Monday, February 18, 2019

Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women Seeks Input

The UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women  is celebrating 25 years of the mandate by stepping back and reflecting on the state of gender-based violence. 

She posts the following questions for input from States, National Human Rights Institutions, Non-governmental organizations, and members of academia:

  • As we look to the future, please indicate what are the main challenges to addressing violence against women in its various forms; e.g. the institutional and substantive disconnect between the different international instruments; a lack of understanding of the provisions in international law that link gender equality and violence against women; inadequate judicial protocol or recourse and/or legal framework; impunity of perpetrators; stereotypes and the social stigma associated with reporting etc.?
  • As the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women enters its 25th year, please provide a brief analysis of what your perceptions of the mandate are, highlighting any particular instances where you believe the Special Rapporteur has contributed to the empowerment of women in addressing gender based violence.
  • Given the changed landscape of women’s rights and the current global challenges in this regard, please indicate what specific measures should be taken to further strengthen the role of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur to accelerate prevention and elimination of violence against women
  • Please indicate what steps should be taken to ensure that the mandate of the Special Rapporteur can  effectively contribute to ensuring better institutional coordination across the various international and regional violence against women and gender equality mechanisms for the elimination of violence against women
  • Please specify what measures should be taken to support the initiative of the Special Rapporteur to encourage States to establish femicide watch and/ or observatories
  • Please indicate what are the opportunities and challenges for strengthening and using the mandate of the Special Rapporteur under the international and regional frameworks to eradicate violence against women and girls, and to accelerate that elimination.

Please feel free to respond to one or more questions. 

All submissions should be sent to by 28 February and will be used to inform the forthcoming report of the Special Rapporteur to the Human Rights Council in June 2019.  Submissions in English, French or Spanish.

February 18, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Notes From The Border

Prof. Hillary Farber is spending her sabbatical at the Southwest Border.  She sends us the first of her reflections on work with detained immigrants.

Image1Just a bit of background: I have always thought of being a lawyer as a tool to help people. I went to law school to be a public defender and thought I would do that work for a very long time. Opportunities eventually took me in a different direction and, over the years of my teaching career, I have felt this tool becoming blunt. After this last presidential election, it became clear to me that my sabbatical was a moment in time to dive back into the fight for justice that motivated my whole legal career.

I was compelled to go where the need is great and the resources for legal assistance are scarce which led me to this fabulous organization – The Florence Immigrant Refugee and Representation Project. The Florence Project provides free legal and social services to detained adults and unaccompanied children facing removal proceedings in immigration court in Arizona. Here, smart and dedicated people are speaking truth to power, and pursuing every legal avenue to seek justice for their clients. They are on the front lines of the family separation crisis and provide legal orientations for thousands of men, women and kids in detention.

I am not an immigration lawyer, and before coming here I was not schooled in immigration law. What I often tell people is that I know how to argue to get people out of jail. I also feel very comfortable in a courtroom, and going in and out of jails and prisons to work with my clients. So there are some transferable skills but my learning curve is huge. It humbles me and reminds me daily of the path my students are on, learning the law and trying it out for the first time.

These past four weeks have exceeded my expectations. My commitment to bring humanity to this migration struggle has deepened, as has my admiration for all the people here and around the country doing this work every day. I am here bearing witness and diving in to advocate for those whose voices and stories need to be told. Whether it is the family waiting at the border in Mexico to come into the United States or the young man who heroically fled his native country from gang violence and extortion only to be detained by ICE and held in a detention facility without bond – these stories need to be told and people’s voices heard.

So I am not leaving here until my tools are sharpened and I have helped as many people as time will allow. My resolve is strong and the opportunities are abundant.


February 17, 2019 in Immigrants, Immigration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Ending AIDS by 2030

In a rare (these days) positive exchange between the UN and the U.S., UNAIDS welcomed the pledge made by President Trump in his annual State of the Union speech to end AIDS by 2030.  However, noted Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, it cannot be done without a strong human rights component.   Said Sidibé, “I commend the President’s commitment to end AIDS in the United States, which will require a response grounded in human rights to reach all people living with and at risk of HIV, including the most marginalized.”  More reactions from advocacy groups that focus on AIDS, HIV, and health issues are here.  A joint statement issued by 22 HIV/AIDS groups echoed the UNAID's observation that the Trump plan cannot be effective without "valuing the dignity and rights of vulnerable populations (LGBT community, people of color, immigrants)."  Unfortunately, the negative reaction of the Administration to the 2018 report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty suggests an unwillingness to confront this reality.  We hope that the Administration will prove us wrong . . . .

February 14, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Virginia Dilemma Is Not Singular

When photos of Virginia Governor Northam either in blackface or a KKK outfit, the nation was once again divided.  Many called for his resignation while the governor has refused to do so.  Unfortunately, the governor's dialogue has ended there, except for an admission of earlier in his life using a "small amount"  of blackface because everyone knows how difficult it is to get black shoe polish off the face.  (Actually, most of us don't.)  

Once again, the nation is at an impasse.  Are resigning or not the only options?   Why hasn't Governor Northam talked with members of the African American community regarding their thoughts on his personal rehabilitation and political remediation?  Were there restorative measures that could create change in both the Governor's perspective on race while benefiting the community?  Given the widespread calls for his resignation, probably not - particularly given the Governor's failure to make a sincere apology that includes remedial steps both for himself and the African Americans that have been further harmed.  His most recent reference to slaves as "indentured servants" evidences Northam's deep racism and his rigid commitment to those beliefs.

Think of the opportunities missed.  In a moving opinion piece in the Washington Post, Reverend William Barber II envisions different outcomes.   He suggests that the Governor and others who have committed racist acts could begin by asking  “How are the people who have been harmed by my actions asking to change the policies and practices of our society?”  While the expansion of voting rights, providing health care for all and committing to a living wage are national issues that the Governor could endorse and foster, Reverend Barber suggests specific local measures that would immediately improve African American lives.  "In Virginia, it means stopping the environmental racism of the pipeline and natural gas compressor station Dominion Energy intends to build in Union Hill, a neighborhood founded by emancipated slaves and other free African Americans."  

In an age when apologies are presumed to be accepted no matter how untimely or insincere, the Governor needs to find a path to actual reparations whether he continues as Governor or not.   The Governor's failure to do so says more about his personal failures than anything else.


February 13, 2019 in Margaret Drew, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The LGBTQ State of the Union

Actor Billy Porter gave his State of the Union address discussing successes and failures of LGBTQ individuals over the past year.

Porter began and ended on a hopeful note.  “While our rights are under threat and the sanctity of our identities is in peril, let me be clear,” Porter said, “The state of our union is strong.” 

Porter catalogued the many indignities experienced by the community over the past twelve months. Addressing statistics compiled by Human Rights Watch and  the Anti-Violence Project, Porter said that the rise in hate crimes against members of the LGBTQ community is the highest it has been in years, particularly against transgender women.  While the address was primarily intended for US residents Porter addressed the violent anti-queer attacks happening in Chechnya and the increase in violence in Brazil following the election of President Bolsonaro. 

Porter concluded that “While our rights are under threat and the sanctity of our identities is in peril, let me be clear,the state of our union is strong.”



February 12, 2019 in LGBT, Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 11, 2019

Scary Technologies: The Government Expands Its Human Databases

In what is viewed by many as a huge step forward in stripping privacy rights the ACLU, the National Immigration Law Center and other groups sent a letter to House Democrats who  proposed the installation of hi-tech surveillance devices on the southwest border.  This proposal was suggested as an alternative to President Trump's border wall.  Technology in the name of border security is prelude to general use of facial recognition systems throughout the country.  

"We know that the border is often a testing ground for surveillance technology that is later deployed throughout the United States. Ubiquitous surveillance poses a serious threat to human rights and constitutional liberties."

In prisons across the country two additional databases are being created.  The first is an expanded DNA database where some incarcerated people are not being released unless they agree to  give blood samples.  In addition, prisons are collecting voice print databases.  Refusal to cooperate is met with threats from losing phone privileges to solitary confinement.

"In New York and other states across the country, authorities are acquiring technology to extract and digitize the voices of incarcerated people into unique biometric signatures, known as voice prints."   Some prisons are collecting voices of outside call recipients as well.

1984 is here. 

February 11, 2019 in Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 10, 2019

NY’s Reproductive Health Act Is Not Radical; It Simply Recognizes That The Lives And Dignity Of Pregnant People Count Too

by Cindy Soohoo

Image1Not surprisingly, President Trump’s attack on New York’s Reproductive Health Act during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address blatantly mischaracterized the RHA. But it also underscores a glaring gap in anti-abortion advocates’ pro-life views -- the right to life and dignity of people who are pregnant.

The RHA continues to recognize a state interest in fetal life and prohibits abortions after 24 weeks in almost all circumstances. However, the law also recognizes that in some situations, denying a pregnant person the ability to end a pregnancy imposes serious and irreparable harm on her, including situations where the pregnancy endangers her life and health. And in those situations, the state cannot force the pregnant woman to continue the pregnancy against her will. This is consistent with current Supreme Court jurisprudence and international human rights law. The UN Human Rights Committee made this explicit in a recent General Comment clarifying that while states can regulate abortions, they should not do so in a manner that violates the right to life of the pregnant person or her fundamental human rights.

The RHA does no more than protect the human rights of pregnant people. The law only allows abortions post-24 weeks in two situations. First, abortions are allowed where the fetus will not survive outside of the womb. The RHA recognizes that a woman should not be forced to continue what was often a wanted pregnancy -- knowing that the fetus will not survive -- against her will. In such cases, the state’s interest in protecting a viable fetus is not at issue, and human rights experts have held that denying a woman access to an abortion in these circumstances is cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.  

Second, the RHA allows a woman to have an abortion where continuing the pregnancy endangers her life or health. Some women may choose to continue pregnancies in these circumstances. But the RHA acknowledges that the pregnant person must be allowed to make her own choice taking into account the risk that she faces and the impact her death or disability would have on her family and community.

In both situations covered by the RHA, human rights experts have held that state denial of an abortion violates the human rights of the pregnant person. In fact, concern over state prohibition of abortions in those circumstances led UN human rights experts to write to the U.S. to encourage passage of laws like the Reproductive Health Act. This is not a radical position. It is merely the recognition of the value of the life and dignity of pregnant people. The failure of critics of the RHA to understand this is a glaring gap in their “pro-life” views.

Editors Note: This piece is cross-posted with the Reproductive Rights Blog

February 10, 2019 in Cindy Soohoo, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 7, 2019

UN Office Seeks Input on Local Governments and Human Rights -- Deadline Feb. 15

The UN High Commissioner on Human Rights has issued a call for input on local governments' initiatives to promote and protect human rights.  The deadline for submissions is February 15.   The United Cities and Local Governments organization (UCLG) has developed a template to guide local governments in preparing their submissions.  The OHCHR invites input from civil society as well as other stakeholders.

This call for input follows on the Human  Rights Council's Resolution 39/7, which directed the OHCHR to prepare a report for the Human Rights Council on "effective methods to foster cooperation between local government and local stakeholders" to further human rights implementation, including the SDGs, identifying challenges as well as best practices.  

The OHCHR's report will be presented to the Human Rights Council in July 2019.

February 7, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Hunger: The Politics of Food

On March 22, 2019, from 9 a.m. - 12 noon, Kean University will host its annual Human Rights Conference, this year titled:  Hunger: The Politics of Food.  Check out the speakers, including chef Tom Colicchio, and register for the event, here.

As the conference announcement says:

Hunger is no game. 

The devastating truth of the global hunger crisis is evident in the numbers:

  • More than one billion people worldwide don't know when they will have their next meal; 20 million of these people are at immediate risk of dying from malnutrition.
  • In the United States, 14 percent of the population relies on food banks, soup kitchens and similar services to feed themselves and their families.
  • Here in New Jersey – the Garden State – 300,000 children go to bed hungry every night.

Despite worldwide economic recovery and growth, an increase in sustainable agriculture and declining food prices, food insecurity continues to grow. Factors include climate change, natural disaster, conflict and global food policy.

February 6, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Force-Feeding Déjà vu

When this blog was still a new kid on the block, in 2014, we ran an extended series on hunger strikes and force-feeding of Guantanamo prisoners.  Now, nearly five years later, the issue has come around again, as the AP and other news outlets report (and ICE confirms) that a number of immigration detainees in the US, staging hunger strikes to protest their treatment, are being forcibly fed by ICE.  Human Rights Watch provides a human rights analysis of this assault on human dignity.  And in 2015, the AMA Journal of Ethics published a case study explaining why force-feeding violates medical ethics and is, quite  plainly, wrong.  Physicians for Human Rights applies these general ethical principles to the specific facts of today and concurs, writing in a press release on February 4:

“Force-feeding is unethical, cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment, and – in some cases – the practice can amount to torture. These detainees are hunger striking to protest their conditions of confinement. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. courts must recognize hunger strikes as political protest and respond to their concerns, not shackle and force-feed them. Doctors must not be forced to violate their professional obligation to respect the informed decisions of a competent patient."

February 5, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 4, 2019

US Leaves UNESCO - Again

The US has never had a faithful relationship with UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).  When the UNESCO was young, the US wanted a voice in the education in Germany and other Axis countries to ensure that the history of World War II was taught accurately.  Beyond a desire to influence education, the US never viewed UNESCO as an organization of influence.  

During the Reagan administration, the US left UNESCO and then rejoined during the George W. Bust administration when in post-911 efforts to ensure the support of other nations, UNESCO was seen as a way to accomplish US goals.  As more and more countries joined UNESCO the US's vote carried little influence while the US claims to be paying a disproportionately portion of the UNESCO budget.  

US Funding for UNESCO was halted during the Obama administration because of the organization's recognition of the Palestinian state in 2011.  At this point the US has accrued $600 million in unpaid dues.  While the Trump administration announced the withdrawal in 2017, formal withdrawal happened last week.  The Trump administration added claims that UNESCO has an anti-Israeli bias to the reasons for US withdrawal.  


February 4, 2019 in Margaret Drew, United Nations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 3, 2019

FBI: KKK Are Victims

The Guardian reports that the FBI investigated a California advocacy group as a "domestic terrorism" organization that "may" have conspired against the rights of neo-Nazis.  The investigation of By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) began after members were among those who marched against neo-Nazi's in 2016.  At that Sacramento white supremacy rally, one of BAMN's members was stabbed by a neo-Nazi. Neo-Nazis were suspected of stabbing at least 7 people, some with life-threatening injuries.  Yet, the FBI chose to investigate BAMN. 

And what was the evidence of terrorism? The FBI cited BAMN's advocacy against rape and sexual assault and police brutality as evidence of terrorism.   At the same time, the FBI minimized the actions of the KKK, describing the group as having members that "some perceive" as supporting white supremacist goals.  

The report was obtained by Property of the People, a government transparency organization.   According to the Guardian, one former FBI agent with experience with right wing supremacist groups commented:  The report ignored "100 years of Klan terrorism that has killed thousands of Americans and continues using violence right up to the present day."  The former agent said "This description of the KKK should be an embarrassment to FBI leadership."  But of course in 2016, the Bureau was headed by James Comey.  We already know what Comey did to prevent a woman from becoming president.  The rest of this shouldn't surprise us.


February 3, 2019 in Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Gender Equality & Human Rights in the Time of #MeToo

By JoAnn Kamuf Ward, Director, Human Rights in the US Project & Lecturer-In-Law, Columbia Law School.

Image1While 2018 has been dubbed the year of the woman, it is abundantly clear that misogyny is alive and well.  And, in order to address the underlying structures and beliefs that allow gender inequality to persist requires transformation.  It requires a cultural shift.   Treating acts of discrimination, harassment, and assault on an individual basis is simply insufficient.   It is not enough that four women have announced they are running for President.  It is not enough that more than 100 women were elected to Congress.

As advocates fighting for passage of the ERA and US adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) have long recognized, the laws and institutions we have in place are insufficient to guarantee women’s equality.   

Tarana Burke founded #MeToo to challenge the underlying beliefs that allow assault and harassment to occur.  It is about reshaping relationships of power and privilege. As she has so clearly stated, “we need to dramatically shift a culture that propagates the idea that vulnerability is synonymous with permission and that bodily autonomy is not a basic human right.”  

It is not surprising that Tarana Burke has defined eradicating gender-based violence as a human rights issue.  Human rights are about systems change.  They are about centering the experience of those most vulnerable to violations.  And, they are about a new, affirmative approach to addressing discrimination and inequality.   That includes changing how each of us views our individual and collective responsibilities to address gender discrimination and inequality.  It requires reshaping gender and racial stereotypes that have led to current dynamics of power and privilege. We must reform institutions to eradicate implicit and explicit bias.  We must also change the laws in place to prevent and respond to acts of discrimination, assault, and harassment in order to foster more collective accountability.   

In the United States, the predominant paradigm for dealing with sexual harassment, gender-based violence, and discrimination has historically been largely individual. Yet, focusing on individual perpetrators and isolated incidents falls short of the transformative change that is required.   As Dahlia Lithwack wrote in September, it is a myth “that patriarchal systems, based in entrenched power, and supported by others in power, could be brought down by individual, brave women.”   Systemic change is essential, because the system in which we operate has failed women.

#MeToo has also made clear that the challenges we face are societal and institutional.

And, in response to the movement, global human rights actors have spoken out.   UN experts have recognized the need for more concerted action to address the oppression that exclude women from positions of power in order to eradicate all forms of gender discrimination, and there is increasing guidance on core elements of a rights-based approach to gender-based violence and harassment though law and policy grounded in human rights principles, building off existing standards found in principles of CEDAW.  There are also calls for more specific international protections for women in the workplace.  And examples of how U.S. workplaces can be transformed through human rights-based worker driven solutions, such as the Fair Food Program.

As already reported on this blog, across the U.S. local advocates, law school clinicsand local governments are also looking to human rights to foster broader based approaches to advancing gender equity, focusing on eradicating negative stereotypes, and identifying and addressing barriers to equality for women and girls by adopting CEDAW principles.

CEDAW offers a framework to foster gender equality and eliminate discrimination against women. It defines what constitutes discrimination against women broadly to encompass laws and policies that negatively affect women’s human rights, and identifies pathways to more equitable opportunities and outcomes in a wide range of areas.  According to CEDAW, governments must:


  • Affirmatively identify the factors that perpetuate inequality, and take steps to mitigate them.  
  • Take measures to eliminate discrimination against women in political and public life, including to ensure women’s right to vote and to hold public office. 
  • Foster equal access and non-discrimination in relation to education, employment, and health.  
  • Adopt policies to advance women’s economic stability, including equal pay and paid maternity leave.  
  • Address violence against women through efforts to identify its root causes, focus on prevention, and prioritize redress for survivors.


In order to ensure equal enjoyment of rights for all women, CEDAW calls for policies that reflect the ways that individual’s multiple identities, including her race, nationality, disability, age, as well as economic and social status, impact her enjoyment of rights, and calls for targeted and culturally-appropriate solutions.   

Recognizing the power of these principles, the umbrella organization of state and local civil and human rights agencies – many of whom are charged with resolving complaints of individual discrimination –  passed a resolution in support of CEDAW in 2017 – calling on its members to support municipal, county, and state-wide policy efforts to affirm the rights of women, eliminate all forms of discrimination, advance gender equity, and promote and affirm the principles of CEDAW.  This is an important foundation for a more affirmative, proactive approach to advancing women’s rights and achieving the transformative change that is needed.   

To cultivate action, and support state and local government human rights implementation, the Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute recently published a Gender Equity Toolkit.  Developed in partnership with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and UNA-USA, the toolkit highlights specific ways that state and local agencies and officials can utilize CEDAW to promote and protect women’s rights, including: fostering human rights education and awareness; assessing the status of women through a gender analysis; and incorporating CEDAW principles into local law and policy. 

The Toolkit offers a menu of activities that can strengthen protection for women’s rights, and serve as a springboard for local, city, and state efforts to break down the barriers that continue to impede full equality for women, and redefine relationships of power and privilege.   




January 31, 2019 in Equality, Feminism, Gender Oppression, Gender Violence, JoAnn Kamuf Ward | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Menstrual Products Must Be Available in School Restrooms. Period.

by Shruti Sathish, guest contributor, courtesy of the Teen Voices series of Women's enews,

My expectations for school restrooms are relatively low. I attend a large public high school where clogged sinks and overflowing trash bins are the norm. Still, even worse than the condition of the restrooms is the near-lack of menstrual hygiene products, which has impacted me as a young woman. When I see that toilet paper, hand soap, and paper towels are available and are provided to students free of cost, I wonder why menstrual products aren’t too.

Currently, in the United States, only three states—California, Illinois, and New York— require schools serving students in grades six through twelve to provide menstrual products in women’s restrooms for free. Millions of girls around the country are therefore forced to bring these products from home and face discomfort and lost educational time when they must leave class with their entire backpack to go to the restroom, or have to ask the school nurse or a friend for one when they don’t have any. Menstrual products are largely viewed as luxuries rather than the necessities they truly are, and this is an issue that must be acted upon.

Many individuals are unaware of the fact that period poverty in the United States is real. Often viewed as an issue faced primarily by individuals in developing countries, many are shocked to learn that nearly one in five American girls have either left school early or missed school entirely due to a lack of access to menstrual products. The “tampon tax,” a tax on menstrual products that currently exists in 36 states, further aggravates the issue, and in a country where nearly 14 percent of girls and women live below the poverty line compared to just 11 percent of boys and men, it is crucial for menstrual equity to exist.

Recognizing that challenges regarding access to menstrual products persist, students in some schools have attempted to take action to ensure that pads and tampons are available in all women’s restrooms. After receiving funds from my school last year to redecorate and “renovate” one of the women’s restrooms, members of my high school’s Women’s Club used a large portion of the money to purchase menstrual products that were stored in plastic containers in the restrooms. Although this has been helpful, it hasn’t proven to be a reliable solution to the problem. Products haven’t been restocked this school year due to lack of funding, and even last year when menstrual products were supplied by the club, they ran out in just a couple of days and it was a few more days before containers were refilled.

The reality is that when students don’t have constant, reliable access to menstrual products at school, they are forced to ask the school nurse or their friends. Most school nurses only have a limited supply of menstrual products, and while they are happy to provide them to students occasionally, they are unable to supply them to students on a regular basis. Many students also feel a sense of discomfort when asking other students for menstrual products and telling them about their period. Some students may even feel that it is best to just stay home when they are on their period because they don’t have proper access to menstrual products at school,  which is unfortunate. Having easy and reliable access to these products in school restrooms is essential.

Additionally, at some schools in my city, including mine, sanitary pad and tampon dispensers are currently only available in restrooms that are at centralized locations in the school, such as the commons. Therefore, some students find it difficult to access these restrooms during class time. “Students can’t leave their academic wing with a bathroom pass and go to the commons…what are you going to tell the male security guard in the academic wing you’re in? I have to go to the commons to get a tampon?” says Ava Kaminski, 16, a student at neighboring public  high school. Having menstrual products and dispensers available in restrooms is critical for students to stay in school and feel safe and comfortable. Furthermore, expanding access to menstrual products to gender neutral restrooms would benefit an even larger number of students.

Many individuals also believe that while teen leaders are important, they should not be the only ones ensuring that their fellow classmates are able to access these products in schools; schools and district administrators must recognize the critical nature of the issue and work to allocate funds for menstrual products and dispensers. “School would go a lot smoother if these products were available to students. Students should be able to focus on their classes and education and not have to worry about if they remembered to bring pads to school,” says Noelle Livingston, 17. A group of student leaders at my school are currently working with school administrators to receive funding for menstrual products and dispensers for all the women’s restrooms, something many are looking forward to.

In a society where women are taught to hide their period, working to end menstrual stigma is very important to achieve menstrual equity. Many students agree that menstrual health is often glazed over and inadequately addressed in their middle school and high school health education classes. Creating a welcoming, trusting, and open environment is the first step to effectively educating both girls and boys on this topic and the stigma that currently surrounds it. When students can learn from one another through thoughtful and meaningful conversation, it is possible to form a collaborative community that is capable of creating change.

It’s time for everyone to realize that menstrual products are necessities, not luxuries, and that periods should be embraced, not feared.

Shruti Sathish is currently a senior in high school and lives in Madison, WI. 

January 30, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Trump Administration Waged Campaign Against UN Human Rights Chief Appointee

Foreign Policy reports that the U.S. waged a behind-the-scenes campaign against the appointment of Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile, as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Bachelet, a fierce champion of women's rights, is the founding executive director of UN Women, and was the 17th woman to be elected a head of state worldwide.  By training, High Commissioner Bachelet is a medical doctor with particular expertise in maternal and child health.  According to the Foreign Policy reporting, the Trump Administration singled out Bachelet's support for women's reproductive rights as a particular disqualifier for the human rights position.  The Trump Administration's objections proved to be futile, however, and Bachelet currently holds the High Commissioner position, with much anticipation that she will continue to serve as a strong advocate for women's rights. 

January 29, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 28, 2019

Endangering LGBT Individuals- In The US and Abroad

Those who identify as other than straight are increasingly endangered, both within and without the US.  Readers are likely aware that transgender individuals who wish to serve in the military will not receive court relief from the President's proposed ban.  In a recent 5-4 decision, the US Supreme Court opened the way for the administration to ban transgender men and women from enlisting.  Unknown is the impact that the ban will have on currently serving transgender soldiers.  While cases are winding their ways through the lower courts, the high court refused to accelerate hearing on the underlying issues.  But in refusing to continue a stay of the policy  the high court signaled that the court will ultimately approve the ban. 

Last week, the North Dakota Senate once again refused to consider a bill that would protect LGBT individuals from discrimination.  Advocates have been promoting the non-discrimination bill for ten years. 

Internationally, Chechnya continues its purge of LGBT people.  According to the Russian LGBT Network, recently 40 LGBT were detained and two killed.  While Norway called for  a human rights investigation, Russia refused to participate.  In South Korea 1000 anti-gay demonstrators attacked 300 members of the gay pride parade. This is just the latest deliberate policy designed to deny human rights to LGBT residents. 

All to say that anti-LGBT sentiments are accelerating internationally.  Despite marriage equality, it is homophobes who have government support in the US. and elsewhere. 


January 28, 2019 in LGBT, Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Sexual Harassment At the United Nations

As reported by RT earlier this month, one in three employees of the United Nations reported being sexually harassed at work over the past two years.  The rate for over-career harassment is even higher.  In an anonymous on-line survey employees reported harassment in many forms from inappropriate "jokes" to attempts to engage the employee in sexual conversation.  Others reported unwanted touching and offensive gestures.  

Only one third of the reporters said that they took action.  Men constituted two-thirds of the harassers.  Only 17% of the workforce responded to the survey, which according to the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres noted reflects an atmosphere of distrust.  The survey results were enough for Secretary-General Guterres to send a letter to staff endorsing the survey as pointing out what needs to change in the UN workplace. He acknowledged that the UN must lead the change. 

Last year at least two UN employees resigned following complaints of a hostile work environment due to sexual harassment.  

January 27, 2019 in Margaret Drew, Women's Rights, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Texas Bar Association Sponsors Human Rights Writing Contest

The International Law Section of the Texas State Bar is sponsoring a writing contest on human rights.   The contest is open to law students attending school in Texas, or Texan law students attending school elsewhere, including LLM students.  Deadline is March 1, 2019.  First prize, $1500 and a trip to the Bar Association's annual institute.  According to the contest sponsors, "[t]he essay may address any aspect of international human rights law that the contestant chooses."  

What a great way to get students thinking and writing about human rights law.  Would other bar associations consider similar contests?

January 24, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Time for Some Accountability? How About a Shave?

by Justine Dunlap

Image1For over a week last January, 156 women provided victim statements during a sentencing hearing for sexual assailant Larry Nassar. On this January 16th, John Engler resigned under pressure as the interim President of Michigan State University. Engler’s offense was a recent interview in which he suggested that some of the survivors were enjoying the spotlight. These comments were not the first to stoke controversy, but they were what finally led university trustees to demand his resignation. Engler, an MSU alumnus and former governor, was appointed last February after President Lou Anna Simon was forced out because of her failures in the Nassar case. (She has since been charged criminally with lying to investigators; her preliminary hearing is scheduled to begin January 31). Nassar will spend the rest of his life in jail. However, it took nearly two decades of allegations to get there and, as the Engler resignation suggests, even now the survivors are scapegoated or, to use the phrase coined by Professor Jennifer Freyd, subject to institutional DARVO, an acronym for Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender.

This past week also saw movement in another case involving longstanding allegations of sexual assault. RCA dropped its recording relationship with musician R. Kelly. Kelly is the subject of a recent documentary about these assaults and, one by one, artists with whom he had collaborated are removing those recordings from streaming sites. As with the Nassar victims, it is alleged that Kelly’s victims were often underage. And as with Nassar, prior investigations—in Kelly’s case, a prior prosecution—did not yield results.

In light of these two recent events involving assaults on women and how long it takes reports of those assaults to matter, the recent Gillette razor commercial and the reaction to it deserve special note. For those not paying attention, Gillette released an ad urging men not to behave like bullies or jerks especially, but not exclusively, regarding treatment of women. Boy (so to speak), did that ad hit a nerve and then some. It is as if suggesting that if men and boys choose not to fight or not to leer or not to out-testosterone the Y chromosome human standing nearby, they are emasculated. Really? Have we come to that? Has the “locker room talk” and “boys will boys” defenses led to enshrining boorish behavior? Perhaps it demonstrates naivete to be surprised but still. I hereby tip my hat to Gillette and pledge to buy their razors.

So, it has been an interesting week or two at the start of the new year. Progress has been made. But, as usual, that progress is not linear.

January 24, 2019 in Gender Violence, Justine Dunlap, Sexual Assault | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Celebrating Human Rights Hero Fred Korematsu on his 100th Birthday, January 30

January 30 is Fred Korematsu Day, with events being held around the country. 

In New York, the 2nd annual New York City Fred T. Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution will be celebrated on Wednesday, January 30, 2019 at the New York County Lawyers Association, Andrew Hamilton Hall, from 6:30 to 9:00 pm. The event is co-sponsored by the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) and the Asian Practice Committee of the New York County Lawyers Association. AABANY members will perform a reenactment of the legal proceedings in Korematsu v. United States.

About the Trial Reenactment:

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, uprooting some 120,000 Japanese-Americans – two-thirds of them American citizens – from their homes on the West Coast and forcing them into concentration camps.  Fred Korematsu refused to go. He was arrested, and convicted of violating the Executive Order and related military proclamations. He appealed his conviction first to the Ninth Circuit and then to the Supreme Court. In 1944, the Supreme Court affirmed his conviction, upholding the Executive Order. In 1983, nearly forty years later, the federal court in San Francisco vacated Korematsu’s conviction after evidence was uncovered showing that the government had suppressed evidence that undermined its assertions before the Supreme Court.

This presentation by members of the Asian American Bar Association of New York, led by the Honorable Denny Chin of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and Kathy Hirata Chin, Partner, Crowell & Moring, will tell the story of Fred Korematsu and his fight for justice through narration, reenactment of court proceedings, and historic documents and photographs.

Registration for the event is required and is available here until January 29.

January 23, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)