Friday, August 30, 2013

How to end Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: a comparative study of arguments

by Delphine Patetif, Guest Blogger [1]

According to the UNICEF in its most recent report released in July 2013,[2] Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting[3] (“FGM/C”) can end in less than a generation. This practice has existed  for more than a thousand years, and is deeply entrenched  with social norms and religious beliefs. The West has been concerned for many decades with this harmful practice. Already in 1996, in an explosive social context regarding women’s liberation and post-colonialism, Yael Tamir defined western societies’ exaggerated focus on clitoridectomy as their fascination for sex, as well as evidence of hypocrisy within their political debate. Tamir objected to “the way a particular kind of argument has been used in recent debates on multiculturalism.”[4] Nussbaum, on the other hand, thinks that this focus is “not a fascination with sex but the relative tractability of FGM[5] as a practical problem, given that it is already widely resisted and indeed illegal.”[6]  However, Tamir goes further, and aims to “emphasize continuities between local and “alien” practices.”[7]  Contrary to Tamir, I do not think there is continuity between the two types of societies, but a complementarity. Even if I obviously agree with the elements exposed by Nussbaum and Tamir to condemn clitoridectomy, a terrible act that has to be eradicated, I affirm that each society builds its own history and legends, as transmitted according to the aforementioned history. Eventually, clitoridectomy is not a phenomenon which occurs in “their” country, but also in ours. It is then crucial to take into account those ethnocentrist elements before judging the practice. I will argue in this article that the universalism of human rights, which is a concept espoused by western societies, too often ignores the particularism of the facts to the detriment of the locals who need nothing beyond requisite information and education.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The guest worker H-2A visa program: a license for human trafficking and forced labor in the U.S. agricultural sector?

by Chayanich (Mint) Thamparipattra

Forced labor can happen anywhere in the world, independent of a country’s degree of economic development or the intentions of its government. Stories of forced labor by Burmese workers in the shrimping industry in Thailand and Thai farmworkers in the U.S. are not much different. Undocumented Burmese workers in the fishing industry in Thailand often found themselves working without pay for six months to pay off debts to brokers, facing physical abuse, and having their papers confiscated. Similarly, Thai workers in the Global Horizons human trafficking case mortgaged their lands or took out legal or illegal loans to pay recruiters who promised the American dream with three years’ legal work in the U.S. under the H-2A guest worker program. A worker who escaped from a plantation in Hawaii reported that he was confined in dilapidated housing, kept under 24-hour surveillance, restricted from any movement, and that his passport was confiscated. Unfortunately, this type of case is nothing new. It may be hard to believe that serious labor abuse still exists in the U.S., but a report by Farmworker Justice, No Way to Treat a Guest H-2A, reaffirms that trafficking in the form of forced labor and labor exploitation of U.S. guest workers are rampant. What is the H-2A program and why is labor abuse within this program so widespread?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The International Fertility Trade and Reproductive Tourism: When Old Treaties Meet New Technologies

Surrogates must stay in dormitories at some clinics.
Courtesy of BBC News
By Laura Notess

“Reproductive tourism,” the practice of traveling abroad to receive assisted reproductive technology, is a relatively recent phenomenon. Driven by the increasing availability of such technology and a desire for children of their own, couples around the world have turned to surrogacy and egg donation on an international scale. Yet the resultant fertility industry poses a number of challenging bioethical questions, several of which implicate potential rights violations that have so far received little discussion in the global human rights community.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Inter-American Commission Grants Precautionary Measures to Save the Life of Beatriz

Thanks to our colleagues at the O'Neill Institute for permitting us to cross-post this from their blog.

This post was written by Francisco J. Quintana (Legal Intern from Universidad Torcuato Di Tella), and Paula Avila Guillen (Institute Associate) of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law. Any questions or comments about this post can be directed to

Save Beatriz
“Beatriz”, a 22-year old woman, is pregnant with an anencephalic fetus. She has been diagnosed with several illnesses, including lupus and renal failure. Her anencephalic fetus will die almost immediately, likely in the first hours or days after the birth. Her pregnancy is threatening her life. Her family is extremely poor and her likelihood of survival diminishes with each day that passes. Yet, abortion is not an option for Beatriz.

Beatriz lives in El Salvador. As in most Latin American countries, El Salvador criminalizes abortion - meaning there is a total abortion ban, which does not contemplate any exception for the health or the life of a pregnant woman. The Huffington Post, quoting the New York Times, explains that “El Salvador has not only a total ban on abortion but also an active law-enforcement apparatus — the police, investigators, medical spies, forensic vagina inspectors and a special division of the prosecutor’s office responsible for Crimes Against Minors and Women, a unit charged with capturing, trying and incarcerating an unusual kind of criminal.” Thus, Beatriz may have to decide between saving her life or going to jail.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Morocco's Mistreatment of Prisoners and Unfair Trials

By Nicole Vander Meulen

Brahim Dahane, the president of the Sahrawi Association of Victims of Grave Human Rights Violations, describes his time in a Moroccan prison as hell.  He says that he “spent four years blindfolded and handcuffed, forced to stand all day against a wall” and was subjected to other degrading treatment by Moroccan officials. The conflict between the indigenous populations of Western Sahara and the Moroccan government raises many human rights concerns. Some of the most notable are Morocco’s imprisonment of Western Saharan activists, their treatment while in prison, and the questionable judicial processes used to convict them. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Modern slavery and corporate accountability for forced labor

by Madison Lichliter

A universal human right

Freedom is something that everyone hopes to achieve. But even in the 21st century, freedom has proven to be elusive for many as the number of human trafficking victims continues to increase. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 4 states that “no one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.” Despite the clear prohibition of slavery under international law, the International Labour Organization found that three out of every 1,000 people worldwide are engaged in forced labor today. It is clear that slavery still exists, and the epidemic is not solely attributable to third-world countries.

The prevalence of forced labor

Forced labor is one of the most pervasive forms of human trafficking across the world. Forced labor includes the recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining of humans, involved when a person uses force or physical threats, psychological coercion, abuse of the legal process, deception, or other coercive means to compel someone to work. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, forced labor accounts for 36% of the forms of exploitation of all detected victims of trafficking worldwide, a figure that has doubled over the past four years. From a domestic perspective, the U.S. Congress found that approximately 50,000 women and children are trafficked into the United States alone each year. Individuals, most commonly women and children, see the United States as an opportunity for a better life, and the promise of a job here provides an allure that is difficult to turn down, making them susceptible to unscrupulous traffickers. As the State Department TIP Report highlighted, for people desperate to obtain employment to provide for and support their families, a job can also come with extreme costs, sometime in the form of modern slavery.

Monday, April 22, 2013

God Save the Queen?

by Blake Hulnick

Wikimedia Commons
With a lengthy and bruising presidential campaign finally behind them, many Americans were probably surprised by the contrast they encountered opening the newspaper on January 10, 2013, to find reports that a Thai labor activist had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for insulting Thailand’s King.

The embattled activist, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, tried to challenge Thailand’s infamous lèse-majesté law in court, and it appears he failed, getting an additional year for libeling an army general. The activist was the publisher of a newspaper containing two allegedly defamatory articles, and his conviction followed another protestor’s sentencing weeks earlier for violating the same law; the sentencing of a 61-year old man, now dead, to 20 years imprisonment for sending text messages about the Thai royal family; and the imprisonment of an American citizen for translating an allegedly defamatory book about the Thai King.