International Human Rights News: Weekly Roundup

by Julia Kedziorek and Amita Dhiman

Each week students at the University of Essex Human Rights Centre prepare an overview of the past week’s human rights related news stories from around the world.  This summary contains news articles from 5th March to 11th March 2020.

This week’s stories in focus

International Women’s Day Protests around the world

Women took to the streets around the world on the 8th March to protest against inequality and gender violence…

Mexican women: “This is our feminist spring”

80,000 people took the streets of Mexico on 8th March, protesting against gender-based violence. Women went on strike for a day, across areas of both professional and domestic life, to highlight the impact of their absence. Mexico has the highest number of murders of women, averaging more than 10 a day,  320 in January 2020 alone.

The aim of the protests was to challenge the misogynistic view of women held in Mexico’s masculine culture. “Mexico is a country of rights, but only on paper” said  Ana Pe cova, Director of EQUIS Justice for Women.

Female protestors in Kyrgyzstan arrested

In Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, dozens of women were arrested for ‘public order offences’ as they protested against gender violence and inequality, while masked men attacked them, injuring some and tearing up their placards

 

Stop the executions of tortured detainees!

Death_penaltyBahrain
Human Rights Watch is calling for the Bahraini authorities to overturn the death sentences of two men who allege they were tortured during detention.  Their original convictions were reversed in Oct 2018 when evidence emerged to support their torture allegations but was reinstated by the High Court of Appeal in 2020.

Egypt
UN human rights experts have called for the release of 4 minors, among those facing death sentences in a mass trial in Egypt.   British MPs are urging the Foreign Secretary to intervene on human rights grounds, and Amnesty International’s MENA Research and Advocacy Director, Philip Luther said “The death penalty can never deliver justice” particularly when the defendants have alleged that they were subject to torture.

‘LGBT+ free zones’ in Poland 

LGBTFreezonesOver 100 municipalities in the south-east of Poland have declared themselves as “LGBT ideology free” zones.  There has been a rise of right-wing rhetoric from the ‘Law and Justice’ ruling party, declaring the LGBT community a threat to traditional Catholic based Polish morality.  The anti-LGBT movement’s aim is to stop the “rainbow plague” (a term coined by the Archbishop of Krakow), destroying the morality of Poland’s youth.  Although the zones have no basis in law, they are a clear example of encouraging discrimination.

Bart Staszewski (pictured), an LGBT activist and film-maker, has created “Military zone-do not enter”-style road signs as part of a project to highlight the discrimination.  Adam Bodnar, Poland’s independent Commissioner for Human Rights, stated the Government is increasingly homophobic in its sentiments and questioned the allocation of EU funds in areas that allow discrimination to flourish. The European Parliament adopted a convention condemning the so called  “LGBTI-free zones” in December 2019.

The abduction of the daughter of Dubai ruler from a UK street

Shamza_AlMaktoumThe lapsed investigation into the disappearance of Sheikha Shamsa, the daughter of the ruler of Dubai, from the streets of Cambridge 20 years ago is to be reviewed by police.   Human Rights Watch is pressing for the release of the ruler’s 2 daughters, who are said to be held captive in the UAE.  Shamsa was abducted in 2000 and her sister, Latifa, was kidnapped and forced back to Dubai, after fleeing on a boat to India in 2018.  Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum is the Emir of Dubai and the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates.  Sheikh Mohammed has strong ties with the UK, creating the largest horse racing team in the world and is a regular at Ascot, often photographed with the Queen.

 

Other stories making the news around the world

International

Africa

Europe

Latin America and the Caribbean

Middle East

North America

South and South-East Asia

West and Central Asia

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

Introduction

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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