10 minutes | Sep 15, 2018
India's LGBT victory cry as Supreme Court scraps Section 377 heard across continents
In this week's Spotlight on Asia, RFI's Rosslyn Hyams looks at the potential knock-on effects in South Asia and in the Indian diaspora, of the Indian Supreme Court ruling to decriminalise homosexual consensual sexual relations. The ink was only just dry on the Indian Supreme Court's decision to scrap the Section 377 which made sex between homosexual consenting adults a crime, and already more ink was being poured into comments about how this move will help the Indian economy. According to one of the petitioners in the case and cited by the French news agency AFP. "It can bring billions of dollars to the Indian economy if they can activate the spending of gay people in India," Keshav Suri, a hotelier said, adding that 'there is business to be done, real estate to be bought and sold, holidays and all the services that go with that." The so-called pink economy is evaluated cent by cent, and in India's case rupee by rupee by a marketing agency in Australia. Out Now has counted more than 55 million Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual and Intersexual adults in India.
10 minutes | Jun 23, 2018
Journalist Shujaat Bukhari murdered as UN issues first human rights report on Kashmir
In Spotlight on Asia, RFI's Rosslyn Hyams turns to some of the main news in Asia this week, including the murder of Shujaat Bukhari, leading Kashmiri journalist and former RFI English correspondent, the UN's first report on human rights violations in Kashmir, and whither nuclear disarmement of the Korean peninsula after Kim Jung-un and Donald Trump give an historic handshake.
10 minutes | Apr 21, 2018
Sri Lanka faces futher debt as China pursues One Belt, One Road project
Opinion is divided for now about whether or not China's one-trillion dollar economic corridor project known as One Belt, One Road will be a plus for the countries it passes through, as Rosslyn Hyams reports. In the meantime, Sri Lanka which has been trying to recover economically, politically and socially from its drawn-out, three-decade-long civil war, owes China billions of dollars. The International Monetary fund chief Christine Lagarde has alerted China and countries potentially benefitting from the Chinese One Belt infrastructure development, to possible increased debt in the process. Spotlight on Asia considers why some countries may be more vulnerable to such unwanted possible side-effects of China's plan to harness the region's economic potential.
8 minutes | Apr 11, 2018
South Korea's ex-President Park's fall from Blue House to jail
Spotlight on Asia, focuses on the jailing of South Korea's former president 66 year-old Park Geun Hye. Produced and presented by RFi's Rosslyn Hyams with guests John Nilsson-Wright and Noh Jung-sun. South Korea's first woman president Park Geun-hye, was found guilty of 16 counts of corruption and abuse of power, and fined her close to 100 million euros. The people of South Korea, more than 50 per cent of who in February 2013 elected the daughter of former late South Korean dictator Park Chung-hee, are divided over the unprecedented sentence, and noisy supporters protested outside the court after her sentence on 6 April 2018. John Nilsson-Wright, a senior lecturer at Cambridge University in the UK and Senior Research Fellow for Northeast Asia at the Asia Programme at Chatham House, notes that "there's certainly a will and a desire on the part of the current government of president Moon Jae-in, to change the political and economic culture of South Korea. He was a beneficiary of the candle-lit protests against President Park that led to her impeachment." While acknowledging that some analysts see corruption and influence peddling as an issue which runs through the various strata of South Korean society, and noting that questions could be asked about the fairness of Park's heavy sentence, he considers "it will send a very powerful signal to other politicians and to corporate Korea." Click the start arrow to hear more from John Nilsson-Wright and from Korean academic Noh Jung-sun on this issue. Park's former culture minister, Cho Yoon-sun was jailed for two years in January for her role in drawing up a blacklist of between 9,000 and 10,000 artists seen as critical of Park's government, by criticising her or her late father, or who had voiced support for opposition parties. The list, included artists in film, theatre, dance, music, fine arts and literature, and included world-renowned personalities including novelist Han Kang, winner of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize for The Vegetarian, and 2018 contender, and film director Park Chan-wook, whose Oldboy took the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival in 2004, and the Jury Prize in 2009 for Thirst. Former President Park had denied she was involved in the blacklist, along with other corruption charges that led to her stiff sentence.
10 minutes | Nov 27, 2017
Laos: the fate of the Hmong
In this week's Spotlight on Asia, RFI's Jan van der Made is looking at the Hmong, a minority people that's fled, for the largest part, from their home lands to find safety and happiness in France and the United States. But some were left behind, and no one knows about their fate.
10 minutes | Nov 1, 2017
Iran through the eyes of Zahra Amir Ebrahimi
Sharp and harsh, contradictions in Iranian urban society seen through the life of four characters living in Tehran, are made larger than life in a recently-released animated fiction feature film. RFI's Rosslyn Hyams meets Zahra Amir Ebrahimi, one of the actresses in Tehran Taboo, who plays a tragic, dynamic young woman who resorts to extreme action to maintain some sense of independence.
11 minutes | Oct 10, 2017
Feminist film unbanned in India, showing in Paris
In this week’s look at Asia, we hear about a film which had its release delayed in India for six months by the censorship board. It’s called Lipstick Under My Burkha and it screened in Paris this month at the South Asian Film Festival. Rosslyn Hyams has been talking to the film's director. Lipstick Under My Burkha is a feminist film of the most watchable kind.Director Alankrita Shrivastava says "the title is a metaphor for women's hidden desires, hidden dreams". Her Hindi-language film shot in Bhopal opened the fifth South Asian Film Festival in Paris in October. It had previously been shown in France at the Créteil Womens' Film Festival.She struggled for more than six months before getting approval for release in India after a screening at the Bombay Festival in November 2016. "They said it was too much from the female perspective," she explains. "It may have threatened the patriarchal norm. But India is still a functioning democracy. So we were able to have the ban lifted." Related issues were raised by one or two people in a question and answer session after the film, with one person asking why there were no positive male roles in the film, for example. In fact, none of the characters are black-and-white in Lipstick Under My Burkha, and that's just what sets it apart. It stars four women. Rathna Pathak as the yearning widow, Usha, stands up for all the residents of the community where she lives but incurs their wrath when she hurts the pride of a local stud. Konkona Sen Sharma, a mother of three subjected to marital rape by her cheating husband, cheats on him by hiding her fabulous career as a sales rep. Ahana Kumra plays Leela, a female college student whose traditional Muslim father has nonetheless saved to enable her to go to a college where she mixes freely with young men. Plabita Borthakur is a sex-hungry beautician infatuated with a wedding photographer with an appetite to match hers but whose mother has her own reasons for wanting to arrange a marriage with a romantic man who naively believes his wife would be happier at home. Set in Bhopal The film is set in Bhopal. The character Usha was made a widow by the Union Carbide chemical plant disaster of 1984. However, Shrivastava set the film in Bhopal because of its social make-up, "I wanted many elements of Bhopal, like the old city being a separate geographical area and a new city coming up. I wanted an old city where Hindus and Muslims still live in close proximity." The South Asian Film Festival in Paris or FFAST as it's known for short, has been going for five years. The independent films it shows from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka tend, in general, to push the boundaries of accepted norms one way or another. Floriane Zaslavsky, one of the three FFAST programmers notes that four out of the six films in competition, including Hindi film Hotel Salvation which was first seen in France at the Festival of Asian Cinema (Fica) in Vesoul in February 2017 and Sri Lankan Tamil film Demons in Paradise, which screened out of competition at Cannes in May, are films that had trouble obtaining authorisation for public viewing. As the FFAST festival's focus on Tamil films from south-east India and Sri Lanka show, independent cinema from the region is inescapably political. FFAST is on until Tuesday 10 October at the Cinéma Etoile, Porte des Lilas, Paris.
10 minutes | Jul 5, 2017
French researcher digs into ancient India text on good governance
In Spotlight on Asia this week, RFI's Rosslyn Hyams meets Jean-Joseph Boillot who spends his time as an academic researcher travelling between France and India. Boillot's latest book - soon to be published in English in India - is called L'Inde Ancienne au chevet des Politiques (literally Ancient India on the Politicians' Bedside Table) takes parts of an ancient Indian treatise on how to rule, and what leaders should do to attain prosperity for all. He says that Narendra Modi, apparently a fan of the Arthashashtra represents a new generation of Indian leaders who refer to their own culture's teachings and experiences rather than borrowing from foreign sources. Boillot suggests that European politicians today take a leaf out of the book of Kautilya, the right-hand man of the Indian Maurya Empire's Ashoka who reigned some 2300 years ago. Under the headings such as "on discipline", "on good behaviour of counsellors and ministers", "on safety of assets and persons" , "on the kingdom's vices and calamities", it sounds quite contemporary. Boillot makes it more relevant by updating the vocabulary in his translation, while reminding us that even Ashoka, remembered as a great leader, made mistakes and lost his empire.
10 minutes | Jun 24, 2017
Exclusive: Why Afghanistan lawmakers want more US troops
This week the US Department of Defense released a report on Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan, a week after President Donald Trump set the number of US troops deployed in the country at 8400, down from 9600 in 2016. Last Sunday, a suicide attack on a police headquarters, claimed by the Taliban, killed at least twenty people and at the end of May a massive suicide attack in the diplomatic quarters of Kabul cost the lives to over 150 people, wounding many more. Smaller attacks take place on a near daily basis,leading many lawmakers to believe that more US support is necessary. In an exclusive interview, RFI talked to the vice president of the Afghanistan parliament, Fawzia Koofi, after US authorities indicated that the Pentagon may increase troop numbers by as many as 4000 soldiers and advisors.
10 minutes | May 28, 2017
The Iranian presidential elections - do they mean anything?
On May 19, Iran held presidential elections after a month of campaign frenzy. RFI's Jan van der Made was there and and saw how democracy Iranian style put people in election frenzy, but does Rouhani's celebrated victory really mean profound change?
10 minutes | May 21, 2017
Does Jakarta's governor's exit signal a rise in religious intolerance?
Spotlight on Asia takes us to Indonesia where Jakarta's outgoing Christian governor was found guilty of blasphemy against Islam. Indonesian President Jokowi, a longtime ally of Ahok, has - wisely - avoided to making any comment on Ahok’s conviction. For observers, this insulates Jokowi somewhat from accusations that he is protecting a blasphemer, a claim that radical organizations would surely have seized on, especially ahead of the 2019 presidential election.
10 minutes | Apr 30, 2017
Spotlight on Asia
This week’s Spotlight Asia brings us to Asia Pacific. Jan van der Made looks at how US president Donald Trump is getting back into the mold when it comes to Taiwan and how Vietnam is being blacklisted by an American human rights watchdog that may have ulterior motives.
10 minutes | Mar 26, 2017
Highlighting transgender issues in Vietnam.
In this week's Spotlight on Asia, RFi's Rosslyn Hyams talks to a documentary film maker who has co-directed a feature length work that highlights transgender issues in Vietnam.
11 minutes | Mar 12, 2017
A headline week for North and South Koreas
The Korean peninsula made headline news all over the world this week. South Korea's president Park Geun-hye, now former president, was sacked and will most likely face corruption charges. North Korea's muscle flexing is testing the new US administration as well as its neighbour China, believed to be an ally, and challenging Malaysia over the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the North Korean leader's half-brother. In this week's Spotlight on Asia, RFI's Rosslyn Hyams speaks to Jonthan Holslag, specialist on security issues in East Asia, about the current brinkmanship in the region. He warns, "we have to be careful that this tiny little power on the doorstep of China doesn't become the Serbia of the 21st century."
10 minutes | Feb 5, 2017
Asia already feeling negative impact of Trump's presidency
Now it is time for Spotlight Asia and we will highlight three different countries in the region: Myanmar, South Korea, and Iran. Both South Korea and Iran are already suffering at the hands of the new American president's latest decisions. RFI's Jan van der Made has this report.
10 minutes | Jan 16, 2017
Human rights and good governance push Sri Lanka forward
In this week's Spotlight on Asia, RFI's Rosslyn Hyams focuses on political change in Sri Lanka. The European Union is preparing to reward the government with an economic push, if it pursues efforts in good governance and human rights.
10 minutes | Dec 3, 2016
South Korea's political crisis
The South Korean president's future hangs in the balance. She is suspected of involvement in a potentially far-reaching corruption scandal, linked to a close friend. Discontented Koreans have been protesting in the street. Crucial deadlines loom as the parliamentary session ends on 9 December. South Korea's internal political troubles are the focus of this week's Spotlight on Asia with RFI's Rosslyn Hyams.
11 minutes | Nov 15, 2016
What Donald Trump's election could mean for Asia
This week's Spotlight on Asia takes a look at the potential impacts newly elected US president Donald Trump could have on countries in Asia. Analysts have argued that his election could be a disaster for anyone who cares about human rights, U.S. global leadership, and media freedom. Which they say, could imply that Trump's victory was also a win for China, making several other countries in the region uneasy Trump's election raises several questions as to what might come next in US-Asia relations, in terms of economic ties, foreign policies, security and human rights issues. Uncertainty remains the key word - what Trump's policies will be won't be clear until he takes office in just over two months.
11 minutes | Nov 9, 2016
South Korea's Choi-gate scandal reveals crisis of democracy
A scandal over alleged abuse of power engulfing the South Korean president deepened on Tuesday after the embattled leader was forced to withdraw her nominee for prime minister and give up control of the cabinet. Her close friendship with shadowy figure Choi Soon-sil, which has plunged the country into its worst political crisis in decades. The woman at the centre of the growing political scandal surrounding President Park Guen-hye is businesswoman Choi Soon-sil. She has been charged with abuse of power and fraud for using her political connections to force large companies, including Samsung and Hyundai, to donate about 60 million euros to two government-linked foundations. The affair has hurt Park. Since reports emerged in October about Choi’s influence at the heart of the government, thousands of South Koreans have been taking to the streets of the capital Seoul to call on her to step down. "One of the reasons why the South Korean public is so up in arms about all this right now is because they thought with President Park they had a different sort of president, that there would be none of the sorts of scandals they've seen attached to all previous presidents," Hazel Smith, Director of the International Institute of Korean Studies at the University of Lancaster, told RFI. "They're not just protesting against the South Korean president, they're protesting against the whole political establishment, which historically has been very difficult for South Korean publics to hold to account." Civil society groups such as Transparency International have called for a thorough investigation into exactly how the money donated to Choi's foundations was used, and whether companies received benefits in return. “One of the companies, which is a big shipping company called Hanjin, it donated just a small amount of money during that time but, as we can see nowadays, the company is collapsing," says Abraham Sumalinog of Transparency International, who claims that firms that did not cough up paid the price. "Choi Soon-sil was sort of calling this company a lukewarm supporter to her foundation, so in a way, I could say that it could be a form of a bribe, although it's a sort of a forced donation because at that time these companies were also struggling." For Seyoung Nam of the Korean Lawyers Society, there is no doubt bribery was involved. She also insists Choi Soon-sil was aided by other top government officials, including the president's former senior secretary for policy cooperation Ahn Jong-beom. "This public officer, Mr Han, who is the president's secretary was unjustly sollicited by a certain organisation called FKI, which stands for Federation of Korean Industries. And because of that sollicitation, those companies raised money and that money was given to these two problematic foundations," explains Nam. As for the foundations' objective of promoting Korean culture and fostering athletic talent, there is little evidence they even did that, says Sumalinog. "We cannot find any evidence in terms of cultural promotion and sports in Korea. Well, actually in fact the daughter of Choi Soon-sil, she became an athlete, a horse rider, but she's not really capable, she doesn't have the talent to become one of those good athletes."
10 minutes | Oct 3, 2016
Sunni-Muslim leaders criticise Saudi-sponsored Wahabbism
At an underreported meeting at the end of August in Chechnya, in the Russian Federation, hundreds of Islamic scholars discussed the definition of Sunni Islam and declared Wahabbism, the strict Saud-based school, beyond the pale. But not everybody was invited and critics say politics may overshadow religion in the fierce debate that erupted in the Muslim world after the meeting.