By Guest Writer Avanti Deshpande
Free and fair elections underpinned by the universal adult franchise are undoubtedly the cornerstone of a democratic state in today’s standards. Yet, while most democratic countries acknowledge the importance of voting rights, voter suppression and voter disenfranchisement are not new problems and have long been plaguing democracies.
Indian law places a blanket ban on voting for all prisoners; i.e., not only convicts but under-trial prisoners whose innocence or guilt is yet to be proven conclusively in a court of law. With no exception, reasoning, or rationale being provided under law for denying prisoners the right to vote, this piece will attempt to critically engage with the issue of the disqualification of prisoners from voting in elections and argue that it is fundamentally unconstitutional and violative of the basic tenets of a democratic state.
Overview of the Present Legal Framework
The issue of the disenfranchisement of prisoners in India stems from Section 62(5) of the Representation of the People Act,...
By Co-Editor Jess Gallagher
“Nobody’s free until we are all free.”
These are the words of Lois Curtis, the woman whose case determined the most influential court decision for people with disabilities in history. Ms. Curtis served as one of the plaintiffs in the landmark Supreme Court case, Olmstead v. L.C. (1999), which established the right of people with disabilities to live in the least restrictive settings possible under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
As the Disability Community mourns the loss of one of the nation’s greatest advocates, we reflect on her efforts to achieve justice for all. Her work secured the right of millions of people with disabilities to live within their own communities and away from the forced institutionalization that she faced throughout her life.
Growing up in Atlanta, GA., Ms. Curtis was diagnosed with intellectual and developmental disabilities as a child and, due to a lack of support services for her family, she often wandered away from home. Missing person...
By Staff Writer Carina Goebelbecker
How can words, language, grammar, and narrative be used in the fight for social justice? The Columbia University Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities’ Language Pedagogy and Social Justice virtual event on May 11th explored the previous question. The roundtable discussion highlighted perspectives from language educators, featuring: moderator David Borgonjon (Public Humanities Fellow and PhD Candidate in EALAC, Columbia University) Maya Krinsky (Associate Director of Multilingual Education, Rhode Island School of Design), João Nemi Neto (Senior Lecturer in LAIC, Columbia University), Karim ElHaies (Worker-Owner, Algarabía Language Co-op), Aldo Ulisses Reséndiz Ramírez (Worker-Owner, Algarabía Language Co-op), and Pamela Rose (Mandarin Educator).
Each panel member reflected on their own teaching practice and how language pedagogy can be taught with a focus on social justice. Social justice themes and conversations are typically labeled as “advanced” in the language classroom. However, these topics are present within each unit of study, and denying this fact can perpetuate harm and...
By RightsViews Staff Writer Sydney Smith
On March 10 2022, SOGI rights researcher and activist Ajita Banerjie (she/they) spoke about the legacy of the landmark Supreme Court of India decision, Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India. On September 6, 2018, in a unanimous decision by the court, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (1860), which criminalized unnatural sex between two individuals, was considered unconstitutional on the grounds that it violated the rights to expression, equality, privacy, and human dignity.
Banerjie details three reasons why this judgment is unique. First, the judgement not only decriminalized same sex acts, but went above and beyond to recognize LGBTQIA+ members as equal rights-holding citizens who deserve a life free of persecution. Second, the judgment offered an expansive interpretation of the right to privacy. The court recognized Section 377’s unreasonable restriction on privacy and freedom of choice. Additionally, privacy was no longer only relevant in the private sphere; rather, the court recognized social privacy and...
By Noah Smith, RightsViews Co-Editor and a graduate student in the human rights MA program.
The opinions expressed in this article are Noah’s own and are not representative of the Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR) or Columbia University.
As of November 3, 2021, the Student Workers (SWC-UAW Local 2110) of Columbia University went on an indefinite strike, prolonged by the unwillingness of Columbia University’s administration to offer a fair contract to student workers. With the end of the John Deere strike earlier this week, the Columbia student workers strike is now the largest strike action in the country. The SWC-UAW Local 2110 has been legally recognized by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) since 2017, and there are over 3,000 members in the unit, making it one of the largest student worker unions in the country.
Columbia’s student workers are demanding a fair contract that includes a living wage, better healthcare, union recognition for all student workers, and protections from...
By RightsViews Staff Writer Carina Goebelbecker
Is it fake news, fact, or some form of the truth? Freedom of expression holds space for all these possibilities. The “Courts and Global Norms on Freedom of Expression” two-part conference programmed by Columbia Global Freedom of Expression illuminated all these possibilities and their implications within a larger national and international setting. The streamed session on Thursday October 21st explored the cultural context of freedom of expression and how norms intersect with policy, practices, and beliefs.
Columbia Global Freedom of Expression was founded in 2014 with the intention of connecting international professionals and activists with their communities and networks of support. The goals of the conference were for the speakers to share their experiences with courts to the public and to promote dialogue. Columbia University President and Founder of the Columbia Global Freedom of Expression Lee C. Bollinger delivered the opening remarks, noting how global norms of freedom of expression have been established and continue to...
By: Carina Goebelbecker, staff writer.
How can we put “care” back into health care? This was the central question posed by the “A Person-Centered and Compassionate Health Care System” zoom webinar on Friday, October 15th at 8:30am EST, organized by the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health as a part of their Centennial programming. Current Yusef Hamied Fellow Dr. Vikram Patel used personal experience, research on class division within the system, and medical data to highlight the ways in which India’s healthcare system is failing its people while proposing concrete solutions for a promising way forward.
Dr. Patel began the lecture with a story about his mother, who experienced intense mistreatment within India’s health care system over the course of more than fifty years until her death. Patel stated that through his mother’s encounters, he never came across “a physician who actually saw [his] mother as a person,” but rather viewed her as just a diagnosis. This lack of visibility is a...
By: Lindsey Alpaugh, staff writer.
On Tuesday, October 12th, the Historical Dialogues, Justice, and Memory Network Seminar Series hosted a discussion via Zoom, “Trends in Political Apologies Across the World: Insights From the Political Apologies Database,” featuring Dr. Juliette Schaafsma and Ph.D. Candidate Marieke Zoodsma from Tilburg University. Dr. Schaafsma and Zoodsma spoke about the nature of political apologies, as well as their recently launched resource, the Political Apologies Database. The database is part of a larger project the scholars are conducting, funded by the European Research Center, looking into the key questions surrounding political apologies.
The researchers began their lecture by outlining the larger discussion around political apologies. As states offer, or are asked to offer, political apologies for human rights violations, they may face skepticism or criticism for their motivations. Questions of sincerity, and how this apology might relate to norms of governance emerge for both those affected by the human rights violations, as well as the public at large....
By Anna Miller, RightsViews co-editor and graduate student in the human rights M.A. program.
This spring, the Institute for the Study of Human Rights had the opportunity to connect with a graduate of the program who has endeavored on a remarkable career. Read on to learn more about international professional Bárbara Matias, and her career that spans across countries, cultures, and job sectors.
Please introduce yourself, your relation to Columbia University, and ISHR.
My name is Bárbara Matias, I am a professional in the field of international affairs who identifies as both a citizen of Portugal and of the European Union on top of a global human rights advocate, and I am a proud Columbia University alum.
I moved to New York in 2016 to undertake a graduate degree in Human Rights Studies at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR), as a Fulbright Scholar. Throughout my Master’s degree I was a Teaching Assistant for the undergraduate Introduction to Human Rights...
By Larissa Peltola, Editor, RightsViews.
The Armenian Genocide, which took place 106 years ago, today, claimed the lives of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians. While people around the world are now more aware of what occurred in 1915, following a global push for recognition of the genocide, few are aware of the lasting implications of the genocide which have carried on to this day. HRSMA alumna Anoush Baghdassarian (‘19) and Pomona College graduate Ani Schug (‘17) have undertaken the important and necessary work of collecting the oral histories of Syrian-Armenian refugees - the descendants of genocide survivors - to keep the memories of those who have perished alive.
What was the Armenian Genocide?
Raphael Lemkin, the Polish-Jewish lawyer who coined the term genocide, was moved to do so after hearing about the systematic annihilation of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915. Before WWI, Armenians - in what is now Turkey - totaled over two million. But by 1922, there were fewer than...