G-8 on Women

This post has been co-authored with Boi-Tia Stevens, an attorney based in Washington.  She has engaged in international work on criminal justice, human rights and social justice.

In renewing their commitment to “open economies, open societies, and open governments”, the leaders at the G-8 Summit, held June 17th – 18th in Lough Erne, Ireland, highlighted the role of women in three key areas:  (1) Food security and nutrition; (2) Transition of Arab countries; and (3) Rebuilding Afghanistan.Image

Food Security and Nutrition

Food security has been a major focus of the G-8 leaders since 2009. The 2012 G-8 summit launched the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition — a partnership between the G-8 countries and partnering African countries and private sector companies to lift 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa out of poverty by 2022 through support for agricultural development. The Alliance aims to accelerate the flow of private capital and of new technologies to African agriculture, while engaging and leveraging the capacity of private sector partners, including women and smallholder farmers.

In the 2013 Communique, G-8 leaders continued to recognize the critical role to be played by smallholder farmers, especially women, in advancing the goals of the New Alliance. To this end, they highlighted the need for greater flows of private capital to this sector to ensure that investments have a measurable impact on reducing poverty and malnutrition, particularly for smallholders and women, and are made responsibly and support the sustainable use of natural resources.

Researchers and advocacy organizations used the occasion of the 2013 G-8 Summit to also recognize the integral connection between gender equity and food nutrition. Recent research by public health specialists from Johns Hopkins University has suggested that the degree of malnourishment around the world is greater than previously thought. Highlighting the dire importance of nutrition for pregnant women and the first two years of a child’s life, the researchers explained that “countries will not break out of poverty unless nutrition becomes a global priority,” (Girls Globe Blog).

To this end, the G-8 2013 Communique welcomed the launch of the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact. On June 8th, 2013, sixty (60) leaders from government, private sector and international organizations signed the compact. Its goals include improving the nutrition of 500 million pregnant women and children and consequently saving the lives of 1.7 million children by 2020. The Communique highlighted the financial and policy commitments made by the Compact, and charged the Scaling-Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement with regular reports and reviews of progress toward the outlined goals.

In another article, “Poverty Matters,” Sarah Degnan Kambou, the President of the International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW) called on the G-8 to also make the connection between gender equity and food nutrition in another area as well. Women play an essential role as food producers and income earners for their families and communities. Yet, the article explains, domestic violence against women reduces their effectiveness in this role. As many as seven out of every ten (10) women will experience some form of violence in their lifetimes. In some cases, women have been so abused they are unable to work or to care for themselves and their children, Ms. Kambou wrote, “When women live free from violence they have a better chance of earning an income, and are more likely to focus their spending, and energy, on their children.” Continue reading

In the U.S., all eyes on Texas in the Reproductive Rights Debate

The reproductive rights debate rages on in the U.S. as much as in the rest of the world, with the most recent hotspot of activity in Texas.  Yesterday, during its last night of a special legislative session, the Texas Senate considered a bill that would severely restrict access to abortions within the state.  Among other things, the bill would ban (with limited exceptions) abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy and require abortion clinics to have admitting privileges with a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic, a high bar for rural area clinics.  Delving deeply into the rules of parliamentary procedure, opponents managed to block the passage of the bill by delaying any vote on it until after the session expired at midnight.

Emerging as a pro-choice hero was state Senator Wendy Davis, whose plans to filibuster for approximately 13 hours were interrupted 11 hours in by a discussion of whether Davis’s filibuster had ended due to her alleged violations of parliamentary procedure.  During the filibuster and discussion (when it remained unclear whether her filibuster had officially ended), Davis remained standing, without leaning, eating, drinking, or taking a bathroom break, as per the rules of the Senate.  Davis’s colleagues supported her to the end, prolonging the discussion and preventing a vote by raising a number of parliamentary points of order.  The Senate finally voted to end Davis’s filibuster with minutes remaining in the session, despite several attempts by Senator Leticia Van de Putte to be heard before the vote.  Van de Putte perhaps had the last word of the night, however, when she asked, “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?,” provoking a deafening uproar from pro-choice protestors in the gallery which ultimately prevented the passage of the bill before the session expired.

The issue, discussed for the better part of 11 hours through Senator Davis’s own words and the anecdotes of supporters around the state, highlighted the importance of access to women’s health facilities for all women regardless of economic class, and the notion that the bill wouldn’t lower the number of abortions but would instead drive these medical procedures underground.  Indeed, around the world, lack of access to safe and legal abortions has been connected to a rise in women seeking unsafe, clandestine abortions.

This may be a small victory for reproductive rights advocates, as the bill may simply be put to vote again in another special session.  Even still, for the many following along in person, on the live feeds, or on Twitter, the day and night felt momentous.  To the many pro-choice advocates, the coming together of the Senators and the public in the gallery was proof of democracy at work.  The filibuster, a tool designed to allow a minority to fight against complete majority rule, did precisely that last night.

The intensity of the last few hours of the legislative session may also be an indicator of an increasingly intense debate to come.  Texas is one of several states that has attempted to or succeeded in severely restricting abortion access in recent years, despite vociferous protest from pro-choice advocates and constitutional injunctions in states like North Dakota preventing strict abortion rules from becoming practice.  But the scene in Austin last night showcased the dedication of the pro-choice movement, surprising many who did not expect such a showing from Texas.  This may very well have renewed the momentum of the movement.  Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood and daughter of former Texas governor Ann Richards, has proclaimed:

“They lit the fuse in Austin – but the fire is catching all over the country.” 

EDITED TO UPDATE:  Texas Governor Rick Perry confirmed that he will be calling a special session, beginning July 1, 2013, to revisit the bill.

Same-sex marriage rulings let states decide

contemplation of justiceHere, in a nutshell, are the marriage equality rulings issued just now by the U.S. Supreme Court, with links to the actual judgments:

Judgment in United States v. Windsor: By a 5-4 vote, the Court held that equal protection and due process guarantees inherent in the Due Process Clause of the 5th Amendment to the Constitution forbid the federal government to privilege one class of married people over another, as the Defense of Marriage Act had required. The Act is thus unconstitutional as applied to same-sex couples married in states permitting such marriages. (Prior post.) Quote from opinion for the Court by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy (pp. 25-26):

‘DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others. The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment. This opinion and its holding are confined to those lawful marriages.’

Judgment in Hollingsworth v. Perry: By another 5-4 vote, the Court held that petitioners, private parties opposed to same-sex marriage who stepped in when the State of California would not, did not have standing. The petitioners had appealed a federal district court ruling that invalidated Proposition 8, the state constitutional provision banning gay marriage. Quote from opinion for the Court by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. (p. 17, citations omitted):

‘The Article III requirement that a party invoking the jurisdiction of a federal court seek relief for a personal,particularized injury serves vital interests going to the role of the Judiciary in our system of separated powers.“Refusing to entertain generalized grievances ensures that . . . courts exercise power that is judicial in nature,” and ensures that the Federal Judiciary respects “the proper — and properly limited — role of the courts in a democratic society.” States cannot alter that role simply by issuing to private parties who otherwise lack standing a ticket to the federal courthouse.’

This ruling leaves in effect the lower court order allowing same-sex marriages in California. SCOTUS blog post on the question here.

(Cross-posted from Diane Marie Amann)

Academic papers – creative works, too – sought for Seattle symposium on peace

Given my interest in law and the value of peace, I read with interest the call for papers to be presented at a conference entitled “Law, Peace, and Violence: Jurisprudence and the Possibilities of Peace.”

It’ll be hosted by Seattle Journal of Social Justice on March 14, 2014, at the Seattle University School of Law in Washington state. Invoking thinkers like Thoreau and Fanon and Gandhi and King as well as scholarly colleagues like Mark Drumbl and Mary Dudziak, organizers ask a variety of intriguing questions:

► Can the law help forge a more peaceful world?books

► Do peaceful protest and rhetoric pose special hazards to vulnerable groups?

► Can we incorporate peace activism and theory into our practices and jurisprudence? Or is peaceful resistance – and even the concept of peace – anti-law?

► Is peace activism a luxury of the privileged?

Welcomed are abstracts of up to 500 words describing “traditional academic paper topics,”  as well as “abstract proposals for fiction, non-fiction, or visual art,” addressing issues related to inter alia poverty, violence, law, peace, war. Abstract deadline is September 2, 2013. Details in the full call for papers.

(Cross-posted at Diane Marie Amann. Hat tip to Faculty Lounge blog, with thanks to Ed Gordon)

Transnational Judicial Dialogue

The MultiRIghts program at the University of Oslo in Norway hosted a conference on Transnational Judicial Dialogue which included participants from law, political science, and philosophy.  Papers addressed to what extent judges cite foreign and/or international case law and norms in their own decisions.  Courts from Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Canada were examined.  The idea of transnational judicial dialogue was portrayed as a cosmopolitan project, but concerns were raised about hierarchical tendencies and the impact of culture, language, power, or other factors impacting citation tendencies.  There was a panel of national judges, including Lord Carnwath of the UK Supreme Court (who explained how he faced appeals from different corners of the earth involving Maori law or the Napoleonic code), Andreas Paulus of the Bundesverfassungsgerecht (who noted that in a case involving the right of refugee children to education, there was no international authoritative guidance available so the court had to set the standard itself), and Rafaele Sabato of the Court of Cassation of Italy (who explained how contradictory positions among the different national courts rendered application of European standards impossible).  There was examination of the evolution of same-sex family law in Europe through vertical and horizontal dialogue, concern was raised that LBGT NGOs were more interested in the legislative process than the judicial path, complicating matters.  Finally, there was a panel with three judges from the European Court of Human Rights, Luis Lopez Guerra, Erik Møse, and Angelika Nussberger who gave insight as to the potential influence of other regimes, including international criminal law.  Beth Simmons of Harvard University reminded the participants that it is important to keep in mind the importance of identifying the intended audience of the judicial output- are judges seeking legitimacy among each other, are they seeking to convince the executive or the legislature, are they addressing the parties, or are they concerned with the view of the public at large?  Most striking to me was a paper by Azizat Amoloye-Adebayo who described limitations to the potential of transnational judicial dialogue due to ideological barriers in Islamic jurisdictions, leading one to consider whether the phenomenon is indeed most relevant to the Anglo-European legal community.  Lord Carnwath pointed out that judges are seeking to solve problems, and some are simply harder than others, leading one to seek assistance in identifying solutions beyond borders, hence there may not necessarily be a grand theory behind it all.

Sex in Peace Operations

sex in peace opsShould all sex between international personnel and local people in peace operations be prohibited? Why are peacekeepers rarely prosecuted for crimes such as rape? Should humanitarian workers be allowed to pay for sex? Should local laws or international standards determine the age of consent to sex between local people and international personnel in peace operations? My book, Sex in Peace Operations, examines the regulation of sex between international personnel and local people in United Nations peace operations through case studies of Bosnia, West Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Over the past two decades there has been a series of scandals implicating UN peacekeepers, humanitarian workers and private military contractors in sexual exploitation and abuse of local people. Perhaps the best known of these are the cases of Cambodia and Somalia in the early 1990s, Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2002 and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2004.  More recently the film The Whistleblower has publicised trafficking in women by private military contractors employed by DynCorp and seconded to the UN as international police monitors and trainers in post-war Bosnia.  Although less widely reported, there are also non-exploitative sexual relations between peacekeepers and local people.

The response to sex in peace operations has shifted over the last twenty years from an attitude that ‘boys will be boys’ to a ‘zero tolerance’ policy.  The zero tolerance policy, which appears to have been developed as a substitute for an effective legal framework, is itself highly problematic.  My book argues that the regulatory focus should be on preventing, and ending impunity for, sexual crimes committed by international personnel against local people, rather than trying to prevent nearly all sex between international personnel and local people, as the zero tolerance policy claims to do.  It suggests more responsive approaches to sex in peace operations that aim to promote the sexual autonomy of local people, particularly women and girls.

U.S. Supreme Court Rules Against Anti-Prostitution Pledge


The U.S. Supreme Court released an opinion today in Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International finding that a U.S. federal law requiring any group that accepted federal funding for combatting HIV/AIDS (and certain other diseases) to adopt a policy prohibiting prostitution.  The Court (in a 6-2 opinion) found that the law violates the First Amendment (freedom of speech) of the U.S. Constitution.  A preliminary legal analysis of the opinion can be found on SCOTUSblog.  Amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court by the UNAIDS Secretariat and  Deans and professors of public health organizations argued that engaging with sex workers is essential to reducing HIV infection rates.  Durbar (DMSC), a sex worker union in Kolkata, India grew out of efforts by medical professionals to reduce the transmission of HIV.  The experience of this organization in addressing HIV/AIDs highlights the contradictions between taking an anti-prostitution stance and reducing HIV transmission rates.  

Call for Papers: 50th Anniversary of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR), the Southern Illinois University Law Journal is pursuing a Fall 2013 “paper” symposium related to the topic. For the symposium, the Journal is soliciting articles from experts in the field regarding the past and/or future of the VCCR and consular relations law. Final drafts of approximately twenty pages are requested by the end of August. If you are interested in submitting an article for publication, please contact the Journal editors, Jessica Sarff (jrsarff@siu.edu) or Dean Davis (dean.davis84@gmail.com), for additional details.

Rules, Politics, and the International Criminal Court

Why did states decide to create the International Criminal Court (ICC) and design it with a uniquely strong enforcement mechanism that can punish noncompliant behavior?  After all, by joining the ICC, states agree that the court may investigate, arrest, prosecute, and punish state nationals for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes should the ICC conclude the state is unwilling or unable to do so domestically.  One may not be surprised that more than 100 states have joined one of the many international human rights treaties with weak enforcement mechanisms that require the state to only self-report compliance.  But, why would states–particularly states with poor human rights practices–join the ICC and risk having their citizens tried in The Hague?  On the other hand, if states that most need to improve their protections against human rights  abuses do not join the court, is there any hope that the threat of punishment by the ICC can help improve state practices and deter individuals from committing mass atrocities?

I explore these and related questions in my new book entitled Rules, Politics, and the International Criminal Court: Committing to the Court.  Using both quantitative analyses and in-depth case studies of eight different states, I examine whether and how the ICC’s enforcement mechanism influences state membership and the court’s ability to realize its goal of ending impunity for mass atrocities.  I proceed from the premise that the ICC is different from the human rights treaties that have gone before it.  I argue that while there are many reasons states may want to join the court, they should view the ICC’s ability to investigate, arrest, and prosecute a state’s leaders or citizens as a credible threat.  States should be wary of committing unless their domestic human rights practices are sufficiently good that commitment will not lead to a significant sovereignty loss–e.g., a trial in The Hague.   In contrast to the other theories typically advanced to predict treaty commitment behavior, the credible threat theory focuses on the role enforcement mechanisms might play in discouraging states to ratify.  For example, one prominent theory predicts that states with poor human rights practices will embrace the ICC because it provides an international mechanism through which to demonstrate their “credible commitment” to domestic change.  Other theories predict that normative or other pressures will cause even bad states to join the court.    This book shows why those theories are problematic.  In short, the ICC’s stronger enforcement mechanism should not generally discourage states with good human rights practices from joining the court, but it should discourage “bad” states from joining because they will not want to risk being punished for noncompliance.

Both the quantitative and qualitative evidence support the book’s thesis.  I find that the ICC’s institutional design discourages ratification by the very states where individuals need to be held accountable.  Nevertheless, even though fewer “bad” states may join the court, I still conclude that the ICC can realize its goals.  Indeed, some states with bad practices may experience certain “windows of opportunity”–such as a change in leadership or a point where external or internal calls for commitment can no longer be ignored–where the benefits of joining may seem to outweigh potential costs.  When those states join the ICC, the good news is that the ICC has been designed so that states can be held to their commitment.

Deadline Extended: The Human Rights, Migration and Globalization Summer School

Spend an interesting and exciting week in Galway, Ireland (July 8-12, 2013) talking about migrants’ rights and the available protection mechanisms! The Summer School is open to anyone interested in the contemporary challenges of migration and human rights protection, including practitioners, journalists, academics, students, government officials, and NGO representatives.

Confirmed speakers for this year’s inaugural summer school include:

  • Professor Francois Crépeau, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants
  • Professor Tomoya Obokata, Professor of International Law and Human Rights, Keele University, School of Law
  • Professor Michael O’Flaherty, Co-director of the Irish Centre of Human Rights and Chief Commissioner at the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission
  • Ms. Mariette Grange, Senior Researcher at the Global Detention Project of the Program for the Study of Global Migration at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva
  • Ms. Siobhán O’Donoghue, Director of the Migrant Rights Centre, Ireland
  • Ms. Maria Stavropoulou, Director of the Greek Asylum Service
  • Dr. Ekaterina Yahyaoui, Lecturer and LLM Director, The Irish Centre for Human Rights
  • Dr. Noelle Higgins, Lecturer in Human Rights, The Irish Centre for Human Rights

The deadline has been extended to June 20 for submission of an abstract for this program, and to June 30 for registration. Visit the Summer School website or email for more information.