New article, defending a novel account of full and equal moral status

My new article in the Zeitschrift für Ethik und Moralphilosophie (Journal for Ethics and Moral Philosophy) is perhaps the most important article I have written to date. It builds on arguments I made in previous publications – including in this article and this article – and presents a novel account of full and equal moral status, according to which it is no less seriously wrong to kill a non-human conscious animal than it is to kill you or me.

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Ni zaidi ya suala la familia!

Ni janga kubwa na lisilo na kifani. Linaleta uchungu na mateso kwa wanawake na familia zao. Linaharibu jamii katika kila nchi na tamaduni. Lakini cha kushangaza, ni mara chache linazungumziwa, na kwa hakika halishughulikiwi kwa uharaka, tofauti kabisa na janga lingine lolote, ambalo limewahi kuwepo angalau kwa miaka miwili iliyopita. Tanzania ni mfano wa nchi ambayo janga hili limejikita sana lakini linafichwa. Katika nchi kama hii yenye mandhari nzuri, visiwa vya kupendeza, na wanyama wa porini wa kuvutia, kufichwa kwa janga hili kunaleta kizungumkuti.

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Not a “family issue”

It is a pandemic of devastating proportions. It brings pain and suffering to women and their families. It ravages communities in every country and culture. And yet, we rarely talk about it, and we surely do not address it with the urgency it demands – in stark contrast to the other pandemic, which has been a constant presence in our collective consciousness for the last two years. Tanzania is a case in point. In the land of picturesque landscapes, tropical islands, and spectacular wildlife, this hidden pandemic casts a particularly dark shadow.

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Abstaining on Ukraine at the UN is Indefensible

Senior Russian officials continued denying their intent to invade Ukraine until the moment the invasion began. The Russians misled and miscalculated, and Europe is now in the midst of its largest military conflict and refugee crisis since World War II.

Neither NATO, a defensive alliance whose purpose is to protect its member states, nor Ukraine posed an existential threat to Russia prior to the invasion. As the International Court of Justice recently noted, there is also no credible evidence to support Russian claims that Ukraine was committing genocide against Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine. The Russian claim that their “Special Military Operation” is “de-nazifying” Ukraine is likewise laughable. The country has a democratically elected Jewish president, after all.

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Ethics of Change: Winners’ Essays

On December 7 and 8, 2021, the Ethics of Change International Student Conference was held at the Centre de Recherche en Éthique. On this occasion, nine young researchers, selected after a competition in which over 200 proposals were received, presented their work.

The two best of these excellent presentations have been summarized and are available on the website of the CRÉ, and here:

Congratulations to these excellent researchers!

And enjoy reading their papers.

Ethics of Change International Student Conference

The way we live, and the norms, beliefs, and attitudes that shape our behavior are constantly changing. Much of that change is driven by people who refuse to accept the status quo and rise to ask critical questions about what is right and wrong in how governments, communities, and individuals treat others, including members of sexual, racial, religious, and other minorities, dissidents, people with disabilities, women, nonhuman animals, and the natural environment.

The Centre de Recherche en Éthique (CRÉ) in Montréal, Canada, will unite students from across the globe to come together to explore the ethical considerations around social and political activism, and strategies to achieve local and global change. The conference aims to allow students to exchange ideas across borders and make sustainable connections with each other as well as with the CRÉ.

The conference will be conducted online via Zoom on Tuesday and Wednesday, 7 and 8 December 2021.

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Mahojiano: WanaLGBT Tanzania

🇺🇸 Please click here to find an English version of this interview.

Wasagaji, mashoga, wapenda jinsia mbili na wabadilisha jinsia (LGBT) wanakumbwa na ubaguzi na vurugu ambazo zimesababisha madhara makubwa pamoja na ubinywaji wa haki zao za msingi. Niliwahoji wanaharakati watatu wa LGBT wa Tanzania ambao ni wanachama wa jamii hii ili kujua zaidi kuihusu. Lulu ni msagaji mwenye zaidi ya miaka ishirini, Grace ni mwanamke aliyebadilisha jinsia mwenye umri wa kati ya miaka ishirini na Baraka ni shoga mwenye umri wa miaka thelathini na nusu. Haya sio majina yao halisi, maana wanaishi Tanzania na hawahisi salama kujitokeza hadharani. Wanayopitia ni ya kuhuzunisha kwakweli. Nawashukuru kwa kuwa na ujasiri wa kuhojiwa. Natumaini kusoma kuhusu gharama ya maovu ya chuki dhidi ya wapendao jinsia moja na wabadilisha jinsia itamsaidia msomaji kuelewa umuhimu wa kupigania haki za wanaLGBT nchini Tanzania.

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Interview: The LGBT community in Tanzania

🇹🇿 Tafadhali bonyeza hapa kupata toleo la mahojiano haya kwa Kiswahili.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Tanzania experience substantial prejudice, discrimination, and violence, which has a significantly negative impact on their well-being, and are being denied their most basic human rights. I talked to three Tanzanian LGBT activists who are themselves members of Tanzania’s LGBT community to learn more about the lives of LGBT people in Tanzania. Lulu is a lesbian woman in her late twenties, Grace is a trans woman in her mid-twenties, and Baraka is a gay man in his mid-thirties. These are not their real names, as they live in Tanzania and do not feel safe coming out to the general public. Their experiences, however, are painfully real. I am grateful to them for having the courage to speak up, and I hope reading about the human cost of the evils of homophobia and transphobia will help the reader better understand the urgency of LGBT rights advocacy in Tanzania.

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A license to rape

Sudha was a healthy 16-year-old student in South India. Now she is dead. It was not COVID-19 that killed her – not directly anyway. She was found hanging in the village of Ranganathapura at the end of last month, and died shortly afterwards at a nearby hospital. Sudha committed suicide, after being forced to marry a relative. Allegedly, police initially attempted to hush up the case, but eventually the parents of both the bride and the groom were arrested. The groom is still at large. The government body tasked with the prevention of child marriage told local press that the marriage remained unnoticed by the authorities for longer than usual because the responsible officer was not working, due to India’s coronavirus lockdown. If the marriage had come to the attention of the authorities earlier, maybe Sudha would still be alive.

Each year, 12 million female children across the world are married. That is nearly one girl every three seconds. Countries in West and Central Africa as well as South Asia have the highest prevalence of child marriage. In Niger, for example, 76 percent of women between the age of 20 and 24 were first married before they were 18 years old. In Bangladesh, it is 59 percent. While there are differences in prevalence within and across countries, child marriage remains a universal challenge, and occurs across regions, cultures, and religions. Continue reading “A license to rape”

An evolutionary argument against exclusively human dignity

Traditional morality assumes that there is something morally special about being human. The fact that someone is a human being, rather than, say, a dog or a cow, makes a big difference in how he or she may be treated. Humans have full and equal moral worth or dignity and thus may not be killed, even if doing so would promote the greater good, whereas non-human animals have a lesser moral status and can be sacrificed for even the most trivial human pleasures.

This moral worldview fits well with the Aristotelian idea of a hierarchy of being, according to which each species is a static group of organisms with a distinct essence. The philosophical line that morally distinguishes humans from other animals corresponds to the empirical line that Aristotle thought distinguishes the human species from other animal species. Since the publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species in 1859, however, we know that there is no such line on the empirical side of things. We now understand that all life is interrelated, and that biological characteristics come in degrees and continually evolve as a result of natural selection. As the principle of evolutionary continuity informs us, any differences between species are differences in degree, and not in kind. The real picture looks something like this:

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Child domestic labor: We must refuse to accept the unacceptable

Moyna cannot sit at the table and eat with the rest of the household. She is the other — in the house, but not a member of the house. Her humanity is reduced to the work she does. Who she is as a person, those around her do not know. She functions in the background, keeps the household running. She is a six-year-old domestic worker in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. “I wake up at six in the morning and go to bed at midnight. My daily chores include sweeping and wiping the floors and stairs, doing the dishes and laundry, opening the main gate downstairs, switching on machines, a little bit of shopping, cleaning the toilet.” In the morning, her workload is particularly heavy, Moyna tells a researcher with the Bangladesh-based Alternative Movement for Resources and Freedom Society. “I help to prepare breakfast, and I eat two breads for myself in a hurry. The same situation arises during lunch and dinner time; I always eat last.” Moyna has no father, and her mother remarried a man who beat her for no reason, which is why her grandmother sent her to Dhaka to work. She has never been to school. Her employer does not allow her to watch TV or talk to outsiders, and makes her wear worn-out clothes. She is slapped or verbally abused for small mishaps, and brutally beaten and locked up for up to 24 hours without food for what her employer considers more severe offenses. Continue reading “Child domestic labor: We must refuse to accept the unacceptable”

Let Paul Makonda come to America

Should active enemies of freedom be allowed into free countries? In 2007, speaking at Columbia University in New York City, then-President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad memorably declared that there are no homosexuals in Iran, drawing derisive laughter from the audience. He also made similarly outrageous remarks about the Holocaust and women’s rights in Iran. Thousands protested, and the world saw him for what he is – an ignorant bigot who as president exhibited “all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator,” as the university’s president put it in his introduction. Untrue and immoral speech tends to discredit itself, especially under scrutiny, and that is precisely why it should not only be permitted but welcomed.

Secretary Mike Pompeo last week declared Paul Makonda and his wife, Mary Massenge, ineligible for entry into the United States. In a statement released by the U.S. State Department, Pompeo said he was banning Makonda “due to his involvement in gross violations of human rights, which include the flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons.” He did not state which right violations specifically led to the decision. I say, let him come, and treat him to some good old American free speech. Continue reading “Let Paul Makonda come to America”

Kile Unapaswa Kujua Kuhusu Mapenzi ya Jinsia Moja

Bonyeza hapa kupata mahojiano na mwanamme shoga na mwanamke msagaji kutoka Tanzania.

Mwelekeo wa kimapenzi ni nini?

Mwelekeo wa kimapenzi humaanisha muundo wa kudumu wa kimhemko, kimahaba, na/au mivuto ya kimapenzi kwa wanaume, wanawake, au jinsia zote. Mwelekeo wa kimapenzi unaweza kuwa wa toka kuvutiwa na jinsia tofauti tu hadi kuvutiwa na jinsia moja tu. Japokuwa, mwelekeo wa kimapenzi kwa kawaida hujadiliwa katika makundi matatu: mpenda jinsia tofauti (kuwa na mvuto kwa wahusika wa jinsia nyingine), shoga/msagaji (mwanaume anayevutiwa na wanaume/mwanamke anayevutiwa na wanawake), na mpenda jinsia mbili (mwanaume au mwanamke anayevutiwa na jinsia zote mbili; “bisexual”).

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Kill Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill: Love is not a crime

Last Thursday, Uganda announced plans to resurrect the infamous “Kill the Gays” bill, possibly within weeks. A version of the bill was first signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni, and then ruled invalid on a technicality by the courts, in 2014. If passed by the parliament, the new bill would impose the death penalty not only for gay sex, but also for “promotion and recruitment,” effectively criminalizing vital rights and health advocacy work. This will only serve to increase anti-gay hate and violence in a country where acceptance of homosexuality is already much lower than in most parts of the world, and cause suffering for thousands of innocent Ugandans. Continue reading “Kill Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill: Love is not a crime”

Ubaguzi mubashara: kadhia ya maadili dhidi ya uwepo wa mipaka

Jaalia katika fikra zako kwamba: leo ni siku muruwa ya mwezi wa Septemba. Hakuna joto wala baridi, upepo mwanana unapepea na mawingu yanang’ara angani. Unachukua blanketi lako na kuelekea katika moja ya fukwe huru za jiji la Dar es salaam. Unajiandaa kwenda kujipumzisha ufukweni hapo na kufurahia machweo jua. Bali unapofika ufukweni mipango yako inatibuliwa bila ya kutegemea. Unaelezwa na afisa ulinzi kuwa serikali imeweka sheria mpya za matumizi ya fukwe. Unaambiwa kwamba huwezi kutumia ufukwe huo kwa vile wewe ni mtu mweusi. Watu wengine wowote wanaruhusiwa kutumia fukwe hizo isipokuwa watu weusi tu, na iwapo mtu mweusi yeyote angekaidi amri hiyo basi nguvu ingeweza kutumika. Continue reading “Ubaguzi mubashara: kadhia ya maadili dhidi ya uwepo wa mipaka”

Discrimination in plain sight: The moral case against borders

Consider the following thought experiment: It is a pleasant day in September. It is not too hot, not too cold, and not too windy, and the sky is clear. You grab a blanket and head to one of Dar es Salaam’s public beaches, intent to make yourself comfortable by the seaside and enjoy the sunset. Once at the beach, however, your plans are rudely thwarted. You are informed by a law enforcement officer that the government has put a new policy in place. You are told that you may not access the beach – because you are black. Black people and only black people are no longer allowed on the beach. If necessary, that policy will be enforced by the use of physical force. Continue reading “Discrimination in plain sight: The moral case against borders”

Populismus bekämpft man nicht mit mehr Populismus

burka

Unter heftigem Beifall hat Angela Merkel letzte Woche beim CDU-Parteitag in Essen ein Verbot der Vollverschleierung gefordert, “wo immer das rechtlich möglich ist.” Diese Forderung wurde dann auch so von der CDU beschlossen.

Abgesehen davon, dass es in Deutschland praktisch keine vollverschleierten Frauen gibt und es sich deshalb um eine reine Symboldebatte handelt, ist die Forderung nach einem Verbot von Burka und Niqab strategisch falsch. Rechtspopulisten wie die AfD bekämpft man mit einem überzeugenden Eintreten für freiheitliche Werte, nicht mit mehr Populismus und dadurch, dass man deren Positionen legitimiert. Sie ist darüber hinaus sachlich unbegründet. Continue reading “Populismus bekämpft man nicht mit mehr Populismus”

Commemorating Avijit Roy on his 44th birthday

AvijitRoy

Today is the first birthday of Avijit Roy that we commemorate without him. His life was taken by Islamic terrorists earlier this year, when he was in Bangladesh to attend the Ekushey Book Fair. Avijit was a prolific and accomplished author, a fierce defender of human rights, and dedicated much of his life to the promotion of freethinking, humanism, and rationalism. Continue reading “Commemorating Avijit Roy on his 44th birthday”

Marriage equality in Bangladesh

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Last month, the United States Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal in all fifty states of the Union, and the District of Columbia, adding the United States to the list of nearly two dozen countries, mostly in Europe and the Americas, that recognize marriage between a man and a man, and between a woman and a woman. The decision, which is nothing short of historic, made waves around the globe, including in Bangladesh, and is a cause for celebration for everybody who believes in equal human dignity. Continue reading “Marriage equality in Bangladesh”