is a phrase used exclusively in the context of women who juggle a professional career with a family, without having to sacrifice one for another. It is often seen as an ideal that all women aspire to and only a select few can accomplish.

If you are a single woman, a single mother, a childfree married woman, or a homemaker, then based on this definition, you do not have a shot at having it all. The point being that there is no single definition of happiness and success, and they mean different things for different people. The reductive notion that only women who have both a career and a family can be considered as successful and/ or happy ignores the complexity of human personalities and desires. Also, it is heteronormative to the core.

If you are a single professional woman, then to “have it all” you need to have a partner and subsequently children. And if you are a married woman with a career, then “having it all” becomes a patriarchal shorthand for “doing it all”. It implies that you need to excel at your workplace, then be back in time, go on playdates with your children, and follow it up by reading bedtime stories as you tuck them in bed. Unrealistic expectations like these set working mothers up for disappointment and guilt.

Unfortunately, not only are such unrealistic expectations from professional women accepted within society, they are glorified. There is no glory in drudgery, and that is exactly what “having it all” encompasses for a regular, middle-class woman who wishes to climb the professional ladder while managing a family. It is high time that we redefine the notion of “having it all” for women to make it more inclusive and kinder.


Myanmar, Russia and the South Korean Government
Tuesday, March 9, 2021
Myanmar, Russia and the South Korean Government

Jung Ki-soo, freelance writer, in Dailian (February 7, 2021)

Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: MgHla aka Htin Linn Aye)

Myanmar, Russia and the South Korean Government

Myanmar’s recent history is comparable to that of South Korea. Its recent military coup d’états in 1962 and 1990 were only one and two years after the Korean suppressions. In 2008, Myanmar finally saw democracy under Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the popular votes, although these victories were not complete due to the constitutional power reserved for the military.

Although Suu Kyi still embraced this limited form of democracy as an initial stepstone, this compromise with the military cost her reputation after the Rohingya genocide. The shaky partnership took another turn when her party won another landslide last November and the military junta leader’s approaching retirement triggered another coup.

Will this lead to another long period of darkness in Myanmar’s democracy? With social media and the persona involved, Myanmar’s democracy may be expected to bounce back. There is a similar turn of events taking place in Russia where opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his supporters are gaining momentum through social media campaigns.

On the other side of this trend are countries like China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) that epitomize the counter-democratic movement. What is surprising is the level of tolerance or even embrace of these regimes by the South Korean government of President Moon Jae-in government. Recently, on a phone call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Moon warmly congratulated the Communist Party of China as it marks its 100th anniversary. South Koreans only learned of this from the front page of China’s People’s Daily. Moon also fired up a storm in 2017 when he endorsed a controversial pro-China and anti-imperialist book.

In a world where people in Myanmar and Russia are fighting for democracy, we are left to wonder why the leader of a country that has fought so hard for its own democracy is so willing to accommodate the nations that try to suppress it.


Universities Should Work With The Military To Nurture Talent
Monday, March 8, 2021
Universities Should Work With The Military To Nurture Talent

Cheng Ying-yao, President, National Sun Yat-sen University, in Liberty Times (December 11, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: See-ming Lee)

Universities Should Work With The Military To Nurture Talent

Chinese military aircraft have threatened Taiwan in recent months. President Tsai Ing-wen said in a speech that Taiwan's future will depend on regional peace and stability. Only by improving Taiwan’s defence capabilities can the threat of war be reduced and its security guaranteed.

Amid this tense situation, universities have not only a social function. They should contribute to Taiwan’s security by injecting their academic resources to enhance the research capacity for defense technology innovation and support the cultivation of defense strategy.

In the past, the majority of Taiwan’s defense technology and military talent have relied on the military academies. Considering the current global geopolitical situation, research universities should cooperate with the military academies to nurture high-quality talent. In the US, for example, leading universities such as Harvard and Yale have produced many top military officers.

National Sun Yat-sen University signed a contract with the defense ministry to establish a program to support the sharing and integration of teaching resources between the military and the University’s academies. Top universities should bear the responsibility of safeguarding Taiwan’s security, while good men and women should serve as soldiers.


The Level Of Covid-19 Awareness Is Worrying
Monday, March 8, 2021
The Level Of Covid-19 Awareness Is Worrying

Zheng Liting is a freelance writer, in Oriental Daily News (December 5, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: jEd dC)

The Level Of Covid-19 Awareness Is Worrying

Among 53 countries, Malaysia was 29th on Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience ranking. This is in stark contrast to when a Japanese thinktank ranked Malaysia second out of 49 countries. Today, Malaysia’s handling of Covid-19 can be described as a catastrophe.

New Zealand, which ranked first in Bloomberg ranking, decided to implement a national lockdown before there were any deaths in the country, even though tourism is the economy’s biggest export industry. When the second wave of the epidemic broke out in Auckland, the country's largest city, a strict lockdown was enforced.

Malaysia’s government, by contrast, did not introduce any movement control orders when a third wave took hold. The population continued their daily routines, travelling and shopping, in the belief Covid-19 had been eliminated. Even though the Klang Valley (the area around Kuala Lumpur) was eventually placed under a Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) lasting seven weeks, the situation has continued to deteriorate rapidly. So, what was the point of the CMCOs?

Many citizens are demanding an end to the implementation of the CMCOs as they are leading many businesses to go bankrupt. But if the movement control order is not implemented, people will not grasp the seriousness of the situation. The fact that the Covid-19 crisis has reached the point it has is certainly the responsibility of the society’s lack of awareness towards Covid-19. Everyone wants to return to normal life, but this will require everyone to improve their awareness on how to fight this deadly virus


President Duterte’s Drug War is a Failure
Friday, March 5, 2021
President Duterte’s Drug War is a Failure

Ramon T Tulfo, TV host, radio broadcaster and columnist, in The Manila Times (March 4, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: VOCAL-NY)

President Duterte’s Drug War is a Failure

President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs is an utter failure. The president made wrong choices of officials. The appointments give credence to the truism that close relatives or friends make lousy subordinates or business partners. Had they carried Mr Duterte’s marching orders to rid the country of the drug menace by catching or eliminating the big fish, there would have been no need to eliminate the small fry or pushers in the streets. The big fish have not been caught and are laughing all the way to the bank.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra seems to go against the Duterte administration’s mindset when he told the United Nations Human Rights Council that more than half of thousands of anti-drug operations under the present administration failed to comply with rules of engagement and protocol. That statement was shocking but true.

Had Guevarra been appointed justice secretary earlier, he could have guided the President in the war on drugs. The Philippines would not have become a pariah in the free world had he appointed Guevarra in the early part of his administration.

Duterte was too preoccupied with his job as president to notice the vulgar ways of the police in exterminating heinous criminals. The president should have realized that what was once good and accepted in Davao City where he was mayor can no longer be applied in the whole country.

But all is not lost. The president can still appoint people in key positions who were not his friends when he was mayor of Davao.


Demonstrate the Safety of the Covid-19 Vaccines
Friday, March 5, 2021
Demonstrate the Safety of the Covid-19 Vaccines

Goh Choon Kang, former journalist and member of the Singapore Parliament from 1984 to 1997, in Lianhe Zaobao (December 16, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: eldar nurkovic / Shutterstock.com)

Demonstrate the Safety of the Covid-19 Vaccines

The unprecedented speed at which Covid-19 vaccines have been developed has made many people question their safety and reliability with rumors and conspiracy theories widely circulating online. This highlights the need to demonstrate scientifically the effectiveness of the vaccines without political interference.

Some experts still have some doubts about the vaccine due to limited data and uncertainty over side effects. When an external panel of experts from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) voted on the emergency use of Pfizer's vaccine, 17 people voted in favor but four opposed and one abstained. The same cautious attitudes can be found around the world. In Singapore, a survey showed that only 48 percent of the respondents would be willing to receive a vaccination as soon as possible while another poll found that nearly 20 percent do not want to be vaccinated.

To reassure the public, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that he and his cabinet would receive the vaccination in public. The government should do more to increase its publicity efforts and proactively persuade people to get vaccinated. Experts in the US believe that, to control the epidemic, around 70 percent of people need to be vaccinated. Nevertheless, it is still a wise decision not to make vaccination compulsory. The World Health Organization opposes mandatory universal vaccination.

Ultimately, it is unrealistic to expect that the pandemic will be fully controlled as soon as the vaccine is available. Singaporeans must continue to pay attention to personal hygiene, maintain social distancing, and wear masks.


For More Online Civility, We Need Deeper Engagement and Careful Legislation
Tuesday, March 2, 2021
For More Online Civility, We Need Deeper Engagement and Careful Legislation

Malavika Raghavan, lawyer, in The Indian Express (March 1, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: European Union 2016 - European Parliament)

For More Online Civility, We Need Deeper Engagement and Careful Legislation

The Narendra Modi administration announced a regime for India’s internet intermediaries and digital media. Some changes to our current legal landscape were inevitable, given the negative impact of social media and digital platforms on recent events, ranging from a celebrity’s suicide to a young person’s environmental activism. But the government’s rules in reaction to these and other events raise many questions.

A key issue that is raising eyebrows is the use of government powers to regulate intermediaries to create rules for publishers of content. Under the new rules, publishers of online “news and current affairs content” and “online curated content” will be subject to a code of ethics, a redress and content-takedown mechanism and an oversight framework. This raises the big question of whether such publishers can be regulated in ways akin to “intermediaries”.

No doubt serious suspicions have been raised in recent months regarding the ability of intermediaries to selectively highlight or bury content. But it appears hard to justify regulating publishers (who create content such as written publications, podcasts, videos or audio content) using the power to regulate intermediaries.

Online digital news sources and content producers have created new spaces in India for creativity and free expression. We have also seen the rise of outfits that generate “alternative facts” and realities that often polarize and vitiate public debate. While some codes of ethics or rules are necessary to combat misinformation, fake news or propaganda online, the regulation of publishers of original content raises questions around policing speech and expression.

Ultimately, the government needs to find different hammers, tools and railings to create a safe space for users. A wider toolkit is necessary for the government to build a framework that respects Indians who use these platforms and the collective online public and private spheres we are building together.


Redesign City Parks During the Pandemic
Tuesday, March 2, 2021
Redesign City Parks During the Pandemic

Jang Byoung-kwan, Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture, Daegu University, in Maeil News (January 30, 2021)

Summary by Soomi Hong

Redesign City Parks During the Pandemic

Social distancing is widely understood to be the most effective method of containing a pandemic. This policy is expected to persist for some time to come. In view of this, many parks have been pre-emptively closed to deter people from congregating. Although this makes sense, especially since most parks in Korea are designed to be public squares, conducive for big gatherings, for many working and residing in high-density cities, parks are the only venues where they can disconnect from the crowd and unburden themselves.

Given the current situation, the question of how to optimize parks to make them both safe and effective has been an issue for cities in many countries. One of the most important elements of a successful park is the design of walkways, ideally paths along which one could spend 20 to 30 minutes by oneself without encountering anyone else. Strategic design of these walkways along with thematic fountains, scenic flower bed and solo benches is so important but is sadly missing in many parks in Korea.

In times when people are encouraged to minimize social contact, it has become ever more important for people to get out of crowded apartments units and enjoy themselves in the outdoors. In view of this, local governments must reconsider the current policy of keeping parks shut and evaluate the possibility of opening more public spaces in a safe and organized way. If opening the parks in their current layout is not an option, it might be advisable to consider developing more trails in the nearby mountains and forests for citizens in this time of physical and mental stress. Covid-19 will be a long-term problem. We should brace ourselves and invest in what will help us get through the crisis.


Who is Winning the Park Chung-hee vs Kim Il-sung Battle?
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Who is Winning the Park Chung-hee vs Kim Il-sung Battle?

Lee Dae-hyun, editor, in Maeil News (January 23, 2021)

Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: Shin So-young)

Who is Winning the Park Chung-hee vs Kim Il-sung Battle?

The two people who have had the most influence on the Korean Peninsula in the last century are arguably Park Chung-hee of the South and Kim Il-sung of the North. The two never met but had significant influence in the trajectory of the two countries.

In many ways, Park laid the ground for the South’s miraculous economic growth with his five-year economic plan, the Saemaul Undong (New Community Movement), and the export-driven growth policy. His priorities allowed the South to overtake the North in the economic development race: the South’s GDP per capita increased twentyfold from US$82 in 1961 to US$1,640 dollars in 1979. During the same period, the North’s increased from US$195 dollars to US$1,114.

Today’s numbers serve as even starker evidence of Kim’s utter defeat in the competition with Park. According to the latest statistics, the South’s GDP is estimated to be 54 times the North’s, its GDP per capita 27 times, and the total trade volume 322 times. Life expectancy of North Koreans is 66.7 for men and 73.5 for women, while in the South it is 80 for men and 85.9 for women.

Despite these numbers, the reality is less clear about who the true winner might be. The South continues to tolerate the North’s unacceptable insults and nuclear threats. Whereas the North is currently ruled by Kim’s grandson, the South is being governed by those who would much prefer to erase the memory of Park from history. There is no guarantee as to how the North-South battle will play out in the future. Now, from their respective places in the afterlife, perhaps it is Kim who is triumphant and Park who is the frustrated one. 


Build A Northeast Asian Anti-Covid-19 Alliance
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Build A Northeast Asian Anti-Covid-19 Alliance

Meng Yueming, researcher at the Northeast Asia Institute of the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, in Global Times (December 16, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: goleiro35 / Shutterstock.com)

Build A Northeast Asian Anti-Covid-19 Alliance

Covid-19 is a threat to not only human life but also economic growth, regional cooperation and effective global governance. China, Japan and South Korea initially established a similar approach to tackling the pandemic. Due to the arrival of winter and the colder climate, South Korea and Japan are now seeing a resurgence in Covid-19 cases. As such, building a closer anti-Covid-19 alliance in Northeast Asia is the best way forward.

As all three countries were relatively successful in the early stages of managing the pandemic, they established an agreement for business exchanges to continue. Trade and economic cooperation also saw a recovery, notably supported by the formal signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), allowing the three countries to establish bilateral tariff reduction deals for the first time.

The three countries should strengthen their coordination capabilities for controlling the spread of Covid-19 by employing thee following mechanisms:

First, the ‘business tracks” already in place are an effective means to maintain economic and trade cooperation and people exchanges. The arrangement was successfully maintained during a second wave of the virus in South Korea and should be kept up. Meanwhile, business cooperation models such as cross-border e-commerce, digital economy and video conferencing that adapt to the situation should also be enhanced.

Second, all three countries should continue to develop emergency response mechanisms, implement joint prevention and control measures, and strengthen the exchange of information. Cooperation in the fields of diagnosis and treatment programs, vaccine research and development should be maintained.

Finally, we will have to live with the virus for a long time before effective vaccines are deployed globally. China, Japan and South Korea, therefore, should conduct further joint prevention and control measures, share experiences, provide assistance, carry out scientific and technological research, and establish more regional public-health cooperation mechanisms.


When Will The Government Stop Using the Emergency Law?
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
When Will The Government Stop Using the Emergency Law?

Allan Au Ka-lun, journalist, in Apple Daily (December 24, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Jimmy Siu / Shutterstock.com)

When Will The Government Stop Using the Emergency Law?

Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal (CFA) has ruled that the government's decision to use the Emergency Regulations Ordinance (ERO), a colonial-era law, to ban face masks at demonstrations and public meetings during the height of the 2019 pro-democracy protests was constitutional and aimed to prevent any gathering from deteriorating into violence.

Pro-democracy activists had sought a judicial review on the grounds that the emergency law gave the government too much power. The CFA, however, concluded that the Legislative Council (Legco), the Basic Law and the judicial system could still effectively "restrict" government powers. But this statement is out of touch for thinking that Legco is a normal legislative body, ignoring that it has always been weak in checks and balances, and has become more of a rubber stamp.

The strangest part of the judgment was where the CFA discussed whether the decision to ban facemasks was constitutional and reasonable. This, however, relates to the specific "emergency" period in 2019 and today, more than a year later, there is no such situation in Hong Kong. Yet the law remains in place. This is clearly excessive and disproportionate, and the CFA has failed to deal with this issue.

How long will the Hong Kong government keep invoking the ERO? The power to abolish the mask law is in the hands of Legco and government.