Pakistan’s transgender school, social media regulation, and brain genders

in March 31st, 2021

Here's what we emailed out the week of March 31, 2021. Sign up for updates directly in your inbox.

In honor of Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV), we’re spotlighting Bangladesh’s first transgender news anchor. After years of harassment, bullying, and even suicide attempts, 29-year-old Tashnuva Anan Shishir celebrated a triumphant moment in her fight for equality this month: Anchoring Boishakhi TV on International Women’s Day, vaulting her into the living rooms of millions of fellow Bangladeshis.

And in more Bangladesh news, the country also recently celebrated 50 years of independence from nearby Pakistan. Speaking of...


#TDOV

Pakistan’s first Islamic School for transgenders

Mon Mar 22

A generation of South Asians have had the option of a third gender, including in India, Pakistan, Nepal, and, most recently, Bangladesh. This identification allows anyone who doesn’t consider themselves exclusively male or female to have a third gender classification on their passports. Of course, this hasn’t rid the Indian subcontintent of discrimination, violence, or abuse towards their transgender communities, resulting in many third gender citizens being ostracized in their homes, places of worship, and schools.

In Pakistan, one transgender woman took matters into her own hands by opening the country’s first Islamic school. This school, or madrasa, is an important milestone for Pakistan’s trans community, creating a safe space to learn. Built off creator Rani Khan’s personal savings, transgender women at the school:

  • Are educated about Islam, including the Holy Quran
  • Learn how to sew and embroider (in hopes of raising funds for the school by selling clothing)
  • And are promised a pathway to jobs through government officials

The ultimate goal is to create new sources of income for a community that has traditionally relied on dancing or begging. Last year, a Christian transgender group started their own church in the city of Karachi. And in nearby Dhaka in Bangladesh, a religious school for transgender people has also opened. 

Some additional resources... 


SOCIAL GOVERNANCE

A new federal agency for social media moderation?

Thu Mar 25

The FTC protects American consumers. The FDIC protects their bank accounts. But what about their social media? Congressman Peter Welch believes that should be protected too, recently pitching the creation of a government agency dedicated to the oversight of social media companies. 

What could this look like? Staffed by policy and technology experts, this new entity would have the flexibility to address a range of issues facing American social media users today: privacy, data security, content moderation, misinformation, and more. So far the CEOs of Facebook, Google, and Twitter seem receptive, pending implementation details.

And the U.S. isn’t the only country trying to govern this landscape of digital information

  • In the U.K., regulators have pushed forward proposals that would provide legal certainty and guidelines for tech giants to remove harmful content — or be fined. 
  • India established their own Intermediary Liability Rules, which include a requirement for social media companies operating in the country with over five million users to establish local offices with senior officials to deal with user issues and grievances. 
  • Australia enacted a law in 2019 that punishes social media companies (such as fines of up to 10% of profits) for not removing abhorrent violent content ASAP.  

Some additional resources... 

  • To hear Rep. Welch pitch the idea, turn to the Energy and Commerce Committees recorded meeting on YouTube
  • For further coverage on this story, turn to Recode.
  • For more on global regulation: Turn to CNBC for the U.K., to Economic Times for India, and Time for Australia. 

NO BRAINER

Three decades of research show few differences between men and women’s brains 

Mon Mar 29

We’re closing off Women’s History Month by taking a look at the differences between male and female brains. For decades, research exploring the differences between the “blue brain” and “pink brain” have garnered interest, with some claiming that men are smarter than women because of their genetically larger brains.

But new research on these past studies shows how overblown the findings have become. In other words, the larger your head, the larger your brain. And since men typically have larger heads than women, their brains are proportionally larger to match. The size, however, does not mean more or less of any important functional material. Sex differences in the brain are actually tiny and inconsistent, the study finds.

Outdated gender beliefs have influenced many fields of research. For example, most biomedical research is done on male animals because researchers fear hormones will get in the way. In 2019, one female researcher proved how baseless this assumption was and showed how variance in testing with female mice was no different from variance in testing with male mice. 

Some additional resources...


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Are you pondering what I'm pondering?

I think so, Brain, but why do we need to paint the boy brains blue?

Art Credit: ASCII Art Archive