COVID-19 in Africa: Responses and Prospect for Recovery

COVID-19 in Africa: Responses and Prospect for Recovery

By Lindsey Alpaugh, staff writer, RightsViews, Human Rights MA student.  On Wednesday, January 27th, Columbia University held an event examining the impact of COVID-19 on the African continent. Panelists included Belinda Archibong, an Assistant Professor of Economics at Barnard College, Pedro Conceicao, the director of the Human Development Report Office and lead author of the Human Development Report, UNDP HDR office, and Dr. Wilmot James, Senior Research Scholar in the Institute for Social and Economic Research Policy. This event followed a series in the fall looking at COVID-19 in Latin America and was sponsored by the Economic and Political Development concentration at SIPA, the Institute for African Studies at Columbia University, Center for Development Economics and Policy, and SIPA Pan-African Network. African countries were able to have a significantly smaller first wave than predicted due to the dramatic measures that countries took to prevent the spread, such as closing schools and limiting travel. While this had a very successful impact on combatting the...
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Myanmar’s Coup: Unearthing its Constitutional Roots

Myanmar’s Coup: Unearthing its Constitutional Roots

By guest contributors Namrata Rawat* and Rishav Devrani.* February 1, 2021, the world witnessed Myanmar succumbing to a military coup after a 5-year run of a democratically elected government. The coup happened on account of alleged fraud in the 2020 elections wherein the National League for Democracy (NLD) Party, headed by Aung San Suu Kyi saw a landslide victory with 83% votes in its favour. Myanmar, currently under a year-long state of emergency, would be under military rule. The coup d’état has been condemned by countries and international organisations across the globe, who have called it a serious blow to democratic reforms. However, this state of events is not unprecedented, a similar narrative presided over the 1990 election as well. The imposed state of emergency is provided for under Section 417 of the Constitution of Myanmar. It becomes pertinent to discuss this as a military rule can have unavoidable violations of human rights across the country. In this article, the authors...
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Social Isolation or Social Death: How Covid-19 is  impacting LGBTQ+ Adolescent Mental Health

Social Isolation or Social Death: How Covid-19 is impacting LGBTQ+ Adolescent Mental Health

By Isidora Roskic, RightsViews staff writer and a graduate student in the human rights MA program. With a total of 28 million infected, the United States stands as having the highest number of total virus cases in the world. Among those impacted, Covid-19’s effects are felt most acutely by LGBTQ+ youth who are challenged with battling stressors unique to their marginalized identities and young age.  As the pandemic rapidly evolved, the country implemented several state-based health mandates that, among other things, required citizens to self-isolate and socially distance. To further minimize the spread of the virus, supplementary measures were put in place which included the closures of K-12 schools, universities, local businesses, recreational facilities, businesses, and even some public spaces. While the extent to which these actions take place can vary from state-to-state, even short-term closures can have significant negative impacts on the mental and physical wellbeing of adolescents. Above all, healthcare practitioners believe the switch from physical to digital education is particularly...
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Student Debt Forgiveness is a Human Rights Issue

Student Debt Forgiveness is a Human Rights Issue

By Noah Smith, RightsViews staff writer and a graduate student in the human rights MA program. Americans owe over $1.7 trillion in student loan debt and the Federal Reserve projects that 31% of all U.S. adults have student loans. House and Senate Democrats have frequently implored President Biden to forgive up to $50,000 of federal debt through an Executive Order, an action Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer has articulated Biden should take during his first 100 days in office. During a recent CNN town hall, an audience member asked President Biden what actions his administration will take to forgive up to $50,000. He quickly responded by stating “I will not make that happen.” President Biden has given several reasons for why he does not support large student debt forgiveness, namely, he believes such action would disproportionately benefit students who go to “elite” private colleges. “It depends on whether or not you go to a private university or public university,” he said...
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Understanding the LGBT Rights Movement in Indonesia

Understanding the LGBT Rights Movement in Indonesia

By guest contributors Harsh Mahaseth* and Ishita Goel*   Although homosexuality is legal in most parts of Indonesia, it is widely believed that the unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia is anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT), with government officials making the four-letter acronym a toxic symbol. In November, Indonesian police arrested Millen Cyrus, a trans-woman Instagram influencer, for alleged drug possession. Police placed her in a male detention cell at the Tanjung Priok Port Police Station, a move that received criticism from Indonesians and the international community. Millen Cyrus was arrested on November 22, 2020, after police raided her hotel room and discovered 0.36 grams of crystal methamphetamine in her possession. Police revealed later that Cyrus had been placed in a male detention cell because her I.D card identified her as a male. She was moved to a special cell following public outrage, not because police realised their mistake. They removed her from the male detention cell in order to “stifle anger,”...
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The State vs. The People: The Indian Government’s War Against Farmers and Dissent

The State vs. The People: The Indian Government’s War Against Farmers and Dissent

By guest contributors Saba Kohli Dave* and Namrata.*   In the wake of the historic farmer’s protests in India, on February 8th, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, hailing from the country’s contentious Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), compared protestors to parasites in Parliament. This politically motivated comparison comes as no surprise as there has been a steady state-led crackdown on those asserting civil rights and liberties through protest. However, the state made a miscalculation when it promulgated three agriculture-related ordinances in June 2020, which were passed in Parliament under controversial circumstances in September 2020. Since November, farmers across India have been the major voices of dissent, outraged at laws that were passed without their consultation. Why are the farmers protesting? The 3 farm laws were passed blurring legal and constitutional lines. The bills were arrived at without pre-legislative consultation, tabled without scrutiny, and passed through a dubious “voice vote.” They have been perceived by a majority of farmers as the government abrogating its...
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The Will To Work: Women’s Labor Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

The Will To Work: Women’s Labor Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

By Kelly Dudine, a staff writer at RightsViews and a graduate student in the Human Rights MA Program   Globally, girls and women are simultaneously among the most overworked and most impoverished populations. Entire economies thrive due to the unrecognized and undervalued labor of women, including household work, care work, and informal and low-wage labor.  During the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic, girls and women stand to lose even more. Women in varying levels of employment are now struggling to maintain dignified work, and many fear the loss of income more than the pandemic itself. “During the first lockdown, all the artisans were tense about not having enough orders to work and feared not getting paid,” said Rosna Kafle, Chair of the Kopila Valley Women’s Cooperative in Surkhet, Nepal.  The Cooperative employs some of the most vulnerable women in the community with work as tailors and weavers. Before the Cooperative, many of the artisans were unemployed, or performed hazardous work, like breaking stones or...
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NeuroRights: The Need for Human Rights Guidelines for Neurotechnology & AI

NeuroRights: The Need for Human Rights Guidelines for Neurotechnology & AI

By Noah Smith, RightsViews staff writer and a graduate student in the human rights MA program.   On January 29, the Institute for the Study of Human Rights hosted Rafael Yuste, Professor of Biological Sciences at Columbia University, to discuss the proposal from the Morningside group led by Yuste (Yuste et al., Nature 2017) to add new human rights articles to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) to protect mental privacy, personal identity, personal agency, equal access to cognitive augmentation, and protection from algorithmic biases. The event commenced with moderator Lara J. Nettelfield, Senior Lecturer, Institute for the Study of Human Rights, introducing Rafael Yuste who began his presentation by discussing the fundamental biology of the brain as well as why we must study neuroscience in relation to human rights. The brain, which is composed of roughly 100 billion neurons, is what generates all of our cognitive and mental abilities. If we understood how this organ worked, we would recognize the mind...
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President Biden’s Promise to End Gay Conversion Therapy

President Biden’s Promise to End Gay Conversion Therapy

By: Guest Contributor Isidora Roskic, MA candidate in the Human Rights Studies program at Columbia University.  With the 2020 election results finalized, the Biden-Harris administration could bring promising advancements for LGBTQ+ rights in the United States. While Trump’s Republican platform was once referred to as one of the “worst platforms in terms of LGBT issues,” President Biden’s policy proposals hold great prospect for real change. According to his Plan to Advance LGBTQ+ Equality in America and Around the World, banning so-called “conversion therapy” presently stands as one of the government’s top priorities. Gay conversion therapy (GCT), otherwise referred to as “reparative therapy,” is the pseudoscientific practice of attempting to alter one’s sexual orientation or gender identity through spiritual, psychological and/or physical intervention.  Experimental “treatments” include lobotomies, testicular tissue transplants, chemical castration, and aversive conditioning: application of electric shock to hands/genitals, and administration of nausea-inducing drugs during the presentation of homoerotic stimuli. Conversion therapy survivor, Sam Brinton, opened up about the horrors of undergoing...
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Then They Came for Me: A Call for Jewish Support of #BlackLivesMatter

Then They Came for Me: A Call for Jewish Support of #BlackLivesMatter

By Anna Miller, a staff writer at RightsViews and a graduate student in ISHR’s Human Rights MA Program. Note: this piece addresses antisemitism in the United States only, though it exists worldwide. As a Jewish person born and living in the United States, my knowledge is primarily based in this country.  The Jewish people are no stranger to hatred and violence. Jewish history is marked by thousands of years of antisemitism, centuries of forced diaspora, and a boiling point of bigotry that led to the Holocaust. Today, antisemitic hate crimes and speech have reached a new high in the United States. In 2019, the Anti-Defamation League reported 2,107 antisemitic incidents, the highest number on record since ADL began tracking such incidents in 1979 (ADL).  Due to their acute familiarity with discrimination and injustice, Jews tend to be active in social justice movements and speak up about human rights issues. Notably, Jews marched in civil rights protests in the 1960s and were vocal about...
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