Blog: Gender Equality
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March 29, 2019
Posted by Thomas Becker JD'08, Julia Wenck JD'20, and Fabiola Alvelais JD'20
For women, Bolivia is a land of paradoxes. The Bolivian government has enacted some of the world’s most progressive legislation to advance women’s rights. It was one of the first countries to criminalize femicide − the killing of women because they are women – and maintains strict protocols to combat gender violence. Yet despite these efforts, violence against women remains a pervasive problem. Bolivia’s femicide rate is the second highest in South America and one of the highest in the world.
In April 2018, Mujeres Creando, a Bolivian feminist collective, asked the International Human Rights Clinic to examine femicide in Bolivia. Throughout this academic year, clinical students Fabiola Alvelais JD ’20, Isabel Pitaro JD ’20, and Julia Wenck JD ’20 have worked on this issue under the supervision of Clinical Instructor Thomas Becker JD ’08, conducting extensive desk research and traveling to Bolivia to interview families of femicide victims, activists, and government officials involved in the investigation and adjudication of femicide cases.
Last Friday, the Clinic released its report, “ ‘No Justice for Me’: Femicide and Impunity in Bolivia.” Becker and Alvelais presented the report at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés in La Paz. Family members of femicide victims, academics, and the former Human Rights Ombudsman of Bolivia (and current Chancellor of the University) participated in the presentation before an overflow crowd of roughly one thousand people.
“No Justice for Me” identifies three key areas that have hindered the government’s efforts to prevent femicide and hold perpetrators accountable: (1) investigative barriers, (2) judicial barriers, and (3) institutional discrimination. The report calls on actors in the Bolivian government and civil society to address these obstacles, adhere to the country’s own progressive legislation on femicide, and work together to address the pervasiveness of femicide and impunity in the country.
Helen Alvarez, whose daughter Andrea Aramayo was killed by her boyfriend in 2015, was interviewed for the report and remains concerned about the prevalence of femicide. “All women can be victims of femicide in Bolivia,” she noted. “Unfortunately, impunity sends a signal to men that they can get away with killing women.”
Though Alvarez recognizes that preventing femicide and holding perpetrators accountable will continue to be difficult, she is hopeful that the Clinic’s report can be a powerful tool in this struggle and ultimately bring her daughter’s case one step closer to justice.
The clinical team shared its report with the public, conducting dozens of radio, print, and television interviews. “I was genuinely moved by the widespread interest in battling femicide in Bolivia,” Alvelais reflected.
Becker and Alvelais also met with high level members of the Bolivian government, including the President of the Senate, the Vice-President of Congress, the President of the Justice Commission of Congress, and the Director General of the Plurinational Service for Women and Depatriarchalization, to discuss the report.
To Becker, these meetings signaled a sincere effort to confront the problem of femicide. “We had a unique opportunity to sit down with members of the government, who showed a genuine interest in collaborating to eradicate femicide in the country,” he explained. “We are optimistic about the possibilities for meaningful change.”
March 19, 2019
The International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School seeks an experienced practitioner for a consultancy to support an exciting new women’s leadership initiative. The purpose of this new initiative is to innovate and experiment with programming and training that: (1) better prepares women graduates of our Clinic to become successful leaders in human rights, thereby increasing the share of leadership positions in human rights that are occupied by women, and (2) better prepares all graduates of our Clinic to engage with tough questions and conversations around gender, equity, and leadership in the workplace.
Although the Clinic has historically worked on numerous women’s rights issues, we have not grappled with how to best develop our own students into leaders who can advance workplace equity and improve workplace culture. This initiative will examine the role of women as leaders in the human rights movement to date—both their successes and challenges—and will also seek to build students’ leadership skills, support the Clinic as an environment that nurtures women’s achievement, and engage human rights organizations and institutions to better enable women to fulfill their potential. Continue Reading…
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.
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