Photo by:  George Pagan (Unsplash)


South Africa has failed to champion human rights in the world. But that’s changing

The story of democratic South Africa and its approach to human rights in the rest of the world is a tale of woe. For two-and-a-half decades, its foreign policy mostly failed to defend internationally – and quite often contradicted – the human rights principles contained in its constitution.

An assessment in the Washington Post more than a decade ago still rings true:

South Africa remains an example of freedom while devaluing and undermining the freedom of others. It is the product of a conscience it does not display.

Why has South Africa behaved this way?

Surprisingly, it is not the case of the country feeling compelled to make common cause with African states, many of which have poor rights records, as is often claimed. In fact, many African states weaker than South Africa are more committed to international human rights. A 2018 report on the voting records of the 13 African members of the UN Human Rights Council ranked South African eighth on this score in terms of international commitment to human rights.

A more convincing explanation of South Africa’s actions is that it sees the world in terms of a conflict between the West and the developing world. When this ‘anti-imperialist’ struggle and human rights conflict, the latter must be sacrificed. This has resulted in a foreign policy The Economist described as ‘clueless and immoral’.

While the overall picture remains bleak, the good news is that there have recently been signs that South Africa is becoming more willing to stand up for human rights. Evidence for this comes from its recent final year of a six-year term on the UN Human Rights Council.

A disappointing record

In 2006, the Human Rights Council replaced the UN Commission on Human Rights. The commission had become, according to then secretary-general of the United Nations Kofi Annan, so dysfunctional that it was damaging the reputation of the entire UN. The plan was that the council would retain the commission’s good parts and shed the bad.

It is hard to find proof that South Africa, during its 2006 to 2010 council membership, did anything to improve the new organisation. Rather, it voted to shield the rights-abusing regime in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the genocidal one in Sudan. It helped the Sri Lankan government to evade international pressure to ensure accountability for war crimes committed during the final months of the country’s civil war.

South Africa tried to curtail the independence of the UN’s human rights investigators. It prominently attacked free speech by supporting the Islamic bloc’s demand that speech lacking in “respect for religions and beliefs” be made illegal under international human rights law.

When South Africa returned to the Human Rights Council in 2014 for a tenure that ended in 2019, it often made common cause with the authoritarian regimes in China and Russia. Perhaps most shocking was when South Africa represented these states in attacking a 2014 resolution on the right to peaceful protest.

On the council, South Africa often invokes its democratic constitution and history. Yet, in a recent book and in reports for the South African Institute of International Affairs, I show that apart from a vote for a 2016 resolution on human rights defenders and two votes against hostile amendments on a 2014 resolution on civil society, South Africa not once, out of more than 100 such votes, voted to support human rights related to the democratic process.

Rights violations in specific countries

The Human Rights Council is notorious for singling out Israel. Frequent resolutions criticise Israel and support incisive investigations into its violations against Palestinians, its settlement-building in occupied Palestinian territory or its international aggression. South Africa has backed council resolutions on Israel without fail.

While South Africa has been willing to support hamstrung country-specific investigations, such as the African Group’s 2017 resolution on Burundi, it either abstains or votes against resolutions that authorise incisive investigations into the human rights problems of countries other than Israel.

A welcome change

In 2019, however, an improvement became detectable. South Africa, for the first time ever, supported imposing Human Rights Council investigations on countries that did not want them, Israel excluded.

It backed two resolutions on Myanmar, both of which urged criminal prosecution of alleged perpetrators of human rights crimes. Then, after an abstention on a similar resolution in 2018, it supported extending an investigation into human rights violations related to the Yemeni Civil War.

South Africa’s actions regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, an issue on which it has been inconsistent, offer further proof of change. In March 2011, it tabled a resolution to confine discussion of sexual orientation throughout the UN to a committee that would meet for only 10 days a year.

Opponents of LGBTI rights did not want to discuss  sexual orientation. Proponents of LGBTI rights wanted to discuss worldwide violence and discrimination against LGBTI people. Isolated, South Africa withdrew  its draft resolution.

Three months later, South Africa went from skunk to saviour when it led the council to adopt the first ever UN resolution on sexual orientation. But the glow faded as the country, weighed down by African opposition and its own confusion, failed to lead on the issue.

As patience with South Africa ran out, Latin American states took over and in 2014 sponsored a new sexual orientation resolution. South Africa and others successfully lobbied to weaken the text.

In 2016, Latin America tabled a follow-up resolution. South Africa denounced the resolution’s sponsors for being arrogant, reckless, confrontational, divisive and causing acrimony. More importantly, it refused to support a resolution authorising reports on violence and discrimination against LGBTI people for the subsequent three years.

But in 2019, the country came in from the cold. It wholeheartedly supported Latin America’s resolution asking for three more years of reporting on the persecution of LGBTI persons. It countered numerous attempts to distort or weaken the text.

Uncertain future

In recent decades, South Africa has continued to find creative ways to disappoint those who share its former president Nelson Mandela’s belief that human rights should be a light that guides the country’s foreign affairs.

It is too soon to become optimistic, but some of South Africa’s recent actions on the Human Rights Council are small but significant breaks from a dismal past.


By                   :                     Eduard Jordaan     (Associate Professor of Politics, Rhodes University)

Date                :                     April 21, 2021

Source            :                     The Conversation 



How Mexican cities can meet women’s transport needs after COVID-19

The majority of women in Mexican cities depend on public transport to get to work. Yet sprawling urban development and a lack of safe, well-connected transport infrastructure means that they are denied mobility and the opportunities that come with it. Mexico’s government must look at transport through a gender lens as the country emerges from the COVID-19 crisis, write Catarina Heeckt (LSE Cities) and Ana María Martínez (WRI Cities). 

Mexico’s urban sprawl, car dependency, and wildly unequal access to opportunities have deepened the impact of COVID-19 on marginalised communities. The pandemic has also underlined the need to focus not just on mobility – how efficiently people can move around a city – but also on urban accessibility – whether they can readily access jobs, services, goods, and other key resources.

This is a particular challenge in the rapidly growing peripheries of Mexican cities, where dispersed and disconnected housing development is outpacing the delivery of formal public services. This has serious implications for women in particular, who are much more likely to rely on public transport than men. Not giving women equal access to urban opportunities through well connected and safe public and active transport infrastructure has serious economic and social consequences. It will also make it harder for Mexico to recover from the pandemic.

We know that gender shapes mobility behaviour, affecting everything from mode choice and travel times to preferred routes and even clothing. Women on the whole tend to have more complex and varied travel patterns than men, often travelling at off-peak times and engaging in many smaller trips, an activity known as “trip-chaining“. Yet the gendered dimension of urban accessibility continues to be largely ignored in policy-making, and especially in transport planning.

Gender, COVID-19, and public transport in Mexico

While a minority of wealthier women have been able to commute in private vehicles or shift to working from home, the majority of Mexican women continue to depend heavily on public transport during the COVID-19 crisis. In Mexico City, where 74% of all trips are completed on collective transport, 90% of women report having experienced some form of violence on their daily commute. The pandemic has made these arduous and unsafe journeys worse, forcing women to navigate difficult trade-offs between paid and unpaid work or between their own safety and their responsibilities as carers for children and the elderly. The situation is only aggravated by limited and sub-optimal mobility options, which often come with unpredictable and lengthy commute times.

Deeply ingrained cultural norms and gender roles in Mexico have played a part in exacerbating the effects of the pandemic. There has been a worrying increase in domestic violence and femicide in Mexico, adding to an already troubling situation when it comes to violence against women. Despite a low female labour-force participation rate of only 41.7% (compared to 73.5% for men), many essential jobs are done by women, including more than 70% of paid care work. Aside from the fact that women already shoulder more than 75% of unpaid care and housework, this overrepresentation in paid care work increases women’s exposure to the virus. They are also more likely to take precarious jobs in the informal economy, which have become more common for women during the pandemic.

Using transport to provide opportunities for women

Even though the pandemic has clearly had a negative impact on female mobility in Mexico, this does not have to be a permanent legacy of the current health crisis. There is a real opportunity to transform Mexico’s urban land use and transport systems to give women more access to a wide range of urban opportunities beyond the private sphere of the home. Designing urban mobility systems with the needs of women (or children, the disabled, and the elderly) in mind leads to higher quality, safer, and more efficient transport for all urban residents. Mobility for all is an essential precondition for reactivating the economy and ensuring that Mexico can recover quickly from the huge economic and social shock of the crisis.

An increasing number of cities are confronting the challenges head on. Under the leadership of Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, Mexico City introduced its Gender and Mobility Plan 2019-2024, which addresses women’s different mobility needs and tackles issues such as harassment and unequal participation. This mirrors efforts in other Latin American cities such as Bogotá and Medellín.

Despite these important city-level efforts and the fierce advocacy of feminist activists and civil society groups, national government action still lacks a thorough gender lens to understand Mexico’s deeper problems. The current administration, which came to power in 2018 promising to fight for the most vulnerable Mexicans, has embarked on an unprecedented austerity drive. This has been used to justify cuts to a number of programmes that directly or indirectly benefited women, including a 75% reduction in the budget of various federal entities (including the National Institute of Women), a near total stop on any national support for urban mobility projects through the elimination of the Metropolitan Fund, and concern for the future of the National Infrastructure Fund (FONADIN).

Without clear leadership at the national level, many smaller cities with fewer resources and less capacity to tackle this challenge risk being left behind. This is why a national urban mobility and land use strategy that explicitly incorporates a gender perspective is so essential.

The recovery from COVID will mean more public spending than has been seen for generations. This will not only shape the future of urban development in Mexico, it will also determine whether or not women benefit. A handful of fairly obvious win-win solutions would begin to address the issue of gender equality in transport and build resilience in Mexican cities.

Mainstreaming gender equality in urban policy-making

Gender mainstreaming means integrating a gender-equality perspective into all stages and levels of policies, programmes, and projects. This would require the adoption of a national urban policy (which Mexico does not have) that explicitly recognises the importance of eliminating gender biases in urban planning. That policy should set out clearly defined roles, create a mechanism to coordinate planning and collaboration across sectors and levels of government, and provide an overarching vision to ensure policy coherence and incentives for more sustainable and equitable urban practices.

Inclusion in decision-making and gender-disaggregated data

The Mexican government should invest in programmes to ensure there are more women in leadership positions across all levels of government. Since policy is only ever as good as the data that informs it, expanding gender-disaggregated data collection and project evaluation will also play an important role in ensuring that women’s needs are at the centre of future transport and accessibility initiatives.

Gender-responsive budgeting for public and active travel

Gender-responsive budgets can help to improve the effectiveness, efficiency, accountability, and transparency of government policy. At present, less than 10% of federal transport funding nationwide is spent on public transport, even though public transport accounts for over 50% of all trips. This does not necessarily require an increase in the overall transport budget, but rather a re-prioritisation towards investments that reflect the mobility needs of women by focusing on public and active travel. Funding new infrastructure is essential, but it will need to be accompanied by ongoing investments in operations and maintenance to ensure that using public and active modes of transport is safe, pleasant, and efficient for women.


Catarina Heeckt is a Policy Fellow at LSE Cities. She researches sustainable mobility, low-carbon urban development, and urban governance.

Ana María Martínez is a research coordinator at WRI Mexico, where she works on urban mobility projects that incorporate a gender and social-equity perspective.


By                      :                    Catarina Heeckt and Ana María Martínez

Date                   :                    March 18, 2021

Source               :                     LSE Blogs 



The gender gap worsens for oncologists in the pandemic

The pandemic is widening the gender gap in science. What a year ago was a mere suspicion of the effects of the coronavirus crisis is being confirmed with statistics and data.

Now an international team from the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) has released the results of a survey that reflects how cancer researchers have been more affected by the coronavirus crisis than their peers: they have had less time for scientific tasks, such as preparing documentation for scholarships or send publications; and her personal life has been further altered, giving more time to household and family tasks but taking minutes away from self-care.

The ESMO survey indicates that the 62.5% of women considers that covid-19 has had a impact in their professional life – compared to 45.5% of men. Of these, 85% perceive that this alteration has been negative —76% for men. The global respondents responded that the pandemic has affected their personal life (89% women vs. 76% men) and family (84% vs. 77%).

62.5% of the oncologists who responded to the survey consider that covid-19 has had an impact on their professional life. Of these, 85% consider that it has gotten worse

During the months of confinement, the oncologists dedicated more time to hospital tasks (patient care) and laboratory (interpretation of results and clinical research) than their peers —53% versus 46% and 33% versus 26%, respectively— . On the other hand, they decreased in a significant proportion the time dedicated to scientific research —39% vs. 25% – and personal self-care —58% vs. 39% -. The authors highlight that these trends were maintained beyond confinement in the case of time spent doing science —42% versus 23% – and in personal care —55% vs. 36% -.

Consequences beyond the pandemic

To understand what these results imply, the work context of cancer research and treatment professionals must be explained. Pilar Garrido, from the Ramón y Cajal Hospital Medical Oncology Service and spokesperson for Women for Oncology, an ESMO committee that investigates with a gender perspective and seeks to end this inequality in the sector, details to SINC that oncologists, “like all doctors ”, Prioritize patient care. Afterwards, they dedicate a significant part of their day to research, whether clinical or translational, and then have an academic ‘leg’ of teaching at the university.

For this reason, he is concerned that male oncologists “have devoted additional time – compared to women – to maintain a research quota, while they have directed it to tasks that socially it is assigned to them: child and family care ”.

The authors warn that this disparity in the professional dedication of men and women “may have lasting consequences in the career of oncologists, beyond the pandemic ”, which can have an impact on the resumes of professionals and their aspirations for leadership positions.

I am concerned that men have spent additional time maintaining a research quota while women have directed it to tasks that are socially assigned to them: caring for children and family members

                                                                                                                -Pilar Garrido, spokesperson for Women for Oncology

Garrido, who is the main author of the survey, warns that if nothing is done, oncologists “will be at a disadvantage compared to men.” There are fewer women in reference publications, fewer women as first and last authors, and fewer women as principal investigators of trials ”.

“Personally, it amazes me that after the effort of so many years and generations, it is so easily assumed that in a crisis there are mainly women’s tasks. If we are just as professional, why are the rest of the tasks not the same? ”, He reflects.

Other investigations

The findings of this research are supported by other studies that reflect the low representation of women in research during the pandemic. A systematic search of the PubMed medical database reveals that there were only 34% of authors among the 1,370 publications related to covid-19 as of May 1, 2020, of which only 29% were first and last authorship and 26% of the articles, respectively.

A 2018 Women for Oncology perception survey found that the majority of men did not consider that there were gender differences in oncology

On the other hand, an analysis of the female authorship of the articles on covid-19 published in The Lancet shows that they appeared much less (in 30.8% of the articles analyzed) and as first signatories (24.2%), latest signatories (25.8%) and corresponding authors (22.9%).

A perception survey conducted by Women for Oncology in 2018 found that the majority of professional women did affirm that they existed gender differences in the world of oncology, but mens they were of the opposite opinion.

For Garrido, “it is very difficult to solve something that one party believes does not exist”, despite the fact that the data show an important gender gap in medical oncology.


The survey, conducted between June and July 2020, collected the responses of 649 people out of 11,956 ESMO members. Of these, more than two-thirds of the participants were women, “which could have introduced some kind of bias in the results,” the authors admit.

The large percentage of female responses may reflect the counter to the impact of the pandemic: those most affected may have felt more motivated to complete the questionnaire

However, they allege that “the large percentage of female responses may reflect the contrast of the impact experienced by the pandemic: those who have been most affected may have felt more motivated to complete the questionnaire.”

Other limitations cited by the study is that some demographic profiles had very low responses (such as single-mother families, people who live alone), so they have not been able to extract results from these groups. Finally, they point out that future research in this field should include a more significant proportion of male oncologists.



Garrido, P. et al. “Has covid-19 had a greater impact on female than male oncologists? Results of the ESMO Women for Oncology (W4O) Survey ”. ESMO Open (2021). DOI: 10.1016 / j.esmoop.2021.100131


‘Still expected to look like Barbie dolls’: Gender equality in sports media an ongoing battle

PHOENIX – A documentary recently aired in France titled, “I’m not a slut, I’m a journalist.”

The title might be shocking, but the experiences shared by female sports journalists featured in the documentary don’t come as a surprise to women in sports media.

The documentary featured women speaking candidly about the derogatory comments, lascivious advances and sexual harassment they have faced while working in the sports media industry. It is not uncommon.

Three months ago news broke that Jared Porter, then the general manager of the New York Mets, had sent sexually explicit photos to a female reporter while he was working for the Chicago Cubs.

Similar accusations emerged against Mickey Callaway, a pitching coach for the Los Angeles Angels.

At about the same time, former Golf Channel host Lisa Cornwell accused her male bosses of treating her unfairly in her job, an accusation she took to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Clearly, gender equality in the sports media industry is a prevalent issue.

“Look at sports television, women are all still expected to look like Barbie dolls,” said Sarah Kezele, update anchor and third voice on “Burns & Gambo,” the afternoon drive-time sports talk show on Phoenix’s ESPN affiliate, Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

“So I do know that I have missed out on some opportunities because my ‘look’ is not what the hiring manager was looking for.”

Almost every female working in the sports media industry today has had at least one encounter in which they have been judged on the basis of their gender.

“I remember right out of college interning at NFL Films,”said Katherine Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals beat writer at The Arizona Republic/azcentral.com. “One day another (male) intern came up to me and began quizzing me on my sports knowledge because I was just a girl.”

It’s not a new phenomenon. Women have been battling for over a century for their place in sports media.

“Growing up, I don’t even remember seeing many females on television talking about sports, let alone being at events covering them,” said Julia Lopez, a sports anchor and reporter at KSEE24 and CBS47 in Fresno, California.

The industry started as a boy’s club, but in 1978 women got legal backing when a young reporter named Melissa Ludtke was covering the New York Yankees. At the time, women were not allowed in the clubhouse.

However, the Yankees had agreed that they would allow Ludtke access.

And later that season, during the World Series, the Dodgers were visiting Yankee Stadium and voted to also allow Ludtke into their locker room.

During Game 1 of the World Series, Major League Baseball learned that Ludtke was entering the clubhouses and immediately banned her, along with any other female reporters, from accessing the clubhouses.

The decision was made strictly on the basis of gender.

Ludtke and her employer Time, Inc. filed suit against Major League Baseball – and won. A U.S. District Court ruled in favor of Ludtke, ruling that female reporters have a 14th Amendment right to cover sports by the same means as their male counterparts.

Now nearly 43 years later, female sports reporters are allowed into locker rooms and clubhouses, but that does not mean they are treated the same as their male colleagues.

“To be honest, it infuriates me,” said Nick King, sports anchor/reporter for 3TV/ CBS5 in Phoenix.

“I’ve witnessed this first-hand,” he added, describing a baseball coach that “was really disrespectful towards one of the other reporters in town, a female. He treated her questions with a different level of respect, and he didn’t take anything she was saying seriously. I felt like he would scoff at some of the things she was saying and give her some looks.

“Maybe she was just more used to it, but I was like, ‘You should not be dealing with this.’”

It is an issue women have been dealing with for decades.

“I never want to be picked for a job because they need a female, because they need a pretty face or something,” said Annie Agar, who worked as a television sports reporter in Grand Rapids, Michigan before becoming a popular sports personality on social media. “I want to be picked for the job because I outperformed any other guy that was in the running for that position.”

With smart-technology and social media platforms there is no doubt that the issues faced today are different than those encountered by Ludtke and other female trailblazers, like “Mrs. Johnson.”

Mrs. Johnson is considered to be one of the first women to work in sports media. During the 1930’s and 40’s, her husband Harry was an announcer for Central States Broadcasting. She would often accompany her husband on-air, providing color commentary.

However, Mrs. Johnson’s full name is evidently lost in history. Only her husband’s name is remembered.

In 1963, a young woman named Jane Chastain was hired by WAGA-TV in Atlanta, Georgia to dress up like a football coach and make weekly football predictions for a television segment. Chastain went on to be one of the first on-air female sports anchors for a major television station.

But Chastain had to follow strict rules that men were not asked to follow.

She was not allowed to broadcast anything live, and she could only appear on three segments a week.
Even with those restrictions, the station received complaints from viewers. Comments such as “women belong in the kitchen, not on television” were typical.

Around the same time, Jeannie Morris, who was married to a former Chicago Bears player, took a job writing a sports column for a local newspaper – a job that was first offered to her husband.
The newspaper refused to publish her column in the sports section, putting it in the Sunday women’s section of the paper.

Chastain, Morris, Ludtke, and Mrs. Johnson are just a handful of the influential trailblazers in the history of women in sports media. But undoubtedly, women like Lisa Cornwell, Sarah Kezele, Katherine Fitzgerald and Annie Agar are still fighting the battle.


Jenna Mazel expects to graduate in spring 2021 with a degree in sports journalism. She is working for Cronkite Sports this spring.


By                  :                   Jenna Mazel

Date               :                   April 12, 2021

Source           :                   Cronkite News





          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 https://bmcwomenshealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12905-020-01131-1#citeas?


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). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12905-020-01131-1