Once Upon A Time Comes True

New policies across the world project dystopian pictures of surveillance states and men making decisions over women’s fate.

Originally Published: 15 Jun 2017 By: Anoushka Raval

Why is it happening ?

The dystopian literature canon pioneered by authors like George Orwell and Margaret Atwood that describes futuristic depictions of society starts to resemble our current world order. Orwell described a totalitarian police state characterized by constant surveillance, and Atwood writes of a regime where women are reduced to their reproductive roles. While this seems incompatible with Western societies, there are clear similarities that serve as a warning for where they may be headed.

In the UK, the Investigatory Powers Act implemented in 2016, colloquially known as the Snooper’s Charter, gives the Government and its agencies access to increased data collection, allowing all internet browsing records to be kept. With the rise in terrorist attacks in Europe and America, governments are increasingly under pressure to act in the interests of security, and use this discourse to legitimize more surveillance laws. In the US, women’s reproductive rights and family planning services, such as Planned Parenthood, have been constrained under the Trump administration

Why does it matter?

These issues undoubtedly matter to millennials as the policies affect a wide range of people. The impact of cutting funding to family planning services will not only hurt those in the US that rely on the services but will likely have a ripple effect globally. US funds will no longer be distributed to organizations that offer abortion advice, regardless of whether the money would be used for direct abortions or not. Furthermore, new policies would also directly impact the world’s poorest regions as HIV/ AIDS funding would be cut by 17% and anti-malaria efforts defunded by 11%, both directly contributing to gender inequality. This change in policy under Mr Trump signals a backward turn from previous progress, but also highlights a historic global phenomena: that men are predominantly responsible for making decisions that directly and incontestably restrict women’s choices, seen time and time again.

In the UK, the Investigatory Act will touch all open internet users, but especially millennials, as 99.2% of those aged 16 to 25 use the internet. Yet, it is more than just the government having greater surveillance powers and access to citizens’ information — it serves as an increase in government power, not regulated and checked by citizens but by government committees. It also legitimizes other, non-democratic regimes that are usually condemned by the very western governments that now seem to be acting alike. This is not to say the UK is behaving like North Korea for example, but to recognize that it shows signs of heading in that direction, albeit incrementally — floating the picture of a distorted, utopistic world.

What can you do about it?

Given the impact that these policies will have on millennials, it is imperative that the generation takes action. Millennials should urge companies like WhatsApp and Apple to resist and hold their ground against governments asking them to create back doors and forcing them to decrypt their services. There is too much space within these policies for governments to abuse their power, but also for malicious individuals and organizations to take advantage. While the Snooper’s Charter has been passed, it is important now to do everything possible to use secure internet and stay safe online.

Furthermore, while the Women’s Marches were hugely successful in raising the issue and mobilizing people across the world, it is not enough. The action must be sustained, it is not sufficient to settle for “clicktivism”. In order to make an immediate change, donating to organizations such as Planned Parenthood is imperative for it to maintain its services. Additionally, other organizations such as the National Network of Abortion Funds or the National Women’s Law Center in the US aid women with family planning and reproductive health.

Image Credit: Penguin/Houghton Mifflin


Anoushka Raval briefs from Birmingham, UK. She is a candidate for a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations.