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Trump, the Other, and Human Rights in Society

By Inga Winkler, a lecturer at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights

Without downplaying the potential impact of a Trump presidency on foreign policy, renewed acceptance of torture as well as the potential impact on climate change, I fear for society at large. A president-elect who ridicules and denigrates migrants, Muslims, Hispanics, women, persons with disabilities and others sets an example. He gives the impression that such behavior and such attitudes are acceptable. His remarks promote ideas of the superiority of some and inferiority of others, based on a socially constructed divide between “us” and “them”.

There is nothing new about racism, sexism and fear of the “other” in US society. It is deeply entrenched. What is new is that the man elected to the highest office institutionalizes and formalizes such attitudes. He legitimizes “othering” and stigmatization. One of the possible explanations for the misleading polls is that voters who declared they were undecided were in fact planning to vote for Trump. They might have felt it was socially unacceptable due to societal norms that condemn xenophobia and misogyny. That “discomfort” is now gone—xenophobia and misogyny have gained more formal and societal acceptance.

We already witness how these attitudes are being acted upon in anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic and racist assaults and attacks. Trump’s half-hearted attempt calling for a stop of such attacks means nothing when at the same time he appointed Steve Bannon, a white supremacist, as chief strategist in the White House.

International human rights law addresses the link between discrimination and prejudices, stereotyping and stigmatization. The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women calls for appropriate measures to “achiev[e] the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women.” The Convention against Racial Discrimination and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities contain similar provisions.

However, these norms do not get the necessary attention in the context of human rights advocacy. We need to devote much more attention to the role stigmatization and “othering” plays in perpetuating discrimination and human rights violations—not just in obvious ways but also in hidden and subtle prejudices. Human rights reach into society and even into the private sphere. Stigmatization and “othering” provide a rationale and antecedent to discrimination. They are often insidious and not directly visible, but they produce and perpetuate systemic inequalities. Human rights advocates and scholars have started to pay more attention to these processes, and this is now more urgent than ever.

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Young American Muslims protest outside of Trump Tower in New York City. Flickr/Joe Catron (Some rights reserved)

This needs to happen at all levels, from the inter-personal and local to the use of international mechanisms. To me, it is not about domestic vs. international mechanisms as debated between Hopgood and Sikkink, but about using all the tools we have depending on the context.

Human rights in the private sphere start by addressing racist and other degrading comments in our personal relationships, whether in face-to-face conversations or on social media. It starts by responding to harassment we witness in public spaces. It includes responding to media outlets that spread prejudices and stereotypes. In particular, we need to identify and point out how institutionalized, societal and “everyday” racism, misogyny, xenophobia and other forms of stigmatization reinforce each other. International human rights bodies can play an important role in this regard by making the above mentioned norms more concrete and applying them to particular situations. We need to acknowledge the new realities, but we must not accept them as the new normal.

We also need to realize that although the result of the election is new, the realities of many people who voted for Trump are not. The fact that hardly anyone of the liberal elite expected this result shows how deep the divide is. People who perceived voting for Donald Trump as the best choice, as a result—even if not voting for him because he is racist—are condoning his racism. At the same time, Trump voters—as everyone else—have multiple, intersecting identities that a party system with only two choices may fail to represent.

Racism—and condoning racism—is deeply deplorable. But dismissing an entire demographic as “deplorable”, or using deeply derogatory terms such as “white trash” or slightly more subtle terms pointing to the insignificance of vast regions such as “flyover country”, is also stigmatizing. Such behavior also fails to offer an alternative to the fear of the “other” and scapegoating. Acknowledging and addressing that white communities feel left behind, alienated and disaffected, and seeking to understand their motivations does not mean taking racism, xenophobia and misogyny any less seriously. It means that we leave our bubble and start working on addressing the causes that may lead people to vote for a populist. Above all, this must include policy responses that address very real inequalities and disadvantages. I agree with Moyn that human rights do not have all the answers for addressing inequalities. However, human rights understood in a comprehensive way that encompasses substantive equality and socioeconomic rights can go a long way in doing so.

At the same time, a focus on addressing economic inequalities falls too short. Commentators have suggested that middle and upper class white voters were significant in Trump’s election and that resistance to social and demographic change had a substantial influence on their votes. This makes resistance to any form of intolerance, stigmatization and hatred all the more important. When we can no longer count on the president of the United States to call out racism, sexism and other forms of hatred, it is upon all of us to do just this to a much larger extent. A “rape culture” on US college campuses is not acceptable despite the president-elect’s comments on sexual assault. Nor can we tolerate suspecting people of crimes because of their race or ethnicity. Racism and other forms of hatred against certain groups are violations of human rights in themselves, and lead to further human rights violations.

In a way, the fact that there is nothing subtle and invisible anymore about racism and sexism makes it easier to call it out. We must not be silent. We will not be silent.

Inga Winkler is a lecturer at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University.  Her research focuses on socio-economic rights, gender equality and inequalities. 

This piece was originally published on November 24th, 2016 in openGlobalRights

How International Media Outlets are Failing the Peace Movement in Israel and Palestine

By Rachel Riegelhaupt, a graduate student in human rights.

On Tuesday October 4th, the day after the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah, approximately 2,000 Israeli and Palestinian women set out on a 200 km peace march across the country, walking from Israel’s border with Lebanon to Jerusalem.

This March of Hope will officially culminate on Wednesday October 19th, and is being mirrored across the country with local rallies, treks, and cycle rides. Tens of thousands more women are expected to join the movement on the final day, marching from the Supreme Court, past the Knesset, and towards Prime Minister Netanyahu’s house where they have organized a rally demanding that “[Israeli and Palestinian] leaders work with respect and courage towards a solution to the ongoing violent conflict, with the full participation of women in this process.”

Women are at the forefront of the non-violent peace movement occurring in Jerusalem.

The march has been organized by Women Wage Peace, a non-partisan women’s movement founded by Jewish and Arab Israelis after the 2014 Israel-Gaza war, that promotes cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian women working together towards a peaceful solution to the conflict. Notably, Nobel-Peace-Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian peace activist who helped bring about an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003, has participated in the march and will be helping to organize the peace rally in Jerusalem.

Despite the fact that this is a non-violent march of historic proportions, with Israelis and Palestinians demanding peace side by side, there has been no mention of the March of Hope in any major international news outlet. In contrast, nearly every episode of violence that occurs within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems to warrant international attention. A sampling of last month’s recurring headlines speaks for itself:

 Israeli troops kill Palestinian who stabbed guard at West Bank checkpoint
“Israeli military says Palestinian teenager killed after trying to stab soldier

Israeli police stabbed amid fears of resurgence in Palestinian attacks

This is not the first time the media has been blind to a notable non-violent protest in the context of Israel-Palestine.  In 2004, the village of Budrus staged a ten-month non-violent protest against the construction of the West Bank security barrier through their village; as a result, the Israeli government decided that instead of cutting across Budrus and other Palestinian villages, the barrier would run along the Green Line (the 1967 armistice line separating Israel from the Occupied Palestinian Territories). Despite its successful outcome, that struggle failed to make headlines amongst most major international outlets.

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Flyer advertising the March of Hope.

Similarly, news sources such as the New York Times, the Guardian and BBC, rarely cover the non-violent protests that occur ever more frequently throughout the occupied territories. Notably, assemblies protesting the ongoing occupation  have been occurring every Friday in eight villages throughout the West Bank since 2010. However, Nabi Saleh, the village where this movement began, has since called an end to its own non-violent rallies due to the lack of substantial international attention and recurrent arrests.

Turning a blind eye to non-violent protests is not without implications. In her Ted Talk Pay Attention to Nonviolence, Julia Bacha explains that the impetus for both violent uprising and nonviolent social movements can be simplified to one common denominator: theatrics. Those who participate in both types of movements do so in order to bring attention to a cause, with the hope of evoking social change. By focusing on violent movements and ignoring non-violent ones, international media outlets implicitly affirm the effectiveness of violence as a strategy, while devaluing the successes of non-violent tactics. As Bacha explains, “If violent actors are the only ones getting front-page attention, it makes it hard for leaders to convince others that civil disobedience is a viable option to fight the occupation.” This situation, she explains, discourages those frustrated by the conflict from opting towards non-violent forms of protest, stagnating non-violent movements rendering them unlikely to grow.

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Israeli and Palestinian women march in support of a peaceful end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

By idolizing figures such as Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, the international community has demonstrated its support for non-violent tactics as laudable in a movement’s struggle for peace and independence. Indeed, a recent study by Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan investigated 323 political conflicts from 1900 to 2006 and found that “campaigns of nonviolent resistance were more than twice as effective as their violent counterparts” at achieving peaceful solutions to conflict. They also found that when nonviolent campaigns are successful, they typically lead to more peaceful and democratic societies.

In the immediate future of Israel-Palestine, conflict is unfortunately inevitable. What is not inevitable is the manner in which that conflict will be waged.

As such, failing to report on a non-violent protest involving thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women protesting the conflict for two weeks side by side has further ramifications than a negligible act of misreporting. As the March of Hope culminates in front of Netanyahu’s residence on Wednesday, media outlets should afford the protest the international attention it deserves, and play their pivotal role in supporting the growth of non-violent movements working towards peace and an end to occupation in Israel-Palestine.

Rachel Riegelhaupt is an M.A. candidate in Human Rights Studies at Columbia University. Her research focuses primarily on women in armed conflict, corporate responsibility in conflict zones, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Political Unrest in Brazil: Will Human Rights Policies Endure Mr. Temer’s Government Program?

By Luiz Henrique Reggi Pecora, an M.A. student in human rights

Primeiramente, fora Temer.
Firstly, down with Temer.

For Brazilians who do not recognize the legitimacy of Michel Temer’s government, this small phrase has gained the weight of a  motto. Michel Temer has assumed office since May, when the Brazilian Congress approved the impeachment process of former president Dilma Rousseff, implementing a governmental project bent towards the interests of conservative groups. More progressive sectors of society have reacted energetically, not only opposing his governmental project, but also criticizing the questionable conditions that led to the removal of Mrs. Rousseff from office – for many, the  impeachment is no more than an excuse for a coup.

Brazilians were creative while protesting during the Olympic games. This couple elaborated two independent signs for supporting national teams, that together say "Down with Temer".

Brazilians were creative while protesting during the Olympic games. This couple elaborated two independent signs for supporting national teams, that together say “Down with Temer”.

After long years of prosperity, how did Brazil come to this critical scenario? The deepening of the economic crisis, combined with the “Lava-Jato” Operation (a series of investigations conducted by the Brazilian Federal Police over a huge corruption scheme involving large Brazilian companies and high-level politicians), contributed to an increasingly pessimistic and rebellious spirit within Brazil. At the same time, opponents of Mrs. Rousseff, many of whom were investigated themselves by “Lava-Jato”, supported campaigns to remove her from office, arguing that she committed a crime of “fiscal irresponsibility” when adopting certain macroeconomic policies.

The subject is controversial. The same manoeuvres had been applied by previous presidents for several years, albeit involving smaller amounts. The crime itself has a broad definition, with strong disagreement between specialists regarding whether it qualifies as a crime at all, or if it is a crime severe enough to justify the Impeachment of a legitimately elected president.

Brazil’s recent  implementation of a conservative agenda raises concerns over the future of policies related to human rights, which are likely to suffer significantly in the coming years. Several federal programs involving socio-economic rights have seen their budgets radically reduced, if not completely eradicated, based on the argument of cutting expenses and reorganizing public administration to reach  fiscal balance. As of this week, a constitutional reform that freezes the budget for the health and educational systems for twenty years has just been approved, risking damage to the already weakened Brazilian public schools and Unified Health System. The national literacy program has already had its activities shut down, and federal universities (where half of the vacancies are reserved for the affirmative action program) will see a drop in investments by almost 50%. “Bolsa-família”, the world renowned redistributive program that provides minimum subsistence support for millions, will also suffer a change in registration requirements, obstructing access for the most vulnerable families.

More ominously, human rights policies as a whole, risk suffering a substantive depletion. Since Mr. Temer’s election,  the Secretariat for Human Rights has been  downgraded from Ministerial status to a subsection of the Ministry of Justice, losing its autonomous  budget and answering to a new Minister who is oriented towards very contentious public safety policies.

Mr. Temer organized a luxurious dinner with public spending to win support for the constitutional reform that was recently approved by the Congress.

Mr. Temer organized a luxurious dinner with public spending to win support for the constitutional reform that was recently approved by the Congress.

This systematic targeting of human rights policies has transpired in just the first four months of Mr. Temer holding office. The argument of fiscal balance, often used to justify the need for the measures taken against human rights oriented programs, reveals itself inconsistent as Mr. Temer has granted considerable concessions for public spending in other areas: generous salary readjustment of public servants, debt relief for federal states, and even extra expenditure for the Olympics. It is more likely that the change in policies directed for the fulfilling of socio-economic rights are an attempt to gain the approval of conservative sectors of society, who have been gaining more political influence in the past few years. Indeed, the Brazilian Congress currently has the largest amount of conservative members since the military coup in 1964.

If Mrs. Rousseff’s government was already criticized for not prioritizing human rights issues, the new agenda enforced by Mr. Temer completely neglects the state’s obligations towards rights that are not only entrenched in the human rights covenants ratified by Brazil, but also within the Brazilian Constitution itself. While his speeches advertise a conciliatory program for the country, his actual policies point to a consistent retrogression.  If Mr. Temer continues with this trend, human rights in Brazil will be once more left behind as a disposable facet of the state’s concerns.

Luiz Henrique Reggi Pecora is a graduate student at the Human Rights Studies M.A.’s program at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University. His research interests include indigenous rights, political activism in civil society, and migrant’s rights.

A Place for an Unexpected Guest at the Table of the UN Business and Human Rights Working Group

By Aleydis Nissen, guest blogger and PhD candidate at Cardiff University

“Savoir critiquer est bon, savoir créer est mieux.”
To know how to criticize is good, to know how to create is better.
(Henri Poincaré)

In May 2016, Hong Kong City University Professor Surya Deva took up his function in the United Nations Human Rights Council as the Asia-Pacific representative of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises. In this position, he contributes to the mandate of the Working Group in disseminating and implementing the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,  a United Nations-endorsed template organized around a three-pillar framework: the State’s duty to protect human rights, the responsibility of corporations to respect human rights, and access to remedy for those whose rights have been violated.

John Ruggie, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights and Transnational corporations and other business enterprises addresses 11th session of the Human Rights.

John Ruggie, the former UN representative on business and human rights

Deva’s appointment was not without controversy, according to the President of the Human Rights Council, Choi Kyonglim. Given Deva’s previous, highly critical stance on the Guiding Principles themselves, questions were raised concerning his ability – or willingness – to comply with the mandate of the Working Group. In 2013, John Ruggie, Harvard University professor and former Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General for Business and Human Rights, warned that Deva’s criticism could lead to adverse consequences for the perception and further uptake of the Guiding Principles and ‘undermine’ their normative legitimacy. Ruggie formulated these criticisms in response to the chapters that Deva and his co-editor David Bilchitz wrote in their book Human Rights Obligations of Business: Beyond the Corporate Responsibility to Respect? (2013).

Ruggie’s strong language can be understood in view of the role he himself has played in advancing the cause. The mastermind behind the Guiding Principles is widely recognized as a bridge builder, managing to find consensus between states in a debate that has been ongoing at the UN-level since the 1970s. However, the current global context in which corporations operate across borders is without precedent, and moving at a rapid pace. Therefore, this new reality urges a rethinking of global justice and its duty bearers.  

Deva’s critiques can be understood as the impatience of an academic scholar who wishes to move the debate forward. As the late international law professor Antonio Cassese helpfully argued, legal scholars should not ‘help to hamstring the reign of law’. On the contrary, they are required to move beyond and evolve strict legal frameworks, whenever they are confronted with glaring injustice. With this in mind, it should be applauded that Deva has attempted to advance the business and human rights debate. Amongst other points, Deva has rightly urged for more attention to judicial remedies, instead of those taking place outside the courts.  

Surya Deva and David Bilchitz book

Surya Deva co-edited the book Human Rights Obligations of Business: Beyond the Corporate Responsibility to Respect? (2013)

Yet, in his book Deva has also previously  called upon the Working Group to address the alleged ‘fundamental problems’ of the Guiding Principles. At least to some extent, this claim seems to be a case of prematurely throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The consensus that was accomplished by Ruggie can and should be used as a building block. It was never Ruggie’s aim to present the final word.  Ruggie himself claimed that his work was “the end of the beginning” and that it did not “foreclose any other promising longer term developments.” Now that this first consensus has been reached, it seems to be the right time to have an audacious mind like Deva’s contributing to the Working Group.  

In particular, Deva seems to be the right person to start where his predecessor Puvan Selvanathan left off. The previous Asia Pacific representative of the working group explained in his resignation letter that he shares in Deva’s impatience to move the debate forward. He frankly urged the UN to take action while claiming that companies are “machines designed to do only certain things and will always strive to do them as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible”. Five years ago, Selvanathan had referred to the Guiding Principles  as a credible and tangible opportunity for companies to contribute to an area “that has been seemingly confined to policy-makers and NGO’s.” The frustrations of his work with the Working Group significantly altered Selvanathan’s mindset. Nor does he appear to be alone – Margaret Jungk, the former representative of Western Europe, also identified similar struggles in her resignation letter.

In his mandate, Deva plans to prioritize the least developed pillar of the framework: access to remedy. He has proposed to develop model substantive and procedural laws that can be used to improve access to justice, with particular emphasis on strengthening extraterritorial remedies to guarantee access to justice.  He has also announced his intention to articulate a range of incentives and disincentives for companies, which could trigger positive engagement on the part of business actors.  Although he will undoubtedly experience that academic scholarship and global governance process move at different paces, Deva’s experience and critical mindset can make a difference in moving the needle forward.

Aleydis Nissen is a PhD candidate and tutor at Cardiff University. Prior to coming to Cardiff, she worked at Vlerick Business School. She completed a Masters degree in European, international and public law and two postgraduate degrees in International Research Journalism and Marketing Management at the University of Leuven (Belgium).

Turkey and the European Human Rights Regime: Is it right to derogate?

By Marina Kumskova, an MA student in Human Rights

Several human rights treaties allow for states to derogate from their obligations to protect certain rights. These adjustments can only take place temporarily, however, and in exceptional circumstances – i.e. in times of public emergency threatening the life of a nation. Yet, despite the professedly innocuous  intent of such systems, states of emergency have a dark history of being used in controversial ways to usher in tyrannical regimes, under the facade of confronting a threat to the existence of the nation.

Take the example of France. The perceived threat to the life of the nation from terrorist attacks, caused by people only loosely connected by an ideology, is  seemingly tremendous. However, France has proven that the introduction of emergency powers, which allow for the derogation of rights, also ushers in a temptation for misuse. France’s state of emergency last December was less than a month old when its emergency powers were used, not in the fight against suspected ISIS terrorists, but to place climate change protesters under house arrest during the Paris Climate Summit. Although the state did not hesitate to make the most of its extended powers against the protesters, it was still unable to prevent the Bastille Day attack in Nice a few months later. Given the events of the past few months, France’s state of emergency appears more effective in breaching its social contract, rather than in delivering a proportionate response to terrorist threats.

Citizens protesting against Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan // Al Jazeera

Following the recent failed coup in its territory, the Turkish government announced its intent to derogate from the European Convention on Human Rights as part of the country’s state of emergency. It is a State’s legal right to derogate from some obligations under the Convention in response to crises. However, Turkey’s response to the uprising requires further detailed investigation into what exactly constitutes a threat to the life of the nation.”

The Human Rights Council interprets derogation measures as measures that must be limited “to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation.” In other words, such measures need to be proportionate. The requirement of proportionality constitutes one of the substantive limits to emergency powers, requiring specific scrutiny and justification of each measure taken in response to an emergency, rather than an abstract assessment of the overall situation.

Is the response of Turkey to the failed coup proportionate? “The first state of emergency decree goes well beyond the legitimate aim of promoting accountability for the bloody July 15 coup attempt,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, Turkey director at Human Rights Watch. “It is an unvarnished move for an arbitrary, mass, and permanent purge of the civil service, prosecutors, and judges, and to close down private institutions and associations without evidence, justification, or due process.” As a result of the vague and open-ended wording of the original Turkish decree, roughly 18,000 people have been detained since July 16, and another 60,000 government workers have lost their jobs.

Much remains uncertain about the coup, allegedly organized by a community of people inspired by the US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen. However, the Turkish government’s response to the attempted coup can be used to target any adversary – perceived or real – beyond those in the Gülen movement. The striking non-proportionality of Turkey’s derogation has already further affected its foreign relations, complicated the fight against ISIS, and raised questions about whether the country is drifting towards a Putin-style government where power is concentrated in the hands of one person.

Turkish protestor // Petros Giannakouris

It cannot be left unsaid that Turkey, along with Russia, is one of the countries most frequently found by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to have violated the European Convention. Therefore, it is unclear why Turkey is keen to suspend the Convention now, given that its previous violations have been met with relative impunity. However, the suspension of the Convention by Turkey does not guarantee that the government will not be tried for human rights violations committed during times of emergency in the future. Anyone claiming to be the victim of a violation of the Convention by Turkey as a result of new measures adopted under the state of emergency will have the right to bring their case to the European Court of Human Rights. As Turkey has learned before through the ruling of a 1996 ECHR case, derogation  does not mean that the authorities have carte blanche to violate people’s’ rights without retribution..

The drafters of the international treaties intended to give states the flexibility to deal with particularly serious crisis situations while simultaneously imposing strict binds in order to prevent abuses. Resorting to extraordinary measures should always go hand in hand with strict limitations and international accountability.

Looking at the world today, it is clear that the declaration of the state of emergency has been used over and over to justify extreme “measures” such as interventions, occupations, civilian killings, and torture programs. On the other hand, it has barely proven its effectiveness in addressing crisis situations. The case of Turkey is another example of derogation used to strengthen authoritarian regimes and prioritize militarism at the expense of safeguarding human rights.

Marina Kumskova is a graduate student in Human Rights Studies at Columbia University and a research assistant at the Center for International Human Rights at John Jay College. In her research, she focuses on religious discrimination in the context of counter-terrorism policies.

Strasbourg delivers a blow to reproductive rights, women’s rights, and Roma rights in one go

By Judit Geller, Adam Weiss, and Bernard Rorke, guest bloggers from the European Roma Rights Centre

On June 9th 2015, the European Court of Human Rights declared an application submitted by the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) on behalf of a victim of forced sterilization inadmissible. The injustices visited upon the applicant from the moment of being sterilized in Hungary are disturbing – the legal reasoning behind the decision is deeply troubling for anyone interested in reproductive rights, anti-Roma discrimination, women’s rights, or the emerging legal field of intersectionality.

The facts (which can be found in an anonymised version of the application on the ERRC website) are as follows: On February 9th 2008, the applicant G.H. was admitted to the hospital, twenty-two weeks pregnant with twins and bleeding heavily. An urgent Caesarean section was ordered. The applicant signed a form consenting to this procedure. It was discovered that the foetuses were dead, and they were removed. During the operation, the applicant’s fallopian tubes were tied, and during her stay in the hospital, she was placed in a ward of the hospital occupied only by Roma patients (although not Roma herself, her husband was).

On the day of the applicant’s release, the hospital issued a medical discharge document which included a reference to the fact that the applicant had been sterilized. The document did not refer to her giving consent. It was only upon seeing this document after her release that the applicant first understood that she had been sterilized.

The courts in Hungary found that the hospital should have asked G.H. to sign a consent form, and that because they did not do so, she was to be compensated for those administrative oversights. But not too much: the two million Hungarian forints (about €6,000) she had been awarded were deemed excessive. On appeal, the Supreme Court slashed the amount in half, since according to the doctors, the applicant had consented to the sterilization, but the hospital had just forgotten to follow the formalities.

G.H.’s contrasting and more credible version of the story bears a striking resemblance to A.S. v. Hungary,  another case where a Romani woman was sterilized in a Hungarian hospital in 2001. Just as in the A.S. case, despite the doctor’s claims, it does not matter whether G.H. ‘consented’ in the middle of a traumatic medical emergency. Sterilization without fully informed consent is a serious human rights violation and an arbitrary interference with a woman’s bodily integrity, reproductive health, and right to family and private life. International bodies have already established this, including the Strasbourg Court itself. However, the intersectional discrimination has never been acknowledged: these women are targeted because they are female and Roma.

The European Court disposes of most inadmissible applications it receives by having them decided by a single judge and sending a short rejection letter without reasons. G.H. was given the less usual benefit of a reasoned inadmissibility decision from a seven-judge Chamber explaining why she lacked victim status. The Strasbourg Court found that the applicant “was in the position to take an informed decision,” had received compensation and an apology. In short, there was nothing left to complain about.  

The Chamber found that compensation received from the domestic courts deprived her of victim status:

  • To the extent that the applicant claims that the medical intervention, which was carried out with her consent but without a written procedure required by the domestic law, amounts to an infringement of her right to respect for private life under Article 8, the Court finds that the applicant can no longer claim to be a victim of a violation for the following reasons.
  • The Court notes that material compensation, in an amount of EUR 3,300, was awarded to the applicant for the grievance in question, that the courts recognised a breach of her rights, and that the hospital apologised for the procedural irregularity committed.
  • In these circumstances, the Court considers that an express acknowledgement of the violation of the applicant’s rights occurred and she received adequate redress.

It comes as no surprise that the Court, when faced with conflicting versions, opted for the domestic court’s preference for the defendant’s account. Subsidiarity dictates this kind of deference to national courts. But the Court went further: it put the hospital’s version of events into the applicant’s mouth. Bluntly ignoring G.H.’s own claim that she never asked to be sterilized, the Court summarised the application submitted by ERRC as follows:

“The applicant mentioned to her doctors that she thought it was reasonable to tie her Fallopian tubes in order to sterilise her. The doctors repeatedly asked her if that was indeed her desire and explained that this intervention could not be subsequently undone. The applicant answered in the affirmative, confirming that she wanted no more children. These statements were made to three doctors and a midwife.”

The core of the problem, though, is with the result the domestic courts and the Strasbourg Court drew from that version of the facts: if a woman gives some form of consent to sterilisation in the middle of a pregnancy-related medical emergency, her approval under duress somehow mitigates the human rights violation.

The International Federation of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians has said, in its own guidelines on the subject, that “No woman may be sterilised without her own, previously-given informed consent, with no coercion, pressure or undue inducement by healthcare providers or institutions”, and that “Sterilisation for prevention of future pregnancy is not an emergency procedure. It does not justify departure from the general principles of free and informed consent.”

The European Court normally awards tens of thousands of euros in cases of forced sterilization. The €3,000 G.H. received from the Hungarian courts was not just stingy – it was based on the conclusion that the applicant’s “consent” mitigated the damage. The Strasbourg inadmissibility decision finding that she was not a victim confirmed this approach. It is a procedural blow to reproductive rights, women’s rights, and Roma rights. A woman in the middle of a pregnancy-related medical emergency is vulnerable to serious abuse and irreparable harm.

It is no accident that so many Romani women are affected by forced sterilization: one of the most common racist stereotypes about Roma is that they have large families, and one of the most common racist beliefs is that they should not. The challenge for the future is to frame such cases in ways that force judges to address the discriminatory structures at play. The Court had an opportunity to examine these intersectional issues in a sophisticated way. Instead, they passed up on this opportunity, and chose instead to see it as a case of someone quibbling over money.

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is an international public interest law organization working to combat anti-Romani racism and human rights abuse of Roma through strategic litigation, research and policy development, advocacy and human rights education. You can read more of their writing here.

Kagame’s third term bid and the African Union’s silence

By Sylvester Uhaa, former Human Rights Advocate at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights, at Columbia University

____________________________________________

I read with concern a report regarding a referendum to amend Article 101 of the Rwandan Constitution to allow President Paul Kagame another seven year term. A few days ago, the Rwandan Senate voted to allow him a third term.

d4388b385c0844d39574a83eb34f9873_18Kagame ascended to power in 2003 and was re-elected in 2010. By 2017, he will have spent 14 years in power as President. With the referendum likely to be in his favour, his victory at the polls will allow him to be president for 21 years.

It was with great discomfort that I first heard about this on CCTV News last April, at the peak of the political turmoil in Burundi, following President Pierre Nkurunziza’s similar moves for a third term. Nkurunziza succeeded, but not without the bloodshed of thousands of people, with thousands more continuing flee the country for safety. As the crises heightened, the EU and Brussels have also asked their citizens to leave.

I am not from that region, and I do not happen to be an expert on Rwandan politics, but I am an African who is concerned about the spread of tenure elongation on the continent and its implications for peace, political stability, economic growth, the rule of law, and human rights.

Experience has shown that constitutional amendments for third term ambitions in Africa often trigger violence by opposition or other interest groups, either for the sake of protecting the constitution and the rule of law, or simply out of mistrust for the entire process. There is no guarantee that this will not happen in Rwanda, if not now, then later. The voices of the 10 individuals who opposed the referendum, out of the over 10 million who voted for it, according to the AFP report, could multiply into thousands and even millions of opposing voices and throw the country into chaos. For a country that is just beginning to heal from the wounds of the 1994 genocide, this would be catastrophic.

Most fundamentally, tenure elongation undermines the rule of law and citizens’ right to choose their leaders, which along with the freedoms of expression, religion and association, form the foundations of democracy.

1411335851SenatorsArticle 101 of the Rwandan Constitution sets the tenure of the president at two terms. Of course, constitutions are not written in stone, and a referendum is a legitimate and legal process by which to amend a constitution. However, the amendment of constitutions should not be solely in the interest of a single individual, as it would be in this instance. Africa needs leaders who uphold, defend and protect the rule of law and human rights, not those who bend, amend, manipulate, misinterpret, and violate human rights to suit their personal interests.

Another concern is the precedent this might set for the future. Are the Rwandan people really prepared, for the sake of one man they like, to risk coping with future presidents they may not like for 21 years or more? While this is too much of a risk in my opinion, the recent referendum seems to suggest that it is one Rwandans are willing to take.

How can anyone be sure that Kagame, unlike Oliver Twist, will not ask for a fourth term? Why did he not groom a successor, who would continue his policies and style of governance if he is doing this for the sake of the people, as he says? Even the idea of grooming a successor is not entirely democratic; the people must be allowed the right to choose freely those who will lead them. But it is a lesser evil compared to tenure elongation by the same individual.

I am also worried that Rwanda will add to the number of African nations who have yielded to the strong, autocratic and manipulative influence of rulers who will do anything to stay in power. This would increase the popularity of power elongation on the continent.

Kagame’s third term bid might rekindle ethnic tensions in a country that has not forgotten the horrors of the 1994 genocide. Obama’s words in Ethiopia in July may be instructive: “When a leader tries to change the rules in the middle of the game just to stay in office, it [the country] risks instability and strife, as we’ve seen in Burundi. And this is often just a first step down a perilous path.”

Paul Kagame

Under international law, the international community has the responsibility to protect (R2P) citizens of a State when that State fails to do so itself. This responsibility has three aspects – the responsibilities to prevent, to react, and to rebuild. The most important of these is the responsibility to prevent.

If world leaders are serious about the R2P doctrine, then this is the right time. A stitch in time saves nine!

I applaud the condemnation of the military coup by the African Union (AU) in Burkina Faso and the intervention to restore civilian rule in that country. But I fault the silence of the AU on the ‘civilian coup’ by President Pierre Nkurunziza in Burundi, and the coup currently being staged by President Kagame to overthrow both the rule of law, and the constitution  of Rwanda,  and the right of the Rwandan people to freely choose who will govern them.

The international community must apply every diplomatic and other means to stop Kagame from overthrowing the will and right of the people to freely choose their leaders. The Constitution of Rwanda sets the president’s tenure at two terms, and upholding this and the rule of law is the same as upholding the foundations of democracy.

 

Sylvester Uhaa is the Executive Director of CURE-Nigeria. He was a human rights advocate at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University in 2013 and is currently a Commonwealth Scholar in International Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford, UK.

A Review of The Act of Killing (2012): Trauma, Memory, and the Power of Filmmaking

By Daniel Golebiewski, graduate student of human rights at Columbia University

___________________________________________________________________________

On March 8, 2014, Columbia’s School of the Arts, in collaboration with the Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR), screened Joshua Oppenheimer’s 2012 documentary, The Act of Killing. This film was shortlisted for a 2014 Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary. On this evening, the audience had the chance to see the Director’s Cut and ask Oppenheimer questions regarding trauma, memory, and the power of filmmaking.

In 1965, Anwar Congo and Adi Zulkadry—Indonesian “gangsters” deriving their label from the English “free men” meaning to live on without punishment from the criminal justice system—accepted their role as leaders of the most well known killing squad in North Sumatra. In The Act of Killing, Oppenheimer invites these two gangsters and their comrades to reenact their assassinations of Chinese communists. They seem eager to create a film that uses humor and romance, as well as inspiration from their favorite movie genres like Westerns and musicals. In fact, they decide that they want to create more sadistic scenes than those that can be found in movies about Nazis, as well as more action scenes than those typical of James Bond films. Despite these disconnected intentions, the documentary effectively puts forth three important themes: the effects of trauma, the importance of memory, and the power of filmmaking.

Movie Poster

Movie Poster

Unlike his comrades, Anwar—the main executioner—fails to hide his pain. Although he dances the cha-cha, drinks alcohol, smokes marijuana, or dresses to impress, when it comes time for him to play a victim, he breaks down. He says that he feels what his victims must have felt and describes feeling as if he “were dead for a moment.” Although Oppenheimer points out that the victims’ torture was much worse because they knew that they were going die, Anwar tearfully says that he does not want the memories of what he did to come back to him. In fact, when he revisits the rooftop where he claims many of his killings took place, Anwar gags repeatedly and then asks himself, “Why did I have to kill them? I had to kill… My conscience told me that they had to be killed.” His memories continue to haunt him during a reenactment of a burning village.  Never expecting the scene would look so awful, he believes his victims have “curse[d] [him] for the rest of [his life],” meaning karma will come back to haunt him, whether during this lifetime or in his dreams. Anwar faces nightmares. He dreams about repeating his invented, simple method of wrapping a wire around his victim’s neck and pulling the wire from one end, suffocating the victim without a “bloody mess.” By using this method to kill almost 1,000 people, Anwar repeatedly dreams that he meets the ghosts of his victims face-to-face.

Oppenheimer wished to create a film that would force the Indonesian perpetrators to acknowledge that they killed thousands of communists, crimes for which they have not been held accountable. Thus, by allowing them to reenact their crimes in the manner and style in which they remember them, unlike a historical narrative, Oppenheimer tried to make “a documentary of imagination.” In other words, the film tries to blur the usual good vs. evil narrative often seen in this genre. As a result, the audience gets the chance to understand the perpetrators; in this case, Anwar is not solely a “killing machine” but has the capacity to repent for his past atrocities. Hence, the film argues that humans are complex and difficult to understand—Anwar appears proud to have been involved in events that have defined Indonesia but, at the same time, becomes ashamed when the victims’ families confront his actions. As Oppenheimer noted during the discussion, we all have a link to the perpetrators; in this case, when we buy products made from Indonesian palm oil, part of the cost goes to the Indonesian perpetrators, many having positions within the Indonesian government.

Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing attempts to bring the Indonesian genocide to light through the reenactments of the former anti-communist perpetrators. Although Anwar shows signs of trauma, he and the gangsters continue to live as “free men,” or as one of them says, a life of “relax and Rolex.” Moreover, these gangsters believe that although they strangled their victims with a wire, they “were allowed to do it” and “the proof is [they] murdered people and were never punished.” In fact, for the people killed, they say, “there’s nothing to be done about it” and the victims “have to accept it.” As a result, many “never felt guilty, never been depressed, never had nightmares.”

One can only hope that The Act of Killing influences the Indonesian government and the international community to hold these “free men,” “gangsters,” “perpetrators,” or whatever else they call themselves, accountable for war crimes.

Daniel Golebiewski is a graduate student at Columbia University where he is pursuing a Master of Arts in Human Rights Studies. His interests are transitional justice and memory through the arts.

 

 

Putin’s Calculus in Ukraine

By David L. Phillips, Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights, Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights

_____________________________________________________________________________

Crimea is more than a flash-point for conflict between Ukraine and Russia. War between Ukraine and Russia has potential regional and global implications. While supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty, the Obama administration must be careful not to escalate tensions. It may be possible, however, to change President Vladimir Putin’s calculus through a combination of carrots and sticks.

Events are fast-moving and volatile. On Friday, Russian Special Forces and helicopter gunships invaded Crimea. They closed the main airport and set-up check-points, seizing key buildings. On Saturday, the Russian Duma authorized the deployment of armed forces to Crimea, which has a majority ethnic Russian population. By Sunday, 6,000 Russian forces established complete control of Crimea.

Russia may escalate the conflict by deploying forces in the ethnic Russian belt between Donetsk and Khirkiv. Will Putin take steps to “liberate” other ethnic Russian territories in the so-called near abroad? Pro-Western countries in Baltic States, Georgia, and Moldova should beware.

Map of Ukraine from NBC News

Map of Ukraine from NBC News

Russia’s invasion of Crimea was no surprise. Moscow telegraphed its intentions, the same way it did before invading Georgia in 2008. When Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown, Russia launched military exercises on the Russia-Ukraine border, scrambled war planes, and put tens of thousands of troops on alert. Dmitry Medvedev warned that the turmoil in Ukraine “posed a real threat to our interests and to our citizens’ lives and health.”

Obama waited until after Russia’s invasion to warn of “costs.” Secretary John Kerry declared that Russia’s actions were “unacceptable.” U.S. protests were too non-descript, and too late. The time to warn Putin was before he deployed Special Forces.

Putin is in complete control of the situation. He delights in making a mockery of Obama’s righteous indignation, exposing the hypocrisy and weakness of the West. After Obama’s wobbly warning to Syria, Putin knows that Obama will never go to war over Ukraine.

At this stage, Obama must avoid overheated rhetoric. Idle threats serve no purpose. The United States should focus on keeping the conflict from escalating. Immediate measures are also needed to stabilize Ukraine.

When Kerry goes to Kiev on Tuesday, he should offer specific types of economic, security and political assistance. Even a token loan guarantee will demonstrate support for the interim government.

Huge sums will be needed to pull Ukraine’s economy from the brink. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) should intensify efforts to assemble a $20 billion rescue package. Details can be finalized after Ukraine’s new government is elected. Meanwhile, the IMF should work with the interim government to finalize loan terms, including structural adjustments, austerity spending, and reduced energy subsidies. Transparency and anti-corruption measures will be needed.

Ukraine also suffers a democracy deficit. Kerry can announce U.S. support for consolidating Ukraine’s democratic transition, which focuses on civil society not just state-building. Support for judicial and electoral reform is also a priority.

Assistance should not only target western Ukraine. Ethnic Russian regions in the east should also benefit.

The NATO-Ukraine Commission languished during Yanukovych’s administration. The North Atlantic Council (NAC) should accelerate Ukraine’s NATO membership by revitalizing its Membership Action Plan. Meanwhile, NATO can show solidarity by conducting joint military training exercises with Ukrainian armed forces; NATO can also extend its combat air patrol to Ukraine. NATO monitors could be sent to the Russia-Ukraine border. The U.S. can strengthen bilateral security cooperation by dispatching the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Kiev to review Ukraine’s military capacity in the context of U.S.-Ukraine National Defense Talks.

Trans-Atlantic cooperation is critical. The EU has given vague assurances. Brussels should be more specific about ways its European Neighborhood Policy can support Ukraine’s economic and political stabilization. It should affirm its commitment to an Association Agreement and establish visa liberalization for Ukrainians traveling to EU member states.

The West must establish clear red lines with Russia. A U.S. envoy should visit Moscow to:

  • Demand that Russian forces return to their bases in Crimea, abiding by current lease terms for the Naval Air Station in Sevastapol.
  • Emphasize that sending additional forces to Crimea or other parts of Ukraine would represent a serious escalation.
  • Warn against deploying new weapons systems in Crimea, including surface to air missiles.

The envoy should also warn Russia not to make the mistake of establishing diplomatic relations with Crimea. Russia signed “Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance Agreements” with Abkhazia and South Ossetia on September 17, 2008. The agreements violated cease-fire terms ending the Russia-Georgia war, perpetuating hostilities.

The Obama administration has suspended preparatory discussions for the G-8’s upcoming meeting in Russia. If Russia’s expands its aggression, can G-8 members attend the Sochi summit in June? Sending a signal is important, but so is maintaining channels of communication.

Obama has threatened economic isolation. The Magnitsky Act can be applied to hold individual Russian officials accountable through travel bans and freezing their assets. In addition, the Congress could pass legislation requiring an annual review of Russia’s Most Favored Nation trade status. Obama could suspend U.S.-Russia bilateral trade talks.

The EU can do its part by suspending negotiations with Russia on the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. It could revoke the visa facilitation regime for Russia. The EU can also impose sanctions on Russian businesses investing in Crimea.

A carrots and sticks strategy must include positive incentives.

Kiev should pledge not to use force against Crimea. It should avoid actions that Russia might use to justify its aggression.

The NAC should issue a statement that it will not take military action over Crimea.

The Ukrainian government should reiterate its commitment to the current lease allowing Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Sevastapol until 2042.

The Ukrainian parliament can strengthen the protection and promotion of minority rights. It can recommit to Crimea’s autonomy, identifying new ways to enhance local control over governance, economic affairs, natural resources, and cultural rights.

Under UN auspices, a Peace Implementation Council (PIC) could be established to build confidence between Russia and Ukraine, including Crimea. The PIC could include working groups on security and humanitarian issues, as well as an Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism to prevent disputes along the administrative boundary lines from escalating. A hot line connecting Russia and Ukrainian defense officials should be established.

The international community could broker a declaration on the non-use of force between Russia and Ukraine, with Crimean representatives as signatories. The declaration is not a treaty between sovereigns; therefore, it would not represent any recognition of Crimea.

Russia needs a face-saving way out of the current crisis. It is unlikely that Russia wants to annex Crimea. It has enough problems within its current borders. Besides, 12 percent of Crimeans are Muslim Tatars. They could radicalized and join forces with Muslims extremists in Dagestan and Chechnya.

Rather than push for elections on May 25, a slower timetable could take some stress out of Ukraine’s transition. Yanukovych, opposition leaders, and a Russian envoy signed an EU-mediated accord on February 21 calling for presidential elections by the end of 2014.

The Obama administration also needs a way out. It needs to defuse the conflict with Russia, and discourage Putin from aggressing elsewhere. America’s prestige is at stake. Recent events in Ukraine highlight America’s downward trajectory from the unipolar moment of the early 1990s.

It may appear that the West has few options, but it has many diplomatic tools at its disposal. If Russia is the problem, it must also be part of the solution.

David L. Phillips

David L. Phillips

 

Mr. Phillips is Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights. He is a former senior adviser and foreign affairs expert to the administrations of President Clinton, Bush and Obama.

This article originally appeared on The Huffington Post on March 3, 2014

 

The Super Bowl: What’s Trafficking Got To Do With It?

http://halftimechallenge.net/resources/for-individuals/#jp-carousel-159

By Caroline Miller, graduate student at Columbia University’s School of International and Political Affairs & Mailman School of Public Health

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Super Bowl Sunday is right around the corner. It’s time for the annual gathering of family and friends to eat large quantities of junk food, watch captivating television commercials, and cheer on the two best NFL teams as they face off.  So what does human trafficking have to do with this festive football day? It turns out that the Super Bowl has a dark side associated with a high prevalence of human trafficking activities.  And this year, it will be right in our backyard, across the river in East Rutherford, New Jersey (NJ).

With the influx of thousands of people to the host city, experts contend that the number of men looking to pay for sex surges and the immense crowds associated with the game make victims fall under the radar.[1]  Sex workers are brought in to meet the demand of fans willing to engage in the illegal behavior.  For example, 10,000 prostitutes were brought to the Miami area for the 2010 Super Bowl.[2]  Additionally, the labor trafficking industry brings in domestic workers to places such as nail salons.[3]  These patterns have led some to refer to the Super Bowl as a “hub”[4] for human trafficking. But is this the case?

Several prominent trafficking advocates challenge the connection between the Super Bowl and a higher prevalence of human trafficking.  They believe human trafficking is a broader issue that cannot be simplified into a Super Bowl storyline.  Bradley Myles, the CEO of the Polaris Project, a leading organization on the front lines of fighting trafficking globally and in the U.S., says that “there’s not an enormous amount of data that tells the story that there’s a giant spike in trafficking around the Super Bowl.”[5]  The national human trafficking hotline, supported by the Polaris Project, did not experience a significantly higher rate of calls during the past few Super Bowls.  Miles emphasizes that trafficking is an issue that plagues individuals every day of the year and encourages advocates to focus on the issue beyond the football weekend.  When the lights and cameras leave after the Super Bowl, the victims are left suffering without any greater chance of change in their lives.

Despite the questionable evidence concerning Super Bowl trafficking prevalence, state lawmakers have typically taken action to address trafficking in advance of hosting the game.  In the run up to the 2011 Dallas Super Bowl, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott stated that “the Super Bowl is the single largest trafficking incident in the U.S.”[6] and consequently launched undercover investigations in the region to detect trafficking rings.  Likewise, in Indiana in 2012, lawmakers passed tough trafficking legislation right before the Super Bowl that made it illegal for “anybody to arrange for a person to participate in any forced sexual act.”[7]  These stories capture the attention of the media and public year after year.

It is no surprise that we are now seeing a similar story unraveling in New Jersey for the 2014 Super Bowl.  The NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking is working in coordination with the N.J. Attorney General’s Office to mobilize the public.  Event and airport security, hotel managers, and local taxi drivers are being trained in advance on ways to detect and handle trafficking situations.  In 2013, N.J. passed new legislation making it one of the strongest states in the country in the fight against trafficking.  The new law increased the penalty for trafficking and established funds to train law enforcement and educate the community before the big event.[8]

http://halftimechallenge.net/resources/for-individuals/#jp-carousel-148

So, are the media and certain trafficking organizations propagating a virtuous or vicious cycle?  One the one hand, they are potentially doing more harm than good by focusing the public’s attention on combating human trafficking at one exclusive event instead of on more sustained efforts that will have long-term effects on at-risk populations.  They must be careful not to misrepresent the issue by conveying to the general public that the U.S. trafficking industry can be squashed through easy fixes, such as greater security measures at the annual Super Bowl game.

On the other hand, lawmakers and advocacy organizations repeatedly seem to be using the Super Bowl as a political window to enact tougher trafficking legislation.  The Super Bowl has proven to play a critical role in encouraging states to reflect inward on their own laws concerning trafficking and has given local trafficking advocates a platform to raise awareness in their communities.  The campaigns focused on the high prevalence of trafficking at the Super Bowl may simplify the complexities of the issue, but they also create a launching point for more sustainable change, through state legislation, community education initiatives, and greater public engagement.

Furthermore, many people associate trafficking as an international issue, but don’t realize that it is a human rights violation that permeates U.S. boundaries.  It is a “modern form of slavery”[9] that is often shielded from the public eye.  The U.S. ranks as the second highest country in the world for trafficking women, with an estimated 18,000 foreign nationals being trafficked into the country each year.  Additionally, 300,000 American-born children are at risk of sexual exploitation.[10]  The American public could benefit from a large dose of awareness initiatives on the prevalence of trafficking in this country.  The campaigns around the Super Bowl offer an opportunity to shine a light on the plight of trafficked victims in the U.S.

We can applaud N.J. for its efforts to engage the public.  Take a look at the Halftime Challenge led by the N.J. Coalition Against Human Trafficking.  It uses social media as a platform to spread the word about trafficking in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.

Perhaps, when you put out the chips and salsa and turn on the television on Super Bowl Sunday, consider tweeting about trafficking with #HalftimeChallenge or even printing out a flyer with trafficking statistics to share with your family and friends.

Caroline Miller is a first year graduate student pursuing a dual MPA-MPH at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs and Mailman School of Public Health.  Her interests include issues relating to gender equity, sexual and reproductive rights, gender-based violence, social justice and philanthropy.