Wednesday, June 25, 2008

UN Condemns Sexual Violence as War Crime

The UN Security Council declared that rape and other forms of sexual violence constitute war crimes, and that measures are needed to combat such violence. China, Russia and South Africa said such matters were an unfortunate byproduct of war but aren't a matter of international peace and security. Fortunately, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was able to introduce the US-sponsored resolution after a number of advocacy groups pushed the issue back onto the council’s agenda. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged nations to prosecute UN personnel who sexually abuse those they are sent to protect because the UN lacks the authority to do so.

U.N. Security Council says sexual violence akin to war crimes (LA Times)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Call for Journal Articles: Societies Without Borders

The journal, Societies with Borders: Human Rights & the Social Sciences will publish 3 issues per year beginning February 2009. The journal is posted on the Brill website and on Sociologists Without Borders. A description of the journal can be found below:

What the world’s peoples have in common – notwithstanding the borders that divide them – is the aspiration to achieve human rights – the rights to food, housing, health care, education, decent work, free speech, to speak one’s conscience, as well as the right to a fair trial, to a safe environment, and the right to peace. What the world’s people are beginning to discover is that this aspiration is not only a common one, but it can only be pursued collectively in disregard of the borders that divide people. People may live in societies, derive their identities from their societies, but the pursuit of human rights is pursued and coordinated across borders. The journal, Societies without Borders, aims for high caliber scholarly analysis and also encourages submissions that address pioneering thought in human rights, globalism, and collective goods.

Authors are cordially invited to submit articles to the journal editors Judith Blau and Alberto Moncada, and books for review to the Associate Editor Keri Iyall Smith.

US Withdraws from UN Human Rights Council

The US came under heavy criticism from Human Rights Watch after it distanced itself from the UN Human Rights Council and said it would only engage the council when matters of “deep national interest” arose. State Department spokesman Sean McCormarck said, “Our skepticism regarding the function of the UN Council on Human Rights in terms of fulfilling its mandate and its mission is well known. It has a rather pathetic record.” Critics of the Council claim that it has fallen under the control of Islamic and African countries that easily maintain a majority vote when backed by their Russian, Chinese, and Cuban allies. The Council has also come under fire for criticizing Israel for its treatment of Palestinians while failing to act on a number of human rights violations, such as Darfur. Human Rights Watch claims that “Washington’s hands-off approach to the Human Rights Council undermined it from the start” and that “the US shares responsibility for the shortcomings it’s now using to justify its withdraw from the council.”

US distances itself from UN rights body (Reuters)
US: Leaving UN Rights Council Fails Victims of Abuse (HRW)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

UN Chief Calls for an End to HIV-Based Discrimination

United Nations Chief Ban Ki-Moon called on countries to end discrimination against people infected with HIV, specifically travel restrictions against infected individuals. He noted that "it is shocking that there should still be discrimination against those at high risk, such as men who have sex with men, or stigma attached to individuals living with HIV." A total of 345 NGOs sent a letter to countries, including the US, that still restrict travel of HIV carriers. The AAA urges all countries to respect the basic human rights of individuals, regardless of their medical condition, and to support the UN's effort to eliminate discrimination.

UN calls for lifting travel restrictions on HIV carriers (AFP)
Declaration on Anthropology and Human Rights

Thursday, June 5, 2008

CA Supreme Court Refuses to Delay Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

The New York Times reported that the California Supreme Court refused to stay its decision on allowing same-sex marriage. The AAA wrote a letter to the judges urging them to enact their ruling on June 16th as scheduled. San Francisco’s mayor applauded the ruling and told reporters that the city’s goal is to “marry as many as 5,000 [same-sex] couples by the November election.” Anthropological research indicates that a vast array of family types, including same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and human societies. We hope the court’s ruling will allow voters to see that the institution of marriage can accommodate a diverse number of relationships, and that Californians will vote to protect the right of all individuals to enter marriage.

Court won't delay same-sex marriages (NYTimes)
AAA Statement on Marriage and the Family
AAA Letter to CA Supreme Court [pdf]
Gay marriage ban qualifies for California ballot (AP)
Same-sex marriage ruling makes waves (Washington Post)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

AAA Teams Up to Defend Fulbright Awardees in Gaza

The AAA joined Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) in writing a letter to the Department of State this week regarding 7 Palestinian Fulbright recipients who nearly lost their rewards due to Israel’s refusal to allow students in Gaza to travel abroad to continue their education. The State Department initially planned to “redirect” the awards of the recipients in Gaza to students in the West Bank, but ultimately decided to reverse its decision. Although we are pleased by the State Department’s final response, we remain concerned by the “disturbing readiness on the part of the United States to actively support Israel’s policy of strict closure on the Gaza Strip, a policy that has caused grave harm to the population there and constitutes collective punishment, a serious violation of international law.”

Israel’s refusal to allow students to study outside of Gaza has adversely affected students far beyond those of the Fulbright awardees. AAA, HRW, and MESA wrote, “We urge you [the State Dept.] to take this opportunity to call on Israel to allow all students in Gaza, except where there are legitimate security concerns specific to particular individuals, to exercise their right to freedom of movement and access to education. At a minimum, the United States should clearly and publicly disassociate itself from Israel’s policy of collective punishment as it affects students seeking to study abroad.” The Israeli Supreme Court also called upon the government to drop travel restrictions for Palestinian students.

Please take a moment to comment on AAA's response, as well as the actions of Israel and the US Dept. of State.

AAA, HRW, and MESA letter [pdf]
Israel Court Condemns Student Ban (BBC)
State Dept. Reinstates Gaza Fulbright Grants (NYTimes)

Same-Sex Marriage Comes Under Fire in CA

Efforts to include a vote on gay marriage in California's November ballot have succeeded. If approved by the majority of voters, the measure will overturn the California Supreme Court ruling. Same-sex marriage opponents are also attempting to stay the court's decision until it can be voted on in November.

As a continued supporter of same-sex couples, the AAA applauds the court's decision and is urging them to enact its ruling on June 17th as scheduled.

AAA Letter to CA Supreme Court [pdf]
AAA Statement on Marriage and the Family
Gay marriage ban qualifies for California ballot (AP)
National Center for Lesbian Rights

Canada to Document and Apologize for Indigenous Abuses

Canada has formed a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to examine the country’s past policy of removing aboriginal children from their homes to teach them Christianity. The BBC reported that up until the 1970s over 150,000 children were relocated to state-funded parochial schools “in an attempt to rid them of their native cultures and languages and integrate them into society.”

The Commission will spend 5 years interviewing survivors and detailing the abuses that occurred within these schools. Canada is set to issue a formal apology to its indigenous inhabitants on June 11th. The US and Australia issued similar apologies earlier this year.

Canada Hears of Native Abuse Pain (BBC)

NY Recognizes Same-Sex Marriage

The New York Times reported that New York’s Governor, David Paterson, recently ordered state agencies to revise their policies and regulations—-numbering around 1300—-so that they recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states and countries. Gay couples wed elsewhere would be entitled to the same benefits that married couples receive in New York. Paterson’s decision would make New York the only state to recognize same-sex marriage while prohibiting such marriage itself. The decision signals staunch support for the gay community, and Paterson is expected to make a strong push to legalize same-sex unions in New York. As one gay rights advocate said, “this is a temporary but necessary fix for a longer-term problem.”

NY to back same-sex unions from elsewhere (NYTimes)

Monday, June 2, 2008

AAA Writes to CA Supreme Court

In a letter sent to the California Supreme Court last week, the AAA urged the Justices to reject the efforts of same-sex marriage opponents to pass a motion for a stay on the Court's ruling regarding same-sex marriage. Opponents of the ruling are attempting to delay the enactment of the Court's decision until the November ballot.

Anthropological research on households, kinship relationships, and families—across cultures and through time—provide no support whatsoever for the view that either civilization or viable social order depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. Instead, research has shown that a vast array of family types, including families built upon same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies. The enactment of the Court's ruling will grant voters an opportunity to see that the institution of marriage can accommodate all types of relationships, and will give same-sex couples the rights that they have been denied over the years.

The limitation of same-sex marriage to heterosexual couples is both discriminatory and harmful. Inequalities between marriage and domestic partnerships include different requirements for the formation and dissolution of domestic partnerships and marriages; the ability to receive equal rights and benefits from other states, countries, and the federal government; and disparate treatment by California courts. The creation of a separate legally-sanctioned institution for same-sex couples stigmatizes these relationships as unworthy of equal status.

As a professional organization that recognizes and values human diversity, AAA seeks to prevent human difference as a criteria for the denial of basic human rights. We are committed to promoting marriage equality for same-sex couples, and urge the Court to enact their ruling without delay.

AAA Statement on Marriage and the Family
Same Sex Marriage Ruling Makes Waves (Washington Post)