LGBT Equality in Africa: Somewhere Over the Rainbow?

LGBT Equality in Africa: Somewhere Over the Rainbow?

By Kristen Thompson, student at Columbia University “We are holy, angry people, and we are singing for our lives” What do you do when your government is trying to criminalize your identity?  For Nigerian LGBT rights activist Ifeanyi Orazulike, the answer is: fight back.  On Monday I joined Ifeanyi and other activists outside the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations to protest the anti-gay “Same-Gender Marriage Bill” passed by the Nigerian Senate, which currently awaits the approval or veto of President Goodluck Jonathan. But this bill is not really about marriage.  It broadly defines “same-sex marriage” as including all same-sex relationships, and charges people who “witness,” “aid” or “abet” such relationships with imprisonment for up to five years.  It's a modern day witch-hunt, which puts LGBT rights activists and HIV/AIDS service providers for the LGBT population, like Ifeanyi, in particular peril. This is insult on top of severe injury – today Nigerian same-sex relationships are punished with up to 14 years...
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Condoms as evidence: a discriminatory practice and contradictory policy in NYC

Condoms as evidence: a discriminatory practice and contradictory policy in NYC

By Erica Mac Donald, recent graduate from Columbia University Do you carry a condom with you? Is it in your pocket? Your purse? Your wallet? If you answered yes, you are at risk of being arrested for prostitution in the State of New York. Sounds odd doesn't it? While this is a bit of an oversimplification, it reflects what is at the heart of the policy that allows police to profile, target and arbitrarily arrest those who are suspected to be sex workers. As New York state law is currently written, police and prosecutors can use the fact that someone is carrying a condom to prove that they are guilty of a prostitution-related crime. This routine police and prosecutorial practice has significant negative implications in that it perpetuates discrimination against sex workers and contradicts public health efforts to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases. A discriminatory practice Clearly, condoms themselves are not illegal. However, profiling of sex workers based on their appearance, location, and...
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Field Notes: Lebanon’s Home of Hope

My experience filming for OCHA's Global Humanitarian Day Campaign By Dâna Barakat, student at Columbia University In an attempt to get some preliminary research done for my thesis, which looks at the challenges faced by street children in Lebanon, I decided to spend a few weeks there this past summer. As soon as I arrived, I read an email that was going to change my summer. It was from David, a Public Information Officer at the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), asking me if I was interested in producing a short film for their global humanitarian day campaign. I had met David only a day earlier, through a wonderful adjunct Professor at CU, and he decided to give me a shot at this great opportunity. OCHA was looking to showcase 5 humanitarian workers from around the world who are making a significant difference in their respective communities. After meeting with aid workers from orphanages and NGOs all over the country,...
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Realizing Shannen’s Dream: the fight for quality education for First Nations in Canada

Realizing Shannen’s Dream: the fight for quality education for First Nations in Canada

By Jillian Carson, Student at Columbia University Rights violations and struggles in developed countries are regularly overlooked as human rights issues. In Canada, human rights claims are consistently re-framed as purely political or constitutional in nature, denying the violation of rights at home that would be openly criticized abroad. In response to the growing influence of human rights abroad, First Nations youth in Canada are becoming increasingly aware of the language and mechanisms of the human rights system and how this international body of rights affects their lives at home. First Nations youth have been especially active in raising awareness about education rights and the rights of the child. In June of this year, young First Nations students, and non-Native Canadian youth from Quebec launched a report aimed at bringing attention to the lack of culturally based, equitable education for First Nations students in Canada. The report will be submitted to the Committee on the Rights of the Child along with Canada’s...
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Granito: How to Nail a Dictator

Granito: How to Nail a Dictator

An Interview with Filmmaker Pamela Yates By Jennifer Wilmore, student at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs  Pamela Yates is an American documentary filmmaker and co-founder of SkylightPictures, a company dedicated to creating films and digital media tools that advance awareness of human rights and the quest for justice.  In 1982, at the age of 24, she traveled to Guatemala to shoot footage of the hidden war unfolding there between the military government and guerrilla forces. While in Guatemala, Yates also witnessed the government’s genocidal campaign being carried out against the Mayan people mostly, in which at least 200,000 individuals were killed, “disappeared” or forced into exile.  Skylight Pictures used this footage to create a film called When the Mountains Tremble, which won the Special Jury Award at the 1984 Sundance Film Festival. Since then, Yates has created films on a variety of issues, including poverty and homelessness in the United States, terrorism, and the International Criminal Court. Her current Sundance offering, Granito: How To Nail a Dictator, takes viewers...
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