The Right Label

Shruthi Subramanian, reporting from the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, covers the first session of debate, which required the committee to define “Affirmative action”.

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The international community stands divided on whether affirmative action is – in fact – necessary. While testing the waters, the delegates voted for the motion to clearly define the meaning of affirmative action and its various interpretations. Speaking of interpretations, the Delegate of the Commonwealth of Australia spoke on how affirmative action is only known as reservation or quota. Even today, many believe that this is a form of “reverse” discrimination; the Delegate of the Arab Republic of Egypt emphasised on making sure that the quality of candidates is never compromised in the name of empowerment.

A good section of the committee seemed to agree with the fact that misfiring of actions aimed at empowerment of women comes across as discrimination – reverse or not, it barely helps the cause. It was the opinion of the Delegate of the State of Israel reiterated the need for a crystal clear definition. The delegate criticised the affirmative action employed by the United States of America (USA) while stressing on the inclusion of socio-economic status of individuals receiving benefits and not just race. The Delegate of the People’s Republic of China felt that race-neutral affirmative action was not the way to go; he requested to the committee to further examine the multiple loopholes involved in placing affirmative action. The Delegate of USA believed that the simplest form of definition was the positive discrimination that helps level the playground in spheres of education, employment, and other general walks of life. His Highness decides the definition, according to the Delegate of the State of Qatar.

While the debate dawdled on in search of a definition, a clear opposition for women empowerment surfaced up – in spite of having agreed to discuss the definition of affirmative action. The exhaustion of the discussion was untimely, much to the dismay of a few delegates; the motion to extend the debate on the same topic failed. The members of the committee seemed to agree the topic of the next debate: the need for women empowerment.

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