Gender and Human rights


                             Photo by :   Sandy Millar (Unsplash)


The pandemic of inequality

What do inequalities, Covid-19, and human rights have to do with each other?

Latin America is the most unequal region in the world, and it is also, as of September 2020, the one that has the most Covid-19 victims. What do inequalities, Covid-19, and human rights have to do with each other? Persistent inequalities explain why the virus and the recession are affecting disadvantaged groups. At the same time, we are discouraged from aspiring to return to the pre-Covid-19 state. This article presents the main arguments of the collective book on Covid-19 and human rights that, prefaced by Michelle Bachelet, has just been published in Argentina.

The disease, measures to contain it, and its social and economic effects impact lower-income people or those in other vulnerable groups at a higher rate and exposes them to multi-faceted and intersectional discrimination. The poor are infected and die more from Covid-19 and have fewer resources to deal with the economic recession in Latin America, which is estimated to have thirty million more poor people by the end of 2020. And if they are women, migrants, refugees, people with disabilities, people in confinement contexts, adults and older adults, children or adolescents, or belong to a racial, ethnic, religious, linguistic, or sexual minority, the impact on their shoulders is multiplied. 

But it is not the virus that discriminates, but the people and the social and economic infrastructure that favors some (few) people over others (many). The withdrawal of States in areas that are deeply sensitive to human rights—such as housing, health and education—an economic-legal system that legitimizes the concentration of capital to the point of paroxysm; a labor market that institutionalizes exploitation; the increasing protection of monopolistic patents; the naturalization of regressive fiscal policies; as well as the commodification of economic and social rights explain a scenario in which inequalities and consequent poverty are associated with both higher levels of contagion and lethality of Covid-19, in addition to the violation of social and economic rights.


The disease, measures to contain it, and its social and economic effects impact lower-income people or those in other vulnerable groups at a higher rate and exposes them to multi-faceted and intersectional discrimination. 


Consider, for example, the feasibility of the sanitary recommendation to wash hands regularly and stay at home for a large part of the population that does not have access to safe drinking water or adequate housing. Or that essential purchases are made online when a high percentage of the population does not have access to a credit card, or to not travel by public transport when private transportation options are not available. Or that schooling continues by digital means, when a high percentage of the population has extremely limited access to the internet. 

Thus, it should not be surprising that the notion of strategic sovereignty is emerging, which now focuses on the responsibility and power of national states to effectively protect the health of the population and guarantee the provision of essential goods and services and with it, social reproduction. It would be an economic model focused on people's needs and human rights rather than on the expansion of capital. This notion of strategic sovereignty challenges some pacts forged during hyperglobalization, such as the unlimited flow of international trade;, the protection of foreign investment; the free movement of people around the world; the inviolability of intellectual patents; the deregulation of financial capital; the financialization of virtually all aspects of life, labor flexibility; the minimization of social protection systems; short-term fiscal discipline; and the commodification of essential public services such as health. Reversing these trends does not seem to be bad news for human rights. 

Indeed, as Ignacio Ramonet warns, the screams of agony of the thousands of sick people who die from not having beds in intensive care units will long condemn fans of privatizations, cuts, and austerity policies. WHO has already identified each of the low-income countries that followed the IMF's recommendation over the past three years to cut or freeze public employment as countries experiencing critical deficits in health workers.

Whether the new normal is an oxymoron that will continue to benefit elites or if it instead involves a true transformative agenda depends on all of us. It is something that is built day-by-day, first of all, from the confrontation of ideas. We cannot overestimate the significance of imagining a transformative agenda and putting into words a human rights perspective to confront the pandemic. Indeed, when we note  that countries with similar GDP have very different results in the protection of the rights to life and health, it is obvious that, in addition to having resources, States need to deploy "good governance", in which the notion of human rights must be a central part.


Whether the new normal is an oxymoron that will continue to benefit elites or if it instead involves a true transformative agenda depends on all of us.


In order to weigh the costs and benefits of protecting and promoting human rights, we must be concrete and articulate. This is evident when we study the impact of health policies on human rights beyond life and physical health. In the face of the medical paradigm – which favors the biological aspects and survival of people – as a legitimate discourse that influences regulations, practice models, and social representations, another more holistic one emerges. To what extent is it legitimate to forsake freedoms on the altar of a strictly sanitarist vision? International human rights law provides precise guidelines for answering this fundamental question, and this is one of the central points addressed in the new book Covid-19 and human rights: The pandemic of inequality.

The large economic slowdown, which has exacerbated the economic challenges that several countries in Latin America were already facing in February 2020, has led to an increase in poverty and a decline in economic and social rights. In this context, only elites are capable of resilience in the face of sudden macroeconomic changes. Again we see that, beyond the urgent actions that should be taken to serve the population most affected by the crisis, a transformative agenda needs to be on the discussion table. 

Human rights have a scientific, legal, and political purpose. They can shed light on the intricate economic, financial, social, and legal processes that perpetuate inequalities.  It is true that the effectiveness of human rights is limited. The levels of poverty and inequalities that exist in the world, and the presidents who suggest taking toxic substances to combat Covid-19 or who recommend not using face masks, without entailing any legal consequences, give us an indication of the impact of human rights in the real world. But this should not lead us to abandon the cause of human rights, but precisely to strengthen its system of protection which, to a large extent, requires reforming the foundations of the prevailing economic system. To this end, it is essential to investigate, report, and denounce the relationships between the pandemic, inequalities, and human rights.


Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky is the coordinator of the postgraduate course "Human rights and public policies in times of Covid-19" at the National University of Río Negro, Argentina. Between 2014 and 2020 he was an independent expert on debt and human rights at the UN.


By                            :                    Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky

Date                         :                    November 6, 2020

Source                     :                    OpenGlobalRights


How high school sports became the latest battleground over transgender rights

This year, 20 states proposed to ban transgender girls – meaning those assigned male at birth but who live and identify as girls – from competing on girls interscholastic sports teams.

The only bill to pass was in Idaho. That law bars transgender athletes from participating in high school and college sports. It also authorizes “sex testing” of athletes through genital exams and genetic and hormone testing.

The ACLU is challenging the law, arguing that it violates civil rights, and a federal court has delayed its implementation. On Dec. 21, over 60 women’s and LGBTQ rights groups and nearly 200 women athletes, including Billie Jean King, Megan Rapinoe and Candace Parker, filed legal briefs contesting the Idaho law and supporting the full inclusion of transgender athletes.

The right of girls and women to compete on sports teams has endured 50 years of policy debate. With more young people now identifying as transgender, whether transgender girls can compete on girls high school teams has risen to the forefront of these discussions.

My research helps explain why sports is a key venue for disputes over transgender equality today. The expansion of competitive sports for girls and women – both internationally and in the U.S. – has heightened scrutiny of who “belongs” on girls and women’s teams.


A patchwork of rules

Whether transgender youth can participate in athletics currently depends on where they live.

Some states, like Minnesota and Massachusetts, allow transgender athletes to compete on the teams that comport with their identity, regardless of medical interventions. Others, like Illinois and Virginia, require a documented medical transition, including disclosure of hormone therapies. In states such as Georgia and New Mexico, athletic eligibility is determined only by the sex designated on a student’s birth certificate. Still others, like Pennsylvania, let local schools decide. Ten states offer no statewide guidance for incorporating transgender athletes.

These eligibility rules are typically determined by state athletic associations, not state legislatures. However the recent spate of legislation suggests this could change.


Title IX and same-sex sports

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal law that bans sex discrimination at all levels of education. Every U.S. school must comply with the mandate.

Title IX has dramatically increased women’s access to college education, graduate schools and athletics. Today, 43% of high school athletes are girls, as compared with 7% in 1971, the year before the bill became law.

After Title IX passed, policymakers had to decide how to increase women’s access to school-sponsored sports.

The National Organization for Women and other pro-integration activists argued that coed teams would ultimately help secure women’s equal status and visibility as athletes. At the same time, they worried immediate sex integration might disadvantage women, given the previous lack of training, coaching and athletic competition for girls and women. So, starting in 1979, policymakers required schools to expand access by creating new teams specifically for women and girls.

Since then, women have rarely competed on men’s college or high school sports teams. Likewise, in 13 cases between 1971 and 2006, the U.S. courts ruled against cisgender boys and men – those assigned male at birth and who live as boys and men – who wanted to play on teams for girls and women. Research shows that the legal reasoning in these cases advances the dubious notion that girls are inherently inferior athletes.

Despite controversy around sex-segregated teams, they remain the norm for athletic competition in the U.S.

Currently, transgender athletes are underrepresented at the high school level. One report from the Human Rights Campaign found that only 12% of transgender girls participate in organized sports, compared with 68% of young people overall.

Among the reasons for this is the lack of clarity in equity policy. Court cases establish that public schools must affirm the gender of all students and protect them against exclusion under Title IX. However, the rights of transgender athletes to access high school sports teams are not specifically addressed in federal athletic policy guidelines.


Transgender visibility and backlash

Over the past three decades, the movement for transgender rights has made many legislative and social gains. These include increased public recognition, legal victories and some state-level protections against discrimination at school.

But increased visibility for transgender people has also produced legislative backlash on issues like access to public restrooms.

These “bathroom bills” – which included attempts to deny transgender students access to sex-segregated bathrooms at school – provided a blueprint for current legislative proposals barring transgender athletes. They were premised on the idea that transgender people should not have the right to use sex-segregated spaces, like public restrooms and locker rooms, that align with their gender identity.

Recent legislative proposals suggest that such bans should also apply to high school sports competition.


International sports and sex testing

Ongoing disputes in the international sporting environment are also relevant to the broader debate about who “belongs” in women’s sports.

The case of South African Olympic track star Caster Semenya drew significant attention to this question. Semenya is a cisgender woman – meaning she was assigned female at birth and lives as a woman – and an Olympic gold medalist in the women’s 800-meter event. After her first international championship in 2009, several competitors challenged her victory. They suggested that she was too fast, that her physical appearance was not sufficiently feminine, and that she was not “actually a woman.”

In a decadelong dispute, the international governing agency for track and field fought to enact a contested policy that requires Semenya – and any other woman athlete whose gender is questioned – to submit to bodily and hormonal evaluations and possible medical treatments in order to remain eligible for particular running events.

The United Nations and Human Rights Watch argue the policy has lasting negative impacts on the targeted athletes. Semenya refuses to comply.

These sex testing policies, also known as gender verification, have long policed the elite women’s category and particularly harm women of color, who have been disproportionately scrutinized.

Idaho lawmakers envision enforcing their transgender ban on high school athletes in similarly invasive ways.

Meanwhile, scientists are divided on whether monitoring testosterone – as both international policy and Idaho law now advocate – can identify any consistent athletic advantage. They continue to debate the meanings of gender and the impacts of sex difference.

Yet as the 2021 legislative season begins, some states have already proposed additional transgender athlete bans. U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Democrat of Hawaii, introduced a bill in Congress that would limit Title IX’s athletic equity protections only to girls and women assigned female at birth. A court case involving transgender athletes’ rights in Connecticut and the Idaho case remain ongoing.

As policymakers and elected officials debate the future of sports for girls and women, the rights of transgender athletes hang in the balance.


By              :             Elizabeth A. Sharrow   (Associate Professor of Public Policy and History, University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Date          :             December 22, 2020

Source      :             The Conversation


Female university students’ preferences for different types of sexual relationships: implications for gender-based violence prevention programs and policies




Gender-based violence among young women is a growing problem worldwide. The consequences of this victimization have been well reported in the scientific literature, among which negative health outcomes stand out. The factors influencing this problem are many; one highlighted by research is socialization into a dominant coercive discourse that associates sexual-affective attraction to males with violent attitudes and behaviors, while in turn, such discourse empties males with egalitarian behaviors from sexual attractiveness. This coercive discourse may be shaping the sexual preferences of female youth. The current paper explores young women’s preferences for different types of sexual relationships and, more particularly, for what type of sexual affective relationships they coercively preferred men with violent attitudes and behavior.



A quantitative, mixed-design vignette study was conducted with 191 college females in Spain. We focused the analysis only on responses about vignettes including narratives of men with violent attitudes and behaviors. In addition, we examined whether participants would report higher coerced preferences for violent men when asked about the coerced preferences of their female friends than when asked about their own preferences.



Only 28.95% of participants responded that their female friends would prefer a young man with violent behavior for a stable relationship, meanwhile 58.42% would do it for hooking up. When reporting about themselves, the difference was greater: 28.42% would prefer a young man with violent behavior for hooking up and just 5.78% for a stable relationship.



The dominant coercive discourse that links attractiveness to people with violent attitudes and behaviors may be explaining the results obtained in this study. The findings can help eliminate the stereotype largely adopted by some intervention and prevention programs which assume that gender-based violence occurs mainly in stable relationships, considering that falling in love is the reason that lead women to suffer from violence. Our results can also support health professionals and others serving young women to enhance their identification of gender violence victimization, as well as our findings point to the need to include the evidence of gender violence in sporadic relationships in prevention programs and campaigns addressed to young women.


To read the complete article and research, you can visit the following page


Ruiz-Eugenio, ., Racionero-Plaza, S., Duque, E. et al. Female university students’ preferences for different types of sexual relationships: implications for gender-based violence prevention programs and policies. BMC Women's Health 20, 266 (2020).