You Can’t Fail Gender: A Comment on the Trial of Caster Semenya.

By Patricia Palacios Zuloaga 

I love to watch Caster Semenya run. As an avid fan of athletics I appreciate her flawless style; how at 500 metres, when the rest of the athletes can no longer conceal the pain of the lactic acid burn, Semenya begins to glide past them all, shoulders back, head high, powering home. I feel the hairs on my arms and my neck stand to attention and a grin spreads across my face. But it would be untruthful of me to suggest that my enjoyment is purely a matter of technique; to watch Caster Semenya run is to experience a thrilling transgression of the rigid power structures that govern our experience of race and gender. That is why I have little doubt that the new rules on gender eligibility recently published by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) are nothing less than a targeted strike against Semenya herself.

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Issues that Malawi Human Rights Commission must consider in its national inquiry on LGBT Rights

By Alan Msosa

It has been reported  that this July the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) will conduct a survey to establish the views of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and  transgender (LGBT) Malawians. This survey follows an instruction by the Ministry of Justice, issued in November 2016, for MHRC to hold a national public inquiry to seek peoples’ views about homosexuality in order to inform the government’s decision  to decriminalise or not anti-gay laws. According to MHRC Chairperson, Justin Dzonzi, a report of the survey will be submitted to the Ministry of Justice by the end of October. In this article, I discuss the importance of the survey and propose how MHRC can use the national inquiry to bridge the gap between opposing views in the debate about homosexuality in Malawi.

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Bridging the gender digital divide from a human rights perspective

By Krisztina Huszti-Orban & Amy Dickens

This week, the United Nations Human Rights Council will discuss a report prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on ways to bridge the gender digital divide from a human rights perspective.

The Human Rights, Big Data, and Technology Project submitted information to the OHCHR outlining the conditions contributing to the development of the gender digital divide, its negative impact on women’s human rights, and how human rights can contribute to addressing this divide. This post summarises the key components of our submission, focusing on impediments to access and effective use of technology by women. Continue reading

Why Malawi is not (currently) repealing anti-gay laws

By Alan Msosa

In recent years growing global advocacy calling for the repeal of anti-gay laws has faced fierce resistance especially in Africa. Proponents argue that decriminalisation of same-sex acts is necessary to end discrimination and facilitate protection of LGBTIQ persons’ human rights.

Same-sex sexual acts are illegal in 74 countries globally, that is 39% of United Nations’ member states. 93% of Commonwealth citizens live in jurisdictions where same-sex acts are a criminal offence. In Africa, such acts are criminal in 34 states, or approximately 62% of African Union member states.

In Malawi, same sex acts are criminalised under sections 137A, 153, 156 of the penal code on unnatural offences, indecent practices between males, and indecent practices between women respectively. In addition, the Marriages, Divorce and Family Relations Act makes it illegal to claim a gender identity other than that assigned at birth. Continue reading

SOGI Mandate Passes Third Committee Hurdle

Co-authored by the following members of the Human Rights Centre, University of Essex: Munira Ali, Acting Project Officer; Lorna McGregor, Director; Daragh Murray, Blog Editor; Patricia Palacios Zuloaga, Director, Human Rights Centre Clinic; Sir Nigel Rodley, Chair; Clara Sandoval, Acting Director (2017); Ahmed Shaheed, Deputy Director.

Editors Note: This blog originally appeared on EJIL:Talk! This post also follows on from a previous post: ‘What is the Future of the SOGI Mandate and What Does it Mean for the UN Human Rights Council?’

On 21 November 2016, the Third Committee of the General Assembly (GA) voted to uphold the United Nations mandate of the Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in a very closely fought vote. The decision represents a major stepping stone for the promotion of LGBTI rights, and provides much-needed reassurance regarding the ability of the Human Rights Council (HRC) – and the broader UN machinery – to adequately combat international human rights challenges.

Two main points of contention emerged during discussions leading up to, and during the day of the vote: 1) whether there is a legal basis for the mandate (the substantive argument); and 2) whether the GA has the power to override decisions made by the HRC (the procedural argument). It was the latter argument that generated the most discussion, and will therefore be the main focus of this post.

This post will begin with an analysis of what exactly happened on the day of the vote, and will be followed by an exploration of the two main arguments. The post will end with a discussion on what this vote could mean both in the short-term and long-term. Continue reading

The Devil in the Detail: The debate on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity in Malawi

By Alan Msosa


The current debate on homosexuality in Malawi has exposed the government’s failure to come up with a position on whether LGBT people deserve genuine and effective human rights protection. As a result, Malawi is slowly losing gains achieved so far in its efforts to facilitate protection of LGBT rights. Unless the government comes up with a firm and consistent position, prospects for moving forward are under threat. Continue reading

The Aftermath of Charleston: the Confederate Flag and a Right to Being Dixie?

In their response to the utterly premediated and brutal murder of nine African-Americans at prayer in Charleston, South Carolina gun lobby spokesmen repeated the formulaic mantra that the best way to avoid such catastrophes is not to restrict homicidal racists’ legal right to bear arms, but to ensure that their victims have unrestricted access to guns also: the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, after all, had the temerity to ban guns amongst the congregation. The massacre of the nine Christians in Charleston will not, I fear, serve as the catalyst for establishing some form of sanity within US gun culture and the constitutional protection it enjoys. It has, however, provoked a surprising and potentially highly significant campaign, which is singling out the confederate flag as a symbol of racism and hatred. People from across different political, racial and social groupings are openly calling upon the removal of the flag from various public sites; from outside the state capitol building of South Carolina to car registration plates across several Southern states. Items bearing the flag’s distinctive image have even been removed from the shelves of large retailers.  The confederate flag is being culturally and politically re-branded. Not everyone thinks that this is a good thing. Some even argue that the campaign to render the flag socially and culturally taboo amounts to a violation of their rights.

By Dr. Andrew Fagan, University of Essex.

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How much protection do the new UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners offer LGBTI detainees?

By Eka Iakobishvili. Eka has worked as a human rights analyst and adviser for number of INGOS and IGOs, such as PRI, HRI, EHRN and UNODC. She was part of the Essex Expert Group meetings that worked on the SMRs in 2012-3, and was part of the NGO discussion at the 13th Crime Congress in Qatar, in April 2015. You can follow her on twitter: @Eka_ia

On 18-22 May, the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice will adopt new and updated UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMRs). The SMRs were endorsed at the 13th Crime Congress in Qatar last month and it is expected that the UN General Assembly will adopt the rules by the end of 2015. Continue reading

Abortion Rights in Turkey exist in theory, but in practice?

Living in a dystopia, real or surreal?

Some of you may have read the book called “When She Woke” by Hillary Jordan. For those who haven’t had a chance to read it, it is a feminist dystopia. It describes a very dark future for women: at a future time in America where abortion is illegal on the grounds of religion and male-dominated morals, women who have abortion are incarcerated in a special kind of prison. Red-pigmented ‘chromes’ are injected to turn them red as punishment. As part of the punishment and stigmatization, their red skin persists for a time after they are released from prison which makes them vulnerable and increases their suffering. The book narrates a surreal future for women. But apart from the red chrome dye, isn’t the surreal story narrated in the book familiar and real to many women around the world? Aren’t many women stigmatized just because they make decisions about their own body? Aren’t they forced into unsafe and illegal abortions due to strict moral and legal codes?

By Ozlem Hangul, MA Theory and Practice of Human Rights 2011-2012, Women’s Rights Consultant and Trainer. Linkedin- Ozlem Hangul

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