January 27 is Holocaust Memorial Day. This international day of remembrance is sponsored by around 50 governments, including our own, and was established in the year 2000.
It is not only to remember the awful tragedy of the Jewish Holocaust of the Second World War, but also other genocides in Rwanda, Bosnia and Cambodia. Sadly they are not isolated and today we have the attacks being made on the Rohingya people in Burma, the Kurds in Turkey and the Houthis in Yemen. It seems we humans never learn!
Last weekend saw mass protests across the world following the inauguration of Donald Trump as US President. It was to protest about how generally women are set apart as a group and treated as inferior to men.
Women are generally paid less, and do not have the same opportunities as men and are still discriminated against, notwithstanding the advances in electoral reform and gender equality legislation.
Now there is a wide difference between discrimination against women and genocide, but the same principles apply. It is just a question of scale. One group of people is regarded by another group of people as being inferior and either to be exploited or subjugated, or at worst annihilated.
There are of course the doubters, those who do not believe that this level of exploitation or oppression exists.
There are even those who deny the Holocaust and the newly released film ‘Denial’ is about that very subject. It is an insult of the highest order and I have a friend whose grandparents died in the Nazi camps and whose mother committed suicide because of it. But so too is it insulting when those who are struggling against oppression and discrimination are not listened to.
Each of us is responsible for any group that remains in an oppressed state or discriminated against. It is why in the eighties after we saw the film Cry Freedom my wife and I joined the anti-apartheid movement and went on a rally, to make our voice heard.
Mercifully 1994 saw the official end of the apartheid era. I also remember as a student going on a protest march in Durham against nuclear weapons. Sadly that is a battle still being fought.
Women’s rights are another battle still being fought. The male stereotype regards the woman’s place as being in the kitchen or as the homemaker. The man who sits waiting for his dinner to be placed in front of him or leaves the shopping to the woman or doesn’t lift a finger with housework is reinforcing that stereotype and contributing to the ongoing oppression of women.
So come on chaps, where’s the vacuum?