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Not adding up

Thank you for your article on the UAE (NI 543), from which I learned a lot. One question arose for me regarding the literacy statistics, largely due to my compulsive counting obsession. If men scored 92.56 per cent and women 95.8 per cent, what missing component dragged the overall average up to 98.13 per cent?

The editors write: This was an editorial error. The figure for the total population is correct, with men scoring 98.8 per cent and women 97.2 per cent in 2021.

Tony Glasbey (via email)

Defend our right to boycott

Thank you for your issue on Palestine (NI 544). I don’t know when I have ever read a clearer and more succinct summary of its history over the last hundred and some years. You quote an Israeli activist saying of their protests against the extreme right-wing government: ‘It is all inter-connected – the occupation is the basis of our loss of democracy.’

We are seeing a parallel process in the UK. In its commitment to colluding with Israeli policies of apartheid and occupation, Westminster is pushing through a bill which proposes to ban all public bodies imposing their own boycotts on states. This would take away our democratic rights to refuse to deal with those guilty of human rights abuses. We need to resist this bill not only on behalf of Palestinians asking for our solidarity but for the health of our own withering democracy.

Annie Neligan Bentham, UK

Carbon footprint

I note from your comment on the letter ‘Too many ads’ (NI 544) that you are intending to discuss issues raised about the environmental impact of the print magazine in your next editorial review.

Could this discussion also include the point I have been making about the climate impact of print vs online publications? And yes, saving paper is a worthy aim, but surely not if the digital alternative has a greater overall impact (websites also have a carbon footprint). Suggestions that digital is better are surely irresponsible in the absence of evidence to support this.

Kenneth Allan Glasgow, UK

‘Biological sex is binary’

In an article reprinted from 2015, Vanessa Baird (From the Archive, NI 543) proposes that since it is now accepted that sexuality is on a spectrum, we should also accept that the same applies to gender identity. I hope you will allow me to point out that the comparison is specious and misleading. Gender identity is based upon biological sex, and biological sex is most definitely binary. This division into male and female isn’t some cultural phenomenon: it is found in all mammals, birds and fishes and virtually all other animals. Gender – how you present yourself, and how others perceive you – is obviously something that is open to choice and change in a free society. Trans people [If they choose to - Ed] have to undergo medical and sometimes surgical interventions which are not entirely safe; a brave choice. For this they perhaps should inspire our admiration and respect, rather than scorn and prejudice. For certain purposes only, though, biological sex is still important: sports competitions being one example, and medical treatment another. We aren’t going to get much further with according full rights and dignity to trans people unless these facts are accepted; but it has become somehow controversial to state them.

The editors write: We republished this 2015 article as part of a new series marking NI’s 50th anniversary. The series showcases our best picks from the archive. With this in mind, we respectfully respond to your letter by reiterating that NI is committed to elevating the voices of trans people globally and recognizing that they are the experts on their own identities. Our stories will always strive to challenge beliefs that help to reinforce discrimination against the trans community and justify the erasure of their existence. Similarly, looking at sex in terms of the binary ignores the existence of intersex people and the diversity of non-binary identities.

Peter Bavington London, UK

Why I...

...started a bookshop.

I can sum it all up in two words really: frustration and hatred!

I was frustrated by the lack of a platform for Black authors. People in the industry acted like people of colour weren’t writing when the truth is that Black authors were not being marketed and stocked in bookshops. So, I created a platform to do just that.

I hate injustice. It really gets to me, and I thought that this was an injustice I could fix, even though I knew nothing about retail or publishing – and I had no money! I am a disruptor and an activist and it seemed right to use my skills in this space.

Carolynn Bain

Brighton, UK afroribooks.co.uk