Cisnormativity and Misgendering: Transgender Parenthood Is Not a Matter of Accommodation but of Human Rights

By Rahul Garg 

Introduction

Recently the UK Supreme Court in R (McConnell) v. Registrar General for England and Wales refused permission to appeal to a transgender man who had applied to be registered as his child’s “father” or “parent” on his child’s birth certificate, upholding an earlier Court of Appeal decision of registering him as his child’s “mother.” The Registry statedthat since he had himself biologically “conceived, carried and given birth” to the child in his womb, he could only be registered as his child’s “mother”, even though he possessed a valid “male” gender-recognition certificate as per the provisions of the Gender Recognition Act of 2004 (“GRA”). In this blog post, I argue that the non-recognition of a transgender person’s relational identity corresponding to their self-declared gender violates the European Convention on Human Rights of 1950 (“ECHR”).

Violation of Article 8: The Right to Identity

Article 8 of the ECHR provides for the right to respect for one’s private life. While interpreting the aspect of “private life,” the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”) in Christine Goodwin v. UK held it to include the right to respect for one’s identity. That case involved a transgender woman who was denied legal recognition of her gender identity, which the ECtHR held, violated her right to respect for private life, and which position was later entrenched into the UK domestic laws through the GRA.

In the present case, the registry justifies its denial of the recognition to the applicant as his child’s “father” by citing the fact that the applicant himself carried his child in his womb, by suspending his ongoing hormone treatment. I argue this position to be bad for practical purposes, since it attaches “reproductive capacity” of a person to “parenthood”, even though “reproductive capacity” stands divorced from one’s “gender” (since after GRA, a transgender man who legally identifies as “male” can carry a child, which reproductive capacity was earlier tied only to the “female” gender). By registering him as his child’s mother, it therefore denies him his right to identity in a relational context (here, “fatherhood”). The non-recognition of the applicant as his child’s father furthermore has the effect of stating that the applicant’s gender is not his “current gender” but his “gender determined at birth”, which violates his right to respect for identity.

In context of Article 8, the ECtHR in Bărbulescu v. Romania held that the right to respect for private life was not restricted to one’s “inner circle,” and that it extended to one’s “private social life,” a right that afforded individuals possibilities to develop their “social identity.” Similarly, in Niemietz v. Germany, the ECtHR recognized the right to establish and develop relationships with other human beings, and in Lazoriva v. Ukraine with one’s family, as an intrinsic part of Article 8. Here, while recognizing the applicant as his child’s “mother”, the registry denies him a chance to cultivate and develop his social identity. It describes his relationship with his child as that of “mother-and-son,” when as a matter of their private social life; their relationship is that of “father-and-son.” While doing so, it puts a strain on their right to develop a choice-based familial relationship, which violates Article 8. 

Non-Recognition Fails the Margin of Appreciation

While justifying the applicant’s registration as his child’s “mother” (under Section 12 of GRA), the Court of Appeal states the legislative aim as the maintenance of a clear and coherent scheme of birth registrations in the UK, which I argue is disproportionate and fails the margin test developed by the ECtHR. As held in Belgian Linguistic Case, the discretionary margin available to a state depends on a balance between the nature of the right violated, and the legislative aim sought. Here, the violation by the registry concerns a particularly important facet of the applicant’s existence and identity (right under Article 8), which I argue has clear precedence, when compared to a mere administrative burden or inconvenience which the legislature might face, should they develop an alternative procedure for transgender parents in furtherance to their aim of ensuring consistency in birth records. In any case, the margin available to states is very narrow where an individual’s identity is at stake, as was held by the ECtHR in X, Y and Z v. UK. Based on this, I argue that the measure adopted by the legislature is disproportionate and thus, offers it very limited discretionary margin.

Implications of Misgendered Recognition 

I argue, as a matter of policy consideration, that the right to gender self-determination includes as a necessary consequence, the right to obliterate one’s “biological gender”, an approach which GRA also ironically intends to uphold (as is clear from Section 9(1), which states that whoever obtains a gender-recognition certificate “becomes for all purposes [their] acquired gender”). The recognition of transgender men as “mothers”, however, defeats this intention. The self-identification right which GRA offers also loses its sanctity and relevance, when it does not reflect in a relational context, let alone the harm of gender dysphoria which the associated “misgendering” causes. Inspiration could be taken by the UK from jurisdictions like Sweden, which acknowledge, as “fathers”, transgender men who give birth after obtaining legal gender recognition. Additionally, and as a measure for greater inclusion, the UK must also extend its current parenthood recognition under birth registration laws beyond a cisnormative approach to cater to diverse gender identities and any subsequent “parenthood” claims (parenthood here used in context of persons who may want to be recognized in a gender-neutral way as “parent” to their child, rather than a mother or father).

Conclusion

The UK must recognize the right of any person to be recognized as their child’s “father”, “mother” or “parent” in alignment to their self-identified gender, the former being a corollary of the latter. Furthermore, it must understand that even though maternal instincts may be “gender-neutral,” the term mother is both culturally and as a matter of social construct essentially “gendered.” Recognition of the applicant as his child’s “mother,” therefore, misgenders him, and violates his right to respect for his private life.

Rahul Garg is reading law and policy sciences, majoring in Constitutional Law, at National Law University, Jodhpur. His current research focuses on interdisciplinary perspectives in areas of international human rights law, gender and sexuality, the intersection of law and feminism and the study of sexism and the broader impact that it has on the rights of men and women globally. 

Including Others Counter-Story Competition – 4 * £150 awards for winning entries

By Dr Aoife Duffy, Co-Deputy Director Human Rights Centre

The Human Rights Centre is developing an outreach programme for secondary schools: Including Others: A Rights Based Schools Outreach Pilot Programme for Secondary Schools in Essex. The programme for year 11 students (15-year-olds) covers several themes: women’s rights, the rights of people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ rights, and rights-based approaches to combating racism. We are giving University of Essex students the opportunity of being involved in the programme by sharing their experiences through counter-story narration.

Counter-stories are used to challenge dominant worldviews, stereotypes and/or assumptions. It is a technique developed in critical race theory to highlight racial hierarchies and racial privilege in society. Described by Solórzano and Yosso as a powerful ‘method of telling the stories of those people whose experiences are not often told.’  

In our schools outreach programme these stories will also used to shed light on asymmetrical gender relations, and experiences that people with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ+ community face in their everyday lives.  

We are inviting Essex students to write a 1,600-word counter-story for the programme competition. Four winning counter-stories representing the groups covered in the programme will be awarded £150 each. Counter-stories:

  • Can be personal stories or narratives
  • Can be written in the third voice
  • Can be composite stories 

Please send your submission to counterstories@essex.ac.uk by March 24 2021. We will also accept counter-stories that explore intersectional experience, or that represent social marginalisation not currently covered in the pilot programme. 

Student authors can remain anonymous in this process and use a pseudonym for their stories if they wish.

I will join Lee Marsons (School of Law PhD candidate/schools outreach programme coordinator) and Dr. Katya Al Khateeb (Human Rights Centre senior researcher) on the competition panel. 

We really look forward to receiving your compositions!

Good luck,

Dr Aoife Duffy, Co-Deputy Director Human Rights Centre

Weekly Roundup of Human Rights News

By Andrea Vremis

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The Power of Hearings: Unleashing Compliance with Judgments at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

By Clara Sandoval 

This post is part of a series of 11 posts released by Implementing Human Rights Decisions: Reflections, Successes, and New Directions, as part of the ESRC funded “Human Rights Law Implementation Project“. The posts, which will be released between now and March, seek to bridge the gap between academic and practice communities by offering short and accessible analysis of a critical phase in the strategic litigation process.

Introduction

Low levels of compliance with the recommendations and orders of supranational human rights bodies remains a major challenge for those of us who see international courts as critical protectors of human rights. One key question we face is what role these bodies should play to ensure implementation of their own decisions? While the dynamics of implementation are multi-factored and multi-actored, human rights bodies like the Inter-American Court of Human Rights do more than mere monitoring of orders; rather, they trigger and cajole implementation in different ways (Sandoval, Leach and Murray, 2020). Of all international human rights courts, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has proved to be the most innovative in responding to implementation challenges despite its limited resources. While the strength of its approach arguably rests on its ability to use and combine different tools as required, compliance hearings have proven to be particularly important given their ability to promote dialogue with stakeholders and to build better understanding of the barriers that need to be addressed to move implementation forward. 

Hearings as a tool to monitor compliance with judgments 

The Inter-American Court’s practice of holding hearings to monitor compliance with judgments started in 2007. In contrast, such practice is unknown in the European and UN treaty body systems, and has only been used exceptionally in the African system. The Inter- American Court holds different types of hearings: Private hearings are conducted informally, with two or three judges present, the Inter-American Commission, the victims and their legal representatives and the state delegation. They last for about two hours and aim to foster dialogue to address implementation roadblocks and promote the preparation of implementation plans/schedules. 

Public hearings are used exceptionally and in cases where there is a manifest failure by the state to comply with the Court’s orders. All judges are present, wear their gowns, and follow a formal protocol. The court held the first such hearing in 2009 in the case of Sawhoyamaxa Indigenous Community v. Paraguay precisely to respond to the new deaths of people in the community as a result of the reckless behaviour of the Paraguayan state. 

The Court also holds joint monitoring hearings where the Court monitors similar orders against the same state in various cases that are pending compliance. This has been done in relation to different measures such as the duty to investigate, prosecute and punish in the case of Guatemala or rehabilitation in the case of Colombia. And since 2015 the Court also holds on-site hearings where it takes supervision to the country in question, and holds hearings with relevant actors both from the government, victims, and their legal representatives. The first on-site hearing was held in Honduras and Panama in 2015 (IACtHR, Annual Report, 2015, 61). 

There are no explicit criteria establishing when the Court can hold a private or a public hearing despite the fact that they were included as a tool for monitoring compliance when the Court’s rules of procedure were revised in 2009 (Art. 69.3). Any party to the case can request 

them, and the Court can convene it, but the ground(s) on which they are granted is not clear. While it is desirable in principle for such criteria to exist, the lack of such criteria has also permitted the Court to respond with flexibility to the challenges its judgments face in different parts of the region. 

The Court has used hearings to activate implementation in cases where years have passed without any updated and detailed information reaching the Court or where specific measures were long overdue as in the case of Awas Tingni Community v. Nicaragua, where seven years after the judgment the Court called a private hearing in 2008 to receive complete information on pending measures, including the creation of an effective mechanism to delimit, demarcate and title the property of the indigenous community, to carry out the actual delimitation, demarcation and titling of the lands as well as paying compensation for pecuniary and non- pecuniary damage. (IACtHR, Order of the President, 14 March 2008, 5). This hearing allowed the Court to invite the parties to the case to reach an agreement. The agreement contained clear indication of steps to be taken and timeframes that applied (IACtHR, Order of the Court, 2008, 8). Nicaragua fully complied with the judgment a year later (IACtHR, Order of the Court, 2009, 5). The Court also uses hearings where it sees an opportunity to influence the decisions of a State as happened in the case of Fermín Ramirez and Raxcaco in 2008 to dissuade Guatemala from allowing the death penalty. 

What has proven useful to unleash implementation? 

Our research found that hearings can facilitate dialogue between the parties to a case. Up to 2019, hearings have been held in relation to almost all states that have accepted the jurisdiction of the Court, except Haiti. However, the Court has held less hearings in relation to states that are not willing to engage in dialogue, on the basis that those hearings cannot be very effective. For example, the Court has held six hearings in relation to Venezuela’s compliance with judgments, five of which happened before Venezuela denounced the American Convention in 2012, and only one in 2016. And just recently, in 2019, the Court called a joint hearing on the cases of the Girls Yean and Bosico v. Dominican Republic and Expelled Dominicans and Haitians v. Dominican Republic, that the state did not attend. Indeed, state failed to provide any information on compliance with the Court’s orders for various years and particularly from 2014, when the State announced its intention not to comply with them based on a decision by its Constitutional Tribunal (IACtHR, Resolution of the Court, 2019, 14). 

The majority of private hearings have taken place in relation to Peru, Guatemala and Colombia, three states where constructive dialogue has helped to unleash the dynamics of implementation and where strong civil society organisations are present. These combined elements appear to make the best use of the opportunity provided by the Court. The two States with the most public hearings are Peru and Paraguay, each with three and two hearings, respectively. The following appears to have helped to unleash the dynamics of implementation: 

– Hearings could involve key State actors 

Private hearings allow for informal dialogue that can help parties to a case find a way forward. They create an opportunity for key state actors to be involved in the implementation process (Murray and De Vos, 2020). Often, those reporting to the Court on implementation and engaging in the process are staff at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or at a similar institution, but not the entities that have to actually implement the order. For example, the Ministry of Health is often not present when implementation of rehabilitation measures is at stake. Including such key actors at hearings and having the opportunity to enter in direct dialogue with them has helped to move things forward. On-site hearings also help to this end, as many state institutions can be present at the hearings without having to incur in travel costs (Saavedra, 2020). 

– Hearings allow victims to participate in the monitoring process 

Victims can participate in hearings if they wish. They are more likely to participate if hearings are conducted on on-site (Saavedra, 2020). Their participation could be crucial to ensure that they remain at the centre of the process, that they are duly informed of what is going on with respect to implementation and that they can share their views on how to move things forward (Molina, 2020). 

– Hearings work best when the Court has all relevant information on implementation at hand

Hearings can also be more effective when the Court has all relevant information about the dynamics of implementation at the domestic level at hand (Donald, Long and Speck, 2020). States, however, do not always report to the Court on steps taken to implement its orders or, if they do report, the information they provide can be patchy. Hence, it has proven effective for the Court to request certain information from the state before the hearing takes place or to request key information directly from specific state institutions. This happened in the Molina Theissen v. Guatemala case in 2019, where the Court requested the Prosecutor General to provide information on the implementation of the duty to investigate, prosecute and punish, and to refer to a draft bill that, at the time, aimed to halt investigations in this and other cases. The more prepared the Court is, the better it will be able to promote implementation of its judgments. People we interviewed during our project also shared that hearings have been effective because they have worked as a pressure mechanism on states, reminding them that they must appear before the Court, get things together, and make progress on implementation. 

– Public hearings can help to prevent that States take backward steps

Public hearings have played an essential role in preventing states from regressing on the Court’s implementation orders. For example, recently in cases such as Guatemala (March 2019) or Peru (February 2018), the Court used the hearings, sometimes in connection with precautionary measures, to prevent authorities from taking measures that would halt the investigation, prosecution and punishment of perpetrators of gross human rights violations in various cases decided by the Court. In the case of Guatemala, for example, there was a serious risk that the state would adopt a bill in parliament to halt investigations of serious human rights violations, that would have impacted negatively the orders given by the Court in various cases to duly investigate, prosecute and punish all perpetrators of such atrocities during the armed conflict, including cases like that of Molina TheissenChichupac and other 12 cases. The Court, prompted by civil society organisations, responded in a timely manner to such challenges by calling a public hearing but also by adopting provisional measures to prevent irreparable harm (IACtHR, Resolution of the Court, March 2019). 

– Public hearings can activate other actors beyond the parties on the dynamics of implementation 

Public hearings allow other actors — civil society organisations, international organisations, regional organisations, media, academics — that could have an impact on the dynamics of implementation to know what is happening with specific measures, and to play a role in the implementation process. These actors can provide information to the Court, for example as amicus curiae, or by lobbying the state to comply with the Court’s orders. When implementation gets difficult and informal dialogue is not enough, opening the process to other actors can help trigger implementation (Solano Carboni, 2020). 

– Joint hearings help highlight structural problems and join efforts to monitor implementation of structural measures 

The Court has also joined the same or similar reparation measures ordered in various cases against the same state for the purposes of monitoring compliance. This has happened in particular regarding forms of reparation that aim to tackle structural problems, such as impunity in Guatemala and the need to ensure that the state complies with orders to investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible for gross human rights violations. The Court, besides monitoring the measure in a joint manner, has also held joint hearings and has issued joint resolutions in relation to specific reparation measures across various cases. These measures are in the interest of procedural economy. Given the growing amount of measures that the Court needs to monitor, which by 2019 stood at 1,153 (IACtHR, Annual Report 2019, 61), it is important for the Court to find tools that can allow it to be more effective in triggering compliance. But, more importantly, joint hearings can bring together all relevant actors in different cases that are facing the same challenge, and relevant state institutions, to consider the barriers for implementation. It also allows the Court to gain a more holistic view of the challenges to implementation, and of potential ways to overcome them. Our research found that these hearings give visibility to those structural problems and help to prioritise them. 

Conclusions

Inter-American Court hearings to monitor compliance with judgments have helped unleashed the complex dynamics of implementation. Since 2007, when the Court held its first private hearing, it has developed important, creative and original innovations to deal with the complex issues at hand, the latest of which are on-site hearings. Hearings have allowed dialogue, and, in exceptional cases, they have made public the lack of implementation and its adverse consequences. In the years to come, the challenge for the Court is to refine and streamline the way hearings happen — in relation to their frequency, the place(s) where they take place, the length of time they take, the methodologies they follow, and to better assess the impact they have had and can have on implementation. Another important task is to understand how to enhance the impact of hearings before and after they take place, so that what has been gained through them can be preserved. 

Clara Sandoval is Professor at the School of Law and Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex and Co-Director of the Essex Transitional Justice Network. 

Weekly Roundup of Human Rights News

By Dan O. Eboka and Dechen D. Piya

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Human Rights News – Weekly Roundup

By Andrea Vremis, Dechen D. Piya & Lauren Ng

In focus:

International Day of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation

February 6th marks the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, which was selected by the UN General Assembly in 2012 in order ‘to amplify and direct the efforts on the elimination of the practice’.  

FGM/C is present in at least 92 countries around the world

Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting (FGM/FGC) is a practice through which the female genitalia is altered or injured for non-medical purposes, and is considered a form of gender-based violence as well as ‘internationally recognized as a human-rights violation’ deeply rooted in gender inequality and discrimination. The practice can also result in both short- and long-term health issues, including chronic pain, infections, increased risk of HIV transmission, anxiety and depression, birth complications, infertility, and in the worst cases, death. Thus, FGM has lifelong implications for women and girls subjected to it. 

According to UNFPA, globally, it is projected that around 200 million girls and women alive today have endured some form of FGM. Although the practice is decreasing in many of the countries where it is prevalent, a high rate of population growth in these countries will lead to an increase in the number of girls and women who undergo FGM if the practice continues ‘at current levels’. Furthermore, UNFPA with UNICEF leads the Joint Programme on FGM, estimates that approximately 68 million girls are at risk of being mutilated by 2030. 

FGM violates various human rights both under international as well as national law, including women’s and girls’ rights to equality, life, security of person, dignity, and freedom from discrimination and torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Furthermore, many treaty monitoring bodies such as CEDAW, CRC, ICCPR, ICESCR and CAT have recognized FGM as a human rights violation ‘in breach of those treaties’ and it is banned by the Maputo Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. All 193 member states of the UN have committed to eliminating all harmful practices, including female genital mutilation by 2030 within Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals under Agenda 2030. But, the practice still persists. 

FGM is performed for several cultural, religious and social reasons within families and communities, varying from context to context, but generally rooted in a desire to control women’s sexual and bodily autonomy. It is associated with cultural ideas of femininity and modesty and beliefs of what is considered ‘proper sexual behavior’ linked to pre-marital virginity and marital fidelity, as it reduces woman’s sexual pleasure. Thus, it is often seen as a rite of passage into womanhood, and in many cases can be a precursor to child marriage. According to Equality Now, an NGO which advocates for ending FGM worldwide, ‘celebrating cultural values and heritage is important’, however girls should be able to do so and learn about the cultural and community values ‘without the violence and lifelong physical and mental effects of FGM or forced marriage’. 

This International Day of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation, as the UN enters its Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, the UN and its agencies, UNFPA, UN Women, UNICEF and WHO called for the end of this harmful practice. ‘Together, we can eliminate female genital mutilation by 2030. Doing so will have a positive ripple effect on the health, education, and economic advancement of girls and women’ said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in a video message to mark the occasion. 

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In Pictures: How We Can Build A Human Rights Bridge Out Of Poverty

This blog was originally published by Each Other on the 4th Feb 2021

By Dr Koldo Casla, Human Rights Centre of the University of Essex, Susanna Hunter-Darch, Social Rights Alliance England

A new cartoon series shares the voices of those with lived experiences of poverty.

What do people need to enjoy everyday life? What are the essential conditions to live a life in dignity, safety and freedom? And what are the rights that belong to all of us? Susanna Hunter-Darch and Dr Koldo Casla share a series of new cartoons exploring these questions, from the perspective of those with lived experience of poverty. 

On 21 January, more than 50 people from different parts of the UK gathered online in the first of a series of events to explore questions like these in detail. The events aim to bring together people with lived and learned experiences of poverty, allowing them to learn from each other, and to think through how we can use human rights to build a bridge out of poverty.

The event aimed to bring together people with lived and learnt experiences of poverty.

Even before COVID-19, poverty has been one of the UK’s biggest issues. An unprecedented report from the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights in 2018 documented that 14 million people lived in poverty in the UK, with 1.5 million of them in destitution.

Philip Alston’s findings said that cuts to social services were part of the reason so many people were facing destitution, despite such high levels of employment. “The conclusion is both clear and bitter,” he wrote. “Deep cuts to public services do not work and work does not pay for too many people.”

A report from the UN Special Rapporteur condemned the UK’s record.

The dialogue was captured by the brilliant cartoonist Graham Ogilvie, while speakers included activists Patricia Bailey and Nikki Hewson, from ATD Fourth World, Misha Nayak-Oliver, from Just Fair, from RAPAR (Refugee and Asylum Participatory Action Research), and Kait Laughlin, an educator, researcher and anti-poverty campaigner.

“Fourteen million people live in poverty, one and a half million of them in destitution, four in ten children are poor, food banks proliferate, homelessness and rough sleeping are on the rise, life expectancy is falling for women born in deprived areas… And all of it despite historically high employment levels. The conclusion is both clear and bitter: Deep cuts to public services do not work and work does not pay for too many people.”

Philip Alston

We believe that there is no better way to champion social rights than to hand over a megaphone to the people most affected by inequality, public spending cuts and social exclusion.

The event is the first of a series.

Academics often argue in support of or against the alleged timelessness and universality of human rights. Meanwhile, community groups around the country show that the endurance of human rights depends on what we do with them closer to home in our local communities. Take, for example, York as a ‘Human Rights City’ or Brighton’s proposed ‘Homelessness Bill of Rights’. Both are key examples of localising the language of human rights to become meaningful and relevant.

Human rights can help raise people’s voices.

The experiences of these community groups contribute to connecting international human rights law with local activism in a way that reinforces both spheres, but puts the centre of gravity of human rights action and research at the local level. These cases encourage us to expand and develop a model of human rights advocacy from the ground up, reflecting lived experiences and amplifying local narratives to trigger hope and change.

The root causes of poverty must be addressed with human rights at the forefront.

This was the first of a series of events organised by Just Fair, Amnesty International UK, ATD Fourth World and the Human Rights Centre of the University of Essex to build bridges between people with lived and learned experiences of poverty in the UK.

These organisations are working in partnership with a diverse group of individuals and community-based grass-roots organisations tackling poverty, inequality with some using human rights in their work.

The next event will take place on 10 February and is open to all who would like to attend. As well as contacting the organisations directly, you can follow #RightsBridge on social media. It will be an opportunity to learn from local advocacy led by people with lived experience of poverty and other forms of disadvantage, including a campaign for the right to work in Belfast, for refugee rights in Manchester, the right to food in Wales, the socioeconomic duty in Teesside, and a regional effort to address the digital divide around the North East, among others.

WHO Marks One Year Since Declaring COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

By Andrea Vremis & Dan O. Eboka

 Saturday, 30 January marked one year since the World Health Organization declared that ‘the outbreak of COVID-19 constituted a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC)’. It wasn’t until two-months later that the term “pandemic” was used outright. Just this past week a record 100 million cases was reached worldwide.

Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director General of WHO, recalled that at the onset of the pandemic he addressed governments to heed the window of opportunity we had to prevent the widespread transmission of the virus. Clearly, some countries heeded his remark while others did not. Speaking at a press briefing on Friday, Tedros urged the world not to squander “another window of opportunity to curb the pandemic”. With more than 2.19 million people dead from the virus, Tedros warned against “vaccine nationalism” where “the richest nations hoard off available vaccines while the rest sit and wait.”  He remarked, “vaccine-nationalism might serve short-term political goals, but it’s ultimately short-sighted and self-defeating”. UN human rights experts also emphasised that tackling the pandemic individually is a path to further deaths, and “universal access to vaccines is essential for prevention and containment of COVID-19 around the world.”

Tedros concluded his speech advising government and industry leaders to work together to ensure that for the first 100 days of 2021, vaccination of health workers and older people is made a priority in all countries. He specifically promoted that governments share their excess doses with the WHO-organized COVAX vaccine cooperative, which distributes vaccines to poor nations. 2020 may go down in history as one of the worst years for human rights in world, let’s hope that 2021 could be the turning point, where governments acknowledge the central role for human rights in their policies, and unite in their efforts to compact the virus worldwide.

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