Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Women's Rights Are Human Rights

Today classes finally started! I was beyond happy. Class was very thought provoking and for me enraging because we discussed women’s rights, CEDAW and violence against women. Just hearing the kinds of horrible things that happen to women and the excuses for it made me angry and almost cry. In between our TA session and the end of class I went to the Cornell store to buy a jacket. During the TA session we talked about many sensitive, but interesting topics. Those topics include female genital mutilation and special measures or quotas. After the TA session I didn’t do much besides walking around Beebe Lake and reading for tomorrow’s class materials. 

I almost forgot I had class so I accidently slept in. So I rushed as fast as I could and I made it to class early. For a little bit I was scared that I was going to be late. In hindsight I am super happy I wasn’t late to class because the subject we were covering was one I was super passionate about and I was women’s rights and violence against women. The one thing I kind of noticed in class, but never fully realized was the CEDAW (the Convention for the Elimination Discrimination Against Women) never mentioned violence against women. I thought that was very strange and outrageous because violence against women is one of the largest ways women are stripped of their rights. Violence against women is used to demean and suppress women and is pervasive in all cultures and societies. I thought it would be natural to include articles addressing violence against women in a convention dedicated to women’s rights. But for a very long time and even now violence against women is invisible and not talked about often because of reasons ranging from culture to the fact that it is uncomfortable for people to discuss. That’s why when our professor showed us a quote that says “Women’s rights are human rights” I had a strong reaction. I found this profound because it says to me that women like any person is born with rights that can never be stripped from them and no matter where they go they have those rights. It also spoke me because women’s rights has always been swept to the side or ignored and this quote says that they should be addressed like any other human right.

Me at Beebe Lake
We discussed violence against women further and we examined a United States Supreme Court case called Castle Rock v Gonzales. In this case a woman named Jessica Lenahan-Gonzales had three children and a husband who got increasingly violent and dangerous. Mrs. Gonzales filed a restraining order against her estranged husband. Soon after Lenahan estranged husband kidnapped her children in front of her house. She repeatedly asked the police for help and asked them to enforce her restraining order. But the police refused to because according to them they were with their father and couldn’t possibly be a danger even though Lenahan had a restraining order against her husband. Later after the police made zero effort to find her children or enforce her restraining order Lenahan’s her husband showed up with a gun to the Castle Rock police station and opened fire and killed himself. Afterwards the police found                Jessica Lenahan’s three children shot to death in a truck’s trunk. Lenahan sued Castle Rock for not enforcing her restraining order and the case made it all the way to the Supreme Court. In the end the Supreme Court decided that the police didn’t have to enforce the restraining order because it didn’t fit under due process. To me this was ridiculous because if the state doesn’t have to enforce a restraining order then why have one? Why do restraining orders exist? Why give people false hope? I found it tragic that Lenahan never got any sort of remedy or compensation for this tragic situation that could have been easily avoided if the police did their jobs and enforce her restraining order. I strongly disagreed with the Supreme Court ruling and I felt little hope, but then we learned that Lenahan took her case to the Inter-American Commission and filed a petition against the United States and the Commission ruled in her favor citing the right to life and safety. This gave me hope and made me love international law a little more because it showed that international law is a valid lane to find justice. It showed that even if you exhausted all domestic remedies you still have an option to seek remedy.

My hoodie
After that class I was a little tired because it was and emotional roller coaster. I had lunch and ran out of Trillium Hall with Javaria because we had to meet Deven and Noor at the Cornell store and run out of there so we could get to our TA session on time. I got a cool looking hoodie and travel mug. Javaria and had to run to our TA sessions with our things in hand.

The TA session today was extremely interesting because we discussed gender stereotypes, female genital mutilation and special measures. Our discussion about gender stereotypes happened when we discussed CEDAW and on provision that calls for the destruction of stereotypes. We talked about stereotypes such as women are emotional or if a boy teases you that means they like you or boys will be boys and girls are flirts. This struck me because many of these stereotypes are said casually and many people don’t think of how harmful they are. They excuse violence and acts of aggression. “Boys wil be boys” is the most obvious example of this, that stereotype is often used to excuse rape in many cases. I found it shocking that such as small statement can allow for such a horrible action to occur.

We moved on to female genital mutilation. I won’t go into gruesome detail (I am sorry this is one thing you’ll have to google at your own discretion). I nearly cried at this atrocity and how the procedure is done. It strips women of what makes them women and if they survive it deprives them of life. Afterwards women have major health issues that prohibit them from having children, a job, participating in leisure activities and in nearly every other aspect of life. In a sense from my perspective even if they survive the procedure the women who go through this are still murdered. Their innocence is murdered, their enjoyment of life is murdered they may be living, but in many ways they can’t have lives. I got beyond angry. I was shaking. When Naffa asked the group why people do this the consensus was that no one had a clue. I said that they didn’t want women to have pleasure during sex, but even though I said it I didn’t believe it. I had no clue as to why people would do this to their fellow human.
Protest against female genital mutilation
We concluded the conversation with special measures or quotas. An example of this is that there has to be a certain number of women in parliament or a certain percentage and that you have to fill that quota. I agreed with this because it opens opportunities to talented women, opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be available to them because of their sex. People brought up the point that we should choose people based on merit, but one of my fellow classmates (her name is Lily I believe) brought up the point that elections will be based off of merit, it’s not as if they walk on a the street and pick a random women. The quota just gives qualified women a chance that they will never otherwise get. Naffa (our TA) asked us to raise our hands if we agreed with quotas and all, but two people raised their hands. We all looked at them, but when they saw the vast majority with their hands rose they didn’t say anything. I was a little sad. I wanted to see their point of view. There is a valid argument from the other side and I wanted to hear it from people who believed in it. At that moment I realized I was kind of in an echo chamber. Many people in the class agree on many human rights issues and have similar opinions. I felt kind of upset because I am in college I don’t want to be surrounded by same opinions as my own I want my ideas challenged because I am sure they are flawed and I can’t form opinions properly if they aren’t challenge.

After the TA session I just walked to my dorm and on the way I walked by Beebe Lake and took a picture. Then I went to my dorm to blog and read my class materials. I can’t wait for tomorrow’s class because we have a guest speaker on the death penalty, a contentious issue where I have some passionate views on it. Today was emotional and eye opening and it looks like tomorrow will be too.  

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