Blog: Gender Equality
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October 29, 2018
This month, the Musawah Movement for Equality in the Muslim Family submitted a thematic report to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Committee advocating for codification of family law provisions to protect the rights of Muslim women in Mauritius. International Human Rights Clinic students Samantha Lint JD’20 and Natalie McCauley JD’19 contributed to drafting the report and developing its legal recommendations, working in close collaboration with Mauritian attorney and family law expert, Narghis Bundhun.
As the report notes, a major cause of the lack of rights protection and inequality for Muslim women in Mauritius is the absence of a clear legal framework that protects rights in the context of religious marriages. The report highlights this legal ambiguity and key resulting inequalities that harm Muslim Mauritian women and in turn damage families, communities, and society as a whole. The report encourages the State of Mauritius to leverage its robust framework of diversity and inclusion to promote equality for Muslim women and take concrete steps to ensure all women in Mauritius enjoy full legal protection.
The report will be considered by the CEDAW Committee in its Constructive Dialogue with the Government of Mauritius. Today, Monday, October 29, the IHRC team has joined Musawah in Geneva, Switzerland, where the session and associated Committee briefings are now taking place. Tune in to the #CEDAW71 Constructive Dialogue starting tomorrow (10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. CET) and follow Musawah on Twitter for updates. Watch live at http://webtv.un.org/…/71st-session-committee-…/5723840293001.
February 21, 2018
Thursday, February 22, 2018
Russia’s “Gay Propaganda Law” and LGBTQ Rights
11:45 a.m.- 12:45 p.m.
Lunch will be served.
Please join us for a talk with Melissa Hooper, Director of Human Rights and Civil Society at Human Rights First, on Russia’s global efforts to promote “traditional values” that curtail the rights of LGBTQ people. This agenda is demonstrated in the “gay propaganda law” which penalizes those who share ideas about the equal value of same-sex relationships to children. In addition, Russia has advocated for U.N. resolutions, and supported legislatures in other countries to pass laws that favor “family values” over the human rights of LGBTQ, women, and others. This talk will also consider how U.S. actors are supporting Russia to advance these policies.
This event is co-sponsored by HLS Advocates for Human Rights, the Harvard Human Rights Journal, and HLS Lambda.
September 27, 2017
Thursday, September 28, 2017
“Rights, Action, and Accountability: Tackling Gender-Based Violence and HIV in Southern Africa”
A talk by Dean Peacock, Executive Director, Sonke Gender Justice
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Lunch will be served
Please join us for a talk by Dean Peacock, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Sonke Gender Justice, an award winning South African NGO working across Africa to prevent gender-based violence, reduce the spread and impact of HIV and AIDS, and promote human rights. Dean is a visiting scholar at the University of California, San Francisco Center for AIDS Prevention Studies and is an honorary senior lecturer at University of Cape Town’s School of Public Health. He is an internationally recognized expert on masculinities and serves on many advisory boards, including the Nobel Women’s Initiative Campaign to Stop Rape and Domestic Violence in Conflict, and was a member of the U.N. Secretary General’s Network of Men Leaders.
April 12, 2017
We’re very pleased to bring you two compelling events tomorrow, Thursday, April 13, 2017. Please see below.
“The treadmill to somewhere: The experience of a Judge at the European Court of Human Rights”
12:00- 1:00 p.m.
Lunch will be provided
Please join us for a talk by Prof. Dr. iur. Helen Keller, currently a judge of the European Court of Human Rights, who will reflect on the challenges and achievements of serving on the world’s most advanced – and overworked – international human rights court. Judge Keller is also a professor of law at the University of Zurich, a leading scholar of human rights law, and a former member of the UN Human Rights Committee.
“Private Revolutions: Young, Female, Egyptian”
5:00- 7:00 p.m.
Please join us for a screening of “Private Revolutions: Young, Female, Egyptian”, a documentary that chronicles over two years the lives of four young Egyptian women from various social backgrounds who are fighting for their rights and for change after the revolution. The director of the film, Alexandria Schneider, will join us afterwards for a discussion and Q & A.
The screening is the last in a film series presented by Islamic Legal Studies: Law and Social Change about women, rights, and activism in the Muslim world. HRP is co-sponsoring the series, which showcases films that highlight women’s struggles, conflicts, and triumphs across the region.
April 7, 2017
Because we believe that every month should include an International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating it again this month by sharing videos from last month’s official celebration at HLS. Either that, or we got caught up in other things around the Human Rights Program and neglected to post these videos in a timely manner.
If you visit our account on YouTube, you’ll find the following powerful testimonies offered by: Doris Rena-Landaveirde, union leader and member of the HLS custodial staff; our very own Susan Farbstein, Co-Director, International Human Rights Clinic; Aparna Gokhale, JD ’17; Radhika Chitkara, LLM ’17; . and Esme Caramello, Faculty Director, Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. Deborah Anker, Director, Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, also spoke but unfortunately we’re missing that video.
Thanks to the powerhouse women below- Yee Htun, Clinical Advocacy Fellow; Anna Crowe, Clinical Instructor; and Emily Nagisa Keehn, Assistant Director of the Academic Program- for organizing this event that drew more than 100 students, staff and faculty to Belinda Hall on March 8. Thanks also to the women who stood in front of that community and inspired and energized us with their words. And thanks finally to all the women we know- and the billions we do not- who have pushed for change, in whatever way they can, so that we are stronger and more secure and ready to push for MORE.
March 27, 2017
“What Islam, whose Islam?:
The struggle for women’s right to justice and equality in Muslim contexts”
A talk by Zainah Anwar, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Musawah
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Please join us for a talk by Zainah Anwar, of Musawah, who will speak on the challenges faced by women’s groups living in Muslim contexts and their struggle to reform laws and practices made in the name of Islam that discriminate against women. She will share the initiatives of activists and scholars who are engaged in the production of new feminist and rights-based knowledge in Islam, and their efforts at creating a public voice at the national and international levels, pushing for the possibility and necessity of reform to uphold the principles of equality and justice.
March 22, 2017
Tomorrow, March 23: A film screening and discussion of Palestinian women living under the occupation
March 23, 2017
Palestinian women living under the occupation
5:00- 7:00 p.m.
Please join us for a screening of “Speed Sisters,” followed by a panel on Palestinian women living under the occupation. This is part of an ongoing film series sponsored by Islamic Legal Studies: Law and Social Change on women, rights and activism in the Muslim world.
The Speed Sisters are the first all-woman race car driving team in the Middle East. Grabbing headlines and turning heads at improvised tracks across the West Bank, these five women have sped their way into the heart of the gritty, male-dominated Palestinian street car-racing scene. Independent, determined and always on the move, they have deftly charted their own course through the pressures of social expectations, family dynamics, community politics and an ongoing Israeli military occupation.
Following the screening, our panelists Zena Agha, Rana Wahbe, and Nour Soubani will take a closer look at the complexities and vulnerabilities of Palestinian women’s lives under the Israeli occupation, offering personal perspectives and first-hand accounts.
November 22, 2016
VIDEO: Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, speaks at joint conference on climate change displacement
We’re so pleased today to share coverage of our recent joint conference, “Climate Change Displacement: Finding Solutions to an Emerging Crisis,” which brought together experts from around the world to discuss the governance challenges that come with this critical issue. Thanks again to the Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic and the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic for partnering with us on this conference, which was comprised of closed meetings and two public events.
Below, you’ll find the video of the first event: a conversation between Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and current UN special envoy on El Niño and climate change, and Dean Martha Minow. Harvard Law School has posted a summary of that talk, along with some excerpts, on the home page.
The Harvard Gazette also went in-depth with one of the conference attendees, Robin Bronen, a human rights attorney, senior research scientist at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and co-founder and executive director of the Alaska Institute for Justice. Robin participated in the second public event, entitled “Addressing Climate Change Globally and Locally.” You’ll also find video of that event below.
Thanks to all of the conference participants, and to the many other scholars, advocates, and affected communities who are working so hard on this issue.
October 25, 2016
We’re very pleased to cross-post this piece by Emily Nagisa Keehn, Associate Director of HRP’s Academic Program, who argues in The Guardian that it’s vital the court of appeals uphold a ruling that makes South Africa’s gold mining industry accountable to women whose husbands died from silicosis. Emily co-authored the piece with her former colleague, Dean Peacock, Executive Director of Sonke Gender Justice in South Africa.
“Justice is long overdue for the widows of South African mineworkers”
For decades, women in rural South Africa have shouldered the burden of caring for mineworkers who return home with silicosis contracted in South Africa’s gold mines. These women do the back-breaking and emotionally taxing work of caring for men who are dying slow and painful deaths, their lungs irreparably scarred by the silica dust they breathe in underground.
Testimony from women in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province reveals the brutal toll silicosis has taken on families. “My husband was the sole breadwinner,” recalled one woman. “If we had money, he had sent it. During his last days, he lost his strength and his chest closed up. It was difficult for him to cover himself with blankets, so I would cover him up. He could not go outside to relieve himself, so he would do it right there in the bed. I would have to throw it away. On his last day his chest closed up completely. I am left with almost nothing.”
From village to village, such stories were a recurring refrain. “I used to carry [my husband] around,” said another woman. “I used to go from house to house asking for food, we had children going to school. At times I would get piece jobs so we could eat.”
Eventually, this woman’s husband became unable to breathe. He died before he could even get in a car to go to hospital.
These conditions are the predictable outcome of deliberate mining policies.
Starting in the 1880s, when gold was first discovered, gold mining houses colluded with British colonial governments to put in place a range of taxes and legislation that forced black men to leave their land to work in the mines.
Once there, these men were forced to do dangerous jobs. Their work exposed them to malnutrition, tuberculosis and dangerous levels of silica dust. Many developed silicosis, which scars the lungs, makes breathing difficult, increases vulnerability to tuberculosis and can ultimately cause asphyxiation.
Black women, on the other hand, were required to remain in rural areas, where they carried out the work of raising workers and, often, caring for them when they later returned home desperately ill.
This exploitation remained entrenched for most of the 20th century. The mining industry corrupted the medical examination boards ostensibly in charge of mineworkers’ health. The boards then underreported cases of silicosis, decreasing workers’ eligibility for compensation. Together with the apartheid government, the industry set up a distinct and difficult to use compensation scheme. One study by Deloitte found that less than 1.5% of claims had been paid out to eligible miners.
The consequences of this arrangement were predictable. A 2009 report revealed that almost all miners interviewed in the former republic of Transkei, the largest provider of mining labour, had symptoms of respiratory illness. None were formally employed. About 92% said they went without food or experienced hunger on a monthly basis.
South Africa’s post-apartheid constitution has allowed human rights lawyers and mineworkers to begin to hold mines accountable.
In 2011, South Africa’s constitutional court issued a landmark ruling allowing Thembekile Mankayi, who had contracted silicosis working underground, to sue AngloGold Ashanti for full loss of wages, damages and medical expenses, regardless of what was already available to him under the miner-specific compensation scheme.
Human rights lawyers subsequently petitioned the courts to allow a class action lawsuit; potentially, hundreds of thousands of miners would join together to sue for as much as 20-40bn rand (roughly £1.2bn-£2.3bn).
Two South African NGOs – the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), an Aids activist group, and Sonke Gender Justice, a gender equality organisation – applied to join the case as amici curiae (impartial advisers to the court), introducing evidence on the social costs of silicosis.
TAC drew attention to the relationship between silicosis and TB. Sonke offered evidence on the gendered impact of silicosis, particularly the financial, emotional and physical burden borne by women and girls who care for sick mineworkers when they return home, often foregoing their own income and education. The amici argued for the authorisation of the class action, and the transmission of claims to widows and dependents.
Despite opposition by the mining houses, the court admitted them as amici. Sonke’s affidavit on the gendered impact of silicosis was also admitted into the proceedings.
In May this year, the Johannesburg high court granted its historic ruling. It amended existing common law to allow general damages to be transmitted to the widows and dependents of miners who died in the early stages of litigation. Prior to this ruling, if plaintiffs died before pleadings had closed their claims would become void.
The ruling sets an important precedent that affirms women’s rights and the imperative to remedy the gendered harms imposed by the mining industry. The mining companies are appealing the decision, however.
As the case unfolds, it is critical to remember what is at stake. A century of damage caused by the South African gold mining industry requires remedy. The mining companies must pay long overdue compensation to the workers, widows, children, and communities they impoverished.
September 20, 2016
Posted by Cara Solomon
Now that we’re in the rhythm of the semester, it’s time to introduce some new faces in the International Human Rights Clinic. We’re thrilled to welcome five new clinical advocacy fellows, all accomplished lawyers with different expertise and experiences. They’re leading clinical projects this semester on a range of new topics, from human rights protection in investment treaties to armed conflict and the environment.
In alphabetical order, here they are:
Fola Adeleke is a South African-trained lawyer who specializes in international economic law and human rights, corporate transparency, open government and accountability within the extractives industry. This semester, his projects focus on human rights protection in investment treaties and reconfiguring the licensing process of mining to include more consultation with communities.
Rebecca Agule, an alumna of the Clinic, is an American lawyer who specializes in the impact of conflict and violence upon individuals, communities, and the environment. This semester, her project focuses on armed conflict and the environment, with a focus on victim assistance.
Juan Pablo Calderón-Meza, a former Visiting Fellow with the Human Rights Program, is a Colombian attorney whose practice specializes in international law and human rights advocacy and litigation. This semester, his project focuses on accountability for corporations and executives that facilitated human rights abuses and atrocity crimes.
Yee Htun is the Director of the Myanmar Program for Justice Trust, a legal non-profit that partners with lawyers and activists to strengthen communities fighting for justice and human rights. Born in Myanmar and trained as a lawyer in Canada, Yee specializes in gender justice and working on behalf of refugee and migrant communities. This semester, her project focuses on women advocates in Myanmar.
Salma Waheedi is an attorney who specializes in international human rights law, Islamic law, gender justice, family law, comparative constitutional law, and refugee and asylum law. Born in Bahrain and trained as a lawyer in the U.S., Salma currently holds a joint appointment with Harvard Law School’s Islamic Legal Studies Program, where she focuses on family relations in Islamic jurisprudence. This semester, her project focuses on gender justice under Islam.
We’re so pleased to have the fellows as part of our community this semester. Please swing by at some point to introduce yourself and say hello.
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