Women's Rights in AlbaniaFor years, women have struggled to obtain equality in the developing European country, Albania. Recently, however, this topic has received greater publicity as it becomes an increasingly pressing issue for thousands of citizens. Here are five facts about women’s rights in Albania that illustrate Albanians’ struggles. Moreover, these facts highlight organizations and initiatives that are inspiring positive change.

5 Facts about Women’s Rights in Albania

  1. The number of Albanian women in the workforce is rapidly increasing. Women now comprise the majority of agricultural workers in Albania, yet they are still paid lower wages than their male counterparts. On average, women receive 18% lesser salaries than men. To promote gender equality in the workforce, the U.N. Economic Empowerment Program in Albania provides resources for programs and initiatives. Such initiatives aim to expand vocational training and encourage female entrepreneurship throughout the country.
  2. Over 50% of Albanian women have experienced sexual violence. According to a study performed by the Swedish government, U.N.D.P. and U.N. Women, more than 50% of Albanian women have been victims of some form of “sexual, physical or psychological violence.” This most commonly occurs as a result of a partner’s perpetration. Additionally, a recent combination of economic struggles and stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 has caused an increase in domestic violence in Albania. This leaves women with little protection from violent situations. Under these circumstances, U.N. Women is initiating social media campaigns to spread awareness about resources providing security and shelter for domestic violence victims throughout Albania.
  3. Traditional customs prevent women from owning property. Under Albanian laws, women can purchase and own property. However, these laws often go ignored. Because women are traditionally unable to sign as a “head of the household” in legal affairs, it is incredibly difficult for women to become property owners. As of 2018, only 8% of Albanian women owned land. The Center for Civic and Legal Initiatives in Albania is working to boost this figure by encouraging women to purchase property. Also, they provide legal support to help navigate the obstacles that traditional customs present.
  4. More women participate in Albanian politics. Aiming to lessen the country’s multitude of gender inequalities, many women have successfully run for office. As of 2017, “women make up 23% of members of parliament, 35% of local counselors, 9 in 61 mayors and 8 in 20 cabinet ministers.” Though the numbers fall short of achieving proper representation, initiatives by the Albanian Parliament are encouraging women to run for various political offices.
  5. Women and girls struggle to access safe reproductive health care amid COVID-19. Albanian law severely limits access to abortion. Coupled with restricted access to healthcare due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many women find it impossible to receive access to safe abortion care. According to Amnesty International, governments in the region deem abortion care as an inessential health service. Leah Hoctor, the Regional Director for Europe’s Center for Reproductive Rights, has called on many governments, including the Albanian government, to intervene. She states “European governments must act urgently to guarantee safe and timely access to abortion care during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Continuing the Fight

Women in Albania struggle to lead independent lives due to the prevalence and severity of gender inequality. Sexist laws and cultural norms limit women’s rights in Albania. This, in turn, prevents many women from achieving equality in health, safety and prosperity. Though organizations like U.N. Women and the Center for Legal and Civic Initiatives, improving the quality of life for these women has become a real possibility.

– Courtney Bergsieker
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Homelessness in Swaziland
Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, is an enclaved country within Southern Africa. The nation faces a massive problem of homelessness caused by a broken system of human rights and poverty. The country’s land governance system has unfairly sent many people out of their homes. King Mswati III owns much of the land that the people live on — leaving the Swazi people powerless when evictions occur. These evictions hit women and other marginalized groups especially hard, as they do not have protection under the law. AIDS, HIV and the eradication of agriculture for land development have also played a role in worsening homelessness in Eswatini.

Land Insecurity

Farming is a vital part of the Swazi peoples’ livelihood. Yet, recent land development disputes have begun to hurt farming practices with evictions leaving hundreds of people homeless. These evictions have occurred at the hands of police and bulldozers, which destroyed many homes. To make matters worse, many newly-evicted people have no alternative or even temporary shelter. In April 2018, dozens of people and more than 30 children became homeless — forced to live in inhumane conditions. Some people slept at a local school, some slept outside of their now-demolished home and some slept in a chicken shed.

As more people increasingly fall victim to homelessness in Eswatini, fewer places exist for families to purchase goods for themselves. It has been difficult to fight these evictions due to the country’s government being an absolute monarchy. As a result, people cannot overturn the policies that the king has put in place. These forced evictions come from not only Mswati III owning the land, but also private entities and/or the government owning some as well. This leaves the Swazi people at a high risk of eviction without preparation, warning or recompense.

Connections to HIV

The contraction of HIV has also contributed to the problem of homelessness in Eswatini. Almost 40% of sexually active Swazi adults are positive of the virus. As adults suffer or die as a result of HIV contraction, their children and other members of their households are left without a breadwinner. Sometimes, these homes become children-led. This makes it easier for the government to remove the homes with no plan or adequate place for the family to live afterward.

What is Being Done?

Amnesty International, a non-government organization focused on human rights, reported human rights violations causing homelessness in Eswatini. Moreover, Amnesty International assessed that the violations were caused by the country’s government. The organization has recommended and pushed the prime minister, attorney general and the minister of justice to address this problem. It has urged the prime minister to prohibit all evictions due to violations of legal protections and lack of adequate housing. Specifically, in the regions of Malkerns and Nokwane, the prime minister is to protect the people and provide them with safe places to live until they find a home. The attorney general is to put into law the stoppage of all forced evictions regardless of the circumstance. Relevant institutions would have to go through the proper procedures, before evicting someone.

Upon converting these policies into law, the attorney general is to make sure their new land policy is in line with international human rights involving housing. In this way, the government is taking action to reduce the problem of homelessness in Eswatini.

Dorian Ducre
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in QatarThough Qatar may be known for its gleaming skyline and booming business hub, there is notable income inequality that leads to downstream consequences, such as an explosion of homelessness within the nation. While perhaps the country evokes images of riches and wealth, the reality is not so for all those living and working within the country. Here are six facts about homelessness in Qatar that warrant everyone’s attention.

6 Facts About Homelessness in Qatar

  1. As a result of the economic boom during the last 40 years in this small nation in the Middle East, Qatar has gone on a massive building spree. To maintain this rapid pace of building, the country has relied primarily on migrant immigrants to help construct the city. These migrant workers have been subjected to repulsive conditions. Worse yet, the Qatari government could historically do more when it comes to basic human needs for these vulnerable, migrant workers.
  2. Many migrant workers, unable to afford accommodation, sleep at the construction sites in which they work. The companies that sponsor these migrant workers for construction projects in the city do not provide sufficient wages. Furthermore, these same employers do not provide any type of housing to support thousands of workers. Therefore, many migrant workers end up sleeping outside.
  3. An Amnesty International report on the construction of the future FIFA World Cup site in Qatar looked into the mistreatment of these migrant workers. Most notably, the report focused on migrant workers’ unfair treatment concerning housing securement. The report identified multiple individuals who were priced out of their affordable rental housing, due to their company delaying salary payments.
  4. Those who are homeless in Qatar face consequences from all angles of society. The government often views these workers as expendable — thrown into subjugated parts of society and subject to threats from criminals and police alike. These actors take advantage of the migrant workers already poor situation. Without proper living conditions, living on the streets can be quite difficult, especially if one lacks the required documentation and visas.
  5. The government of Qatar has been investing in improving labor conditions for workers. In addition, the government is addressing homelessness in Qatar, more broadly. Encampments like “Labour City,” funded by the State of Qatar’s private engineering office, is an area designed to house over 100,000 migrant workers. The new residences are significant improvements from previous accommodations. Some features of these new residences including access to the internet, green spaces and larger living areas — a far cry from a life on the streets.
  6. Private firms have also been investing in migrant laborers’ living conditions. Barwa Al Baraha, a subsidiary of a private property management business in Qatar, has built residences that can house up to 53,000 people in significantly improved living conditions.

Protecting Vulnerable Populations

While the nation of Qatar has experienced economic success in recent decades, there is no guarantee that the fruits of this success will be distributed equitably. In contrast, some marginalized and vulnerable populations (e.g., migrant workers) within Qatari society are at a higher risk of exploitation, simply due to their life circumstances. Through a concerted effort from both public and private initiatives, labor and living conditions for migrant workers are improving in Qatar and these efforts must continue.

Zak Schneider
Photo: Wikimedia

Human rights violations
Across the globe, human rights violations are committed by official law enforcement personnel far too often. In Africa and other parts of the developing world, such violations often occur in the context of extreme poverty. Although there has been some progress in protecting human rights, there is still much work to be done. A recently created website, WhoWasInCommand.com, seeks to help victims locate their perpetrators in order to bring about justice.

Restricting the Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

Amnesty International reports that in Africa in 2017 and 2018, “intolerance of peaceful dissent and an entrenched disregard for the right to freedom of peaceful assembly” had become all too commonplace. This includes arresting as well as beating and sometimes even killing, peaceful protestors. They also note that “these trends occurred within a context of slow and intermittent success in reducing poverty.”

Within the past two years, Angola, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Sudan and Togo all undertook measures that restricted or banned peaceful protests. All of these countries have poverty rates more than 30 percent, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo having the highest rate at 63 percent.

The restriction of peaceful protests does not always violate human rights, but law enforcement personnel sometimes resort to extreme measures to crack down on protesters. In Togo, a crackdown by security forces, which involved beatings and the firing of tear gas and ammunition at protestors, resulted in the deaths of 10 individuals, including three children.

Identifying the Perpetrator

Of course, protestors are not the only individuals suffering from human rights violations committed by law enforcement. Such violations can occur while an individual is being detained in jail, in their home or on the street. One of the largest barriers of bringing perpetrators to justice, however, is the inability to identify them. In fact, many victims of human rights abuses do not know the names of those who violated their rights, making it nearly impossible to develop a legal case. Even when perpetrators are identified, sometimes they are moved around to prevent prosecution.

In 2016, a 12-year-old was detained, tortured and left almost paralyzed by security force officers in Nigeria. His lawyer, Chino Edmund Obiagwu, who is also the director of the Legal Defense and Assistance Project in Nigeria, would have been unable to cite the officers because he could not have access information on their names if it had not been for the work of provided by the WhoWasInCommand.

Holding Officials Accountable for Their Actions

In response to difficulties in identifying law enforcement personnel who violate human rights, Tony Wilson, the director of Security Force Monitor, a project of Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute, started the website WhoWasInCommand in June 2017. The site publishes data on law enforcement, including names, ranks, commanders, location, history of service and previous allegations held against them.

Security Force Monitor was created to support researchers, investigative journalists and litigators that work specifically on human rights violations. Those behind the project believe that it is important to hold security force officials accountable for their actions, but also recognize that, as data on these groups is generally decentralized, difficult to locate and sometimes costly, individual lawyers or victims often do not have the resources to access it. The Security Force Monitor team analyzes thousands of public records to provide relevant information on WhoWasInCommand about law enforcement officials.

The Increasing Popularity of the Website

Initially, WhoWasInCommand only included research on Mexico, Nigeria and Egypt, but as of October 2018, six new countries have been added, including Bangladesh, Myanmar, Philippines, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia and Uganda, making the site the largest public database on security forces in the world. Countries are chosen based on the existence of longstanding concerns about human rights abuses by law enforcement as well as the consistent inability of lawyers and journalists to identify perpetrators in those areas.

In addition to the assistance the Security Force Monitor is providing, there have been some successes in cracking down on human rights violations through legislation. Nigeria passed an Anti-Torture Bill in December 2017, Burkina Faso’s has committed to increasing human rights protections in their draft Constitution, the Gambia pledged to abolish the death penalty and Kenya decided not to close a refugee camp that houses over a quarter of a million Somali refugees who could not return home without the risk of violence and abuse. While progress is slow, small victories such as these are not inconsequential, but are, in fact, an essential step in ensuring human rights across the globe.

As WhoWasInCommand continues to grow, hopefully, there will be a notable increase in successful prosecutions of law enforcement personnel who commit human rights violations. A researcher at Amnesty International, Aster van Kregten, expressed hope that nations may eventually begin freely contributing information about security forces, making a site like WhoWasInCommand unnecessary. Governments also need to continue to pass laws that ensure the protection of human rights for all individuals.

Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Migrant Workers in Qatar

When one thinks of the Gulf state of Qatar, sky-high skyscrapers, double-decker airplanes and sprawling shopping malls come to mind. Ever since the discovery of oil in the region in 1939, the Qatari economy has seen rapid growth. In 2018, the CIA World Factbook ranked Qatar as second highest for GDP per capita, making it one of the wealthiest nations in the world. But this also makes it important for people to learn about the state of migrant workers in Qatar.

Migrant Workers in Qatar

The progress in Qatar has its drawbacks. When FIFA selected Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup, the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar was brought to the spotlight. A research brief from the UK Parliament found that Qatar has 1.5 million migrant workers or 90 percent of its total labor force comprises migrant workers.

While foreign workers continue to report incidents of exploitation and segregation, Qatar has made substantial improvements to its labor laws and is cooperating with organizations like Amnesty International and the International Labor Organization in the process.

The Kafala System

Gulf states—including Qatar—use the kafala (Arabic for sponsorship) system as an employment framework to recruit migrant laborers from abroad to work in low-paying jobs.

Under the kafala system in Qatar, migrant workers have documented a range of abuses, among them, are delayed and unpaid wages, excessive working hours, confiscation of passports, inaccessibility to healthcare and justice, sexual violence as well as deception in the recruitment process. In short, the kafala system binds a migrant worker into an exploitative employer-employee relationship.

By giving an employer control over a migrant worker’s job and residential status, the kafala system encourages workplace abuses. With over 95 percent of Qatari families employing at least one housemaid, some migrants choose to become domestic workers in the homes of Qatari nationals, where they are often subjected to sexual violence.

Furthermore, The Guardian reported in October 2013 that many Nepalese workers have died since the beginning of construction projects for future World Cup sites. These Nepalese workers live in segregated labor camps outside Doha where they endure unsanitary conditions and scant water supplies.

Labor Laws in Qatar

Under pressure from international nonprofits, Qatar has implemented a series of labor laws to improve working conditions for workers. In December 2016, a new law allowed migrant workers to return to Qatar within two years if they had previously left without their employer’s permission. It also increased the penalty for employers found guilty of confiscating their employees’ passports and created a committee to review workers’ requests to leave Qatar.

While this made no reference to the kafala system, the law fell short of addressing kafala’s main shortcoming, i.e. workers still need permission from their employers to switch jobs.

In order to help domestic workers who are often victims of forced prostitution, Qatar introduced a domestic workers law in August 2017. Instating legal protections for over 173,000 migrant domestic workers, the law sets a limit of 10 hours for a workday and mandates 24 consecutive hours off every week, as well as three weeks of annual paid leave. Though in its early stages, the law promises to alleviate the alienation and abuse of domestic workers, some of whom work up to 100 hours per week.

The Qatari government is gradually repealing the kafala system. In October 2017, the government expanded the Wage Protection System and mandated payment of wages by electronic transfer.

On September 5, 2018, an Amnesty International press release reported that the Emir of Qatar issued Law No. 13, which bans employers from preventing migrant workers from leaving the country.

Conclusion

Qatar’s World Cup bid may have been a blessing in disguise. Qatar started its stadium projects using slave-like labor, and now it has slowly opened up to the critiques and suggestions from external nonprofit organizations. As an example, the International Labor Organization has forged a technical cooperation agreement with Qatar and together they have worked to unravel the kafala system. These changes will turn this wealthy country into a more equitable one.

– Mark Blekherman
Photo: Flickr

 

Human Rights in Turkmenistan
Human rights in Turkmenistan have a long-held reputation as among the harshest in the world, a reputation still held today. The current president, Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov, and his close advisers control nearly every facet of public life.

In September 2016, the Turkmen parliament enacted a new constitution, removing the 70-year-old age limit for the office of the presidency and also eliminating presidential term limits.

According to the Turkmenistan Human Rights Watch report of 2017 and the U.S. State Department’s 2012 Turkmenistan Human Rights Report, three primary liberties appear to be at the forefront of persecution. Listed below are these freedoms and details describing the severity of these particular human rights in Turkmenistan.

1. Social Activism

Those who publicly and even sometimes privately advocate for a civil or free society in Turkmenistan take a great risk. They live in constant fear of governmental retribution, and not only endanger themselves but often their families too.

In October 2016 three activists were arrested. Two were sentenced to supervised, forced labor. While one was released after ten days, the other was sentenced to three years in prison based on fabricated fraud charges. The third, Galina Vertryakova, while in police custody awaiting trial, managed to post dissenting comments about the Turkmen government on Russian media channels. Shortly thereafter, he was arrested on unfounded extortion charges.

In August 2016, Akmukhammet Baikhanov, a Turkmen exile, was in Moscow when two men in masks attempted to abduct him. This took place one month following his publication of a book that revealed specific abuses of human rights in Turkmenistan prison “Ovadan-Tepe,” a facility known for torture and terrible conditions. In April 2016, the Turkmen government detained Baikhanov’s brother, stating that they did so because of Baikhanov’s book.

However, the case of Geldy Kyarizov best depicts the lengths to which the Turkmen government will go to silence activists. In the early 2000s, Kyarizov sustained a six-year prison sentence, convicted on fabricated criminal charges. But, the government finally granted him permission to leave the country in 2015. In November of 2015, Kyarizov interviewed publicly for the first time and described his experience at the prison. Following this interview, Turkmen government officials cut off all communication between him and his family, threatened his siblings and briefly jailed one of them after alleging drug charges.

2. Press and the media

Freedom of the press does not exist in Turkmenistan. Instead, the state oversees all media, whether print or digital, and almost never allows foreign media outlets access to Turkmen media. Also, if someone catches a Turkmen citizen providing media content to foreign media agencies, that citizen will face retaliation from the government. The government also has eradicated most private satellite dishes, and the internet remains heavily restricted and monitored. In fact, the internet in Turkmenistan is among the most expensive in the world.

Saparmamed Nepeskuliev, a journalist for RFE/RL and Alternative News of Turkmenistan, an exile-run news outlet, received a three-year prison sentence in August of 2015 for unfounded drug charges.

In the early 2000s, former dissident and journalist, Chary Annamuradov, fled persecution from Turkmenistan. He gained asylum and citizenship in Sweden in 2003. When going on vacation to Belarus in 2016, Belarusian authorities arrested Annamuradov upon arrival for having an outstanding international arrest warrant for leaving Turkmenistan illegally. However, shortly after Belarus denied a Turkmen extradition request for Annamuradov in September, unknown individuals kidnapped Annamuradov’s brother from his home in Turkmenistan, holding him for four days. During that time the kidnappers severely beat and interrogated him about his brother. Altymurad Annamuradov died shortly after his return home by his kidnappers.

3. Political imprisonment and enforced disappearances

The abuses of human rights in Turkmenistan society is arguably seen most ostensibly in their treatment of political dissidents. The number of individuals jailed for political reasons remains unknown, due to the lack of transparency within the justice system. Trials often close off the public; independent monitoring of criminal cases can result in imprisonment or other forms of punitive action.

Due to this lack of transparency, the whereabouts of political dissident Gulgeldy Annaniazov, arrested in 2008, was not known publically until 2015. Annaniazov continues to serve an 11-year sentence. The fate of at least dozens of other political dissidents remains unknown. Despite its membership in the U.N., the Turkmen government ignored all requests to release certain victims of these enforced disappearances.

According to the “Prove They Are Alive,” campaign, three government officials died of unknown causes within the last two years. This includes Yolly Gurbanmuradov, a former deputy minister in charge of the gas industry, who died in December 2015; Annadurdy Annasakhedov, the former head of the department of counterintelligence, who died in February 2016; and Vekil Durdyev, a former state security officer, who died in August 2016.

In addition to this, both the U.S. State Department’s report, as well as the Amnesty International’s report, details the treatment of many inmates in Turkmen prisons. Torture appears as a commonality and is carried out in various ways including electric shocks, asphyxiation with a plastic bag, rape, forcing inmates to stay outside in extremely hot or cold temperatures for long periods of time and even forcibly administering hallucinogenic or psychotropic drugs.

Unfortunately, despite its constitution declaring the country as a presidential republic and secular democracy, an authoritarian regime runs the nation; ensuring that the citizen’s ability to change the government is futile. In order to reform the abusive human rights in Turkmenistan, a reform in government is mandatory.

Hunter Mcferrin

Photo: Flickr

Amnesty International
On May 4, Amnesty International’s Secretary-General Shalil Shetty met with the President and Prime Minister of the Kurdistani Regional Government, or KRG, to discuss the humanitarian crisis in the region and collaborate to prevent human rights abuses by all parties.

This meeting, taking place in Kurdish Iraq, came just months after Amnesty International published a report in January accusing the KRG of rights abuses. Amnesty International’s report earlier in the year accused Kurdish allied forces of demolishing Iraqi homes and preventing Arab Iraqis from returning to their communities after they were recaptured from the Islamic State.

The report argued that displacements without military justification could be considered a war crime, but also acknowledged that many of the territories had been disputed prior to the Islamic State, with many ethnically cleansed of Kurds by Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Amnesty International also acknowledged that the alleged abuses were occurring in the context of an unprecedented security, humanitarian and financial crisis for the Kurdistani Regional Government. Still, they asserted that the government cannot allow that to justify turning a blind eye to abuses within its territories.

More than a million foreign refugees and internally displaced persons are currently seeking shelter in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The KRG immediately responded to Amnesty International’s report, contending that it is the policy of its armed forces not to allow immediate return to recently recaptured territories for civilians of any ethnicity, due to proximity to continued conflict and due to the Islamic State’s tendency to leave IEDs behind when it withdraws.

In a further expression of concern for human rights, the KRG promised to conduct a full investigation into the reports compiled by Amnesty International. They granted AI and other rights groups full access to its territories in order to conduct their own independent investigations to ensure the protection of human rights.

Shetty thanked the KRG for its commitment to preventing abuses in the face of tremendous adversity, and acknowledged the long history of Kurdish cooperation with AI and other rights groups.

Hayden Smith

Photo: Flickr

 

What is Advocacy?-TBP
Advocacy is a concept with a short definition but an extensive explanation. In a very broad sense, advocacy is simply supporting a cause. The cause could be anything from human rights to animal rights and anything in between and beyond. An advocate works on behalf of another person or a group of people (or animals) who are voiceless or too vulnerable to promote their own causes and obtain help.

Advocates can work on the behalf of individuals, such as a parent for a child. Other examples include a teacher for a student, a doctor for a patient and a lawyer for a client. Relatives can also hire individual advocates who are trained and specialize in specific causes. Advocating for the disabled is one example.

Advocates can also work for groups that support individuals or larger numbers of people. Nonprofit organizations, such as charities or public arts organizations, are one type. An example is The Borgen Project. Another type are nongovernmental organizations that include Doctors Without Borders and Amnesty International.

Depending on the context of the situation, whether it be social, legal, medical or political, advocates use different skills and types of activities to benefit the people they support. Most advocacy involves at least researching, educating and organizing. The following list of activities, while not comprehensive, includes the most common advocacy activities.

  1. Research to gather the necessary information that reflects the reality as well as expose the myths of a cause or a person’s situation. Research also includes discovering relevant, beneficial resources.
  2. Educate legislators, school administrators, the public or other parties who change the laws, make the decisions or can in any other way provide what is necessary. The education may include composing fact sheets, writing letters or speaking at meetings or with individuals.
  3. Organize meetings, conferences and rallies in order to build a foundation of support and power within a community.
  4. Collaborate with other advocates or groups of the same philosophy to fortify resources and staff. You’ll be better prepared to campaign for shared goals.
  5. Attend conferences in order to network and share information with others of similar needs. This is one way to both research and collaborate.
  6. Act as a watchdog to ensure that government agencies comply with existing laws and regulations.
  7. Litigate to win in court for a person or cause.
  8. Lobby for or against specific legislation in order to benefit a person or cause.

These activities help form the backbone of advocacy. They enable advocates to support, defend and safeguard the children, families, communities and causes they represent. In these small and large ways, advocacy efforts effectively empower the vulnerable and give voice to the voiceless.

– Janet Quinn

Sources: Alliance for Justice, Citizens’ Committee for Children
Photo: NAGC

Amnesty_International
More than 400 human rights advocates, including actors, directors, fashion designers and many more, signed an open letter to Amnesty International asking the organization to vote against the decriminalization of the sex industry.

The proposed policy that these advocates are referring to backs the legalization of brothels and pimping. The policy asks for the support of all acts of selling sex to be lawful, but for sex buying to remain illegal.

After learning about Amnesty International’s intention, hundreds of noticeable individuals joined an international public campaign. The campaigners urged the organization to re-evaluate their plans and to stand with those who are oppressed in the sex trade.

The letter declares that advocates agree that those who are prostituted must not be outlawed by law enforcement and that the legalization of selling sex contributes to poverty, homelessness, sexual abuse and discrimination.

Many young children who are forced into the sex trade will not earn an education and will likely contract sexually transmitted diseases. Without healthy and educated citizens, a developing area cannot improve economically.

The cycle of poverty continues because poverty contributes to the sex trade. According to Medical News Today, many families in impoverished areas sell their children into the trade. Sometimes, children and young adults will seek out the trade to earn wages for food and shelter.

Former Irish prostitute Mia de Faoite said that the policy proposal advocating these means of earnings is absolutely unacceptable.

“I can find no justification for those crimes, and I believe that no one is able to justify such human wickedness,” de Faoite said.

She also said this policy move contradicts the organization’s ideals for human rights.
“Amnesty would agree with me, I am sure, and would fight alongside me to find justice, if I asked,” de Faoite said. “This is confusing to me, and it makes no sense because, on the other hand, they are prepared to sanction the behavior that led to this crime.”

A Change.org petition that petitions a “non-profit industrial complex” by Amnesty International agrees with de Faoite. The petition states that with this new policy, the organization will ultimately be harming those who Amnesty International claims to help.

“With this proposal, Amnesty International is moving away from human rights advocacy,” the petition said.

About 500 members of the international human rights organization will meet in Ireland for Amnesty’s 32nd International Council Meeting, where they are projected to approve the decriminalization of sex work. The vicious cycle of poverty will be promoted by Amnesty International’s proposal if there is not a change similar to the one proposed in the open letter.

The letter was signed by celebrities such as author Hannah Pakula, poet Rose Styron, actress Meryl Streep, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Anna Quindlen, chef Alice Waters and 2008 Amnesty International Human Rights Award-winner, Lydia Cacho. Other celebrity signers include Emily Blunt, Lena Dunham, Anne Hathaway, Lisa Kudrow, Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson.

This level of support for the change has helped achieve such a grand presence in human rights that there is now a campaign on Change.org for the modification. The letter is still open for more signatures.

To sign the letter and learn more about Amnesty International’s policy, click here.

Fallon Lineberger

Sources: Change.org, Look to the Stars, Medical News Today, Independent News Ireland
Photo: Vanity Fair

FIFA
Qatar has an estimated budget of 62 billion pounds for the hotels, infrastructure, stadiums and other buildings that it needs for the 2022 World Cup. Qatar has relied on migrant workers from countries such as India, Nepal and Sri Lanka to complete these building projects. However, the work for migrant workers is extremely difficult and many are dying, most likely as a consequence of the harsh conditions that they are forced to live and work in.

Since 2013, Qatar has been under investigations by groups such as Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch, who are worried that Qatar’s migrant workforce is being treated as modern-day slaves. According to a 2013 report from the Guardian, over 4,000 workers will die as a result of the conditions that they are subjected to while they prepare for the World Cup. From June 4 to August 8 in the same year, 44 Nepalese workers died, and half of those deaths were related to heart failure or workplace accidents.

Heart failure and heat strokes are common, since many workers are forced to slave away in extremely hot temperatures—up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit—and are sometimes not given access to free drinking water. This has led to many complaints from workers. More than 80 workers from India died from January to May 2013, and 1,460 complained to the embassy about problems related to labor conditions.

While it may seem like the best solution is for workers to go home, unfortunately, it is not that simple. Qatar and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries, such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, have instituted the kafala system—a system of sponsorship in which migrant workers are not allowed to change jobs or leave the country without a sponsor’s permission. Many sponsors hold the passports of migrant workers, making it impossible for them to leave. Workers are also often jilted out of the money that they were promised, and contracts are sometimes in English or other languages foreign to migrant workers, meaning that workers are forced to sign contracts that they do not understand.

Qatar promised that they would reform the kafala system after the deaths of migrant workers were bought to light. However, as The Guardian states, the system that Qatar plans to replace the kafala with will still ensure that employees are tied to their employers for the length of their contract, which can last for as long as five years.

An estimated 1,200 workers have died since Qatar began to construct its stadiums for the World Cup. However, this week, Qatar’s state news agency has issued a statement claiming that no workers have died during construction for the World Cup. They claim that no workers died while at work, and therefore argue that the assumption that the deaths of migrant workers are work related, is incorrect.

While it is most likely true that not all the deaths of migrant workers are work related, the fact remains that many of the deaths probably are a result of the poor living and working conditions that migrants are forced to face. Qatar is also hesitant to let reporters research the conditions of migrant workers in the country. In May of 2015, they arrested a group of BBC reporters who attempted to do so.

The problems with workers for the FIFA World Cup are representative of larger socioeconomic problems in Qatar. Qatar is the world’s richest country by income per capita. Its growing industry and infrastructure attract migrant workers determined to improve their living conditions by moving to such a rich country. However, migrant workers are treated extremely poorly. They are crammed into overcrowded living conditions of six to eight men in a room, and up to 40 men have to share a kitchen. The living conditions are unhygienic and bathrooms and washers are so dirty that some men are forced to use buckets of water to wash instead.

There are over 1.2 million migrant workers making up the workforce in Qatar. These workers are subjected to physical, verbal and sexual abuse. It is especially difficult for migrant workers who work in domestic situations. As the Human Rights Watch states, these workers are normally women, and they are especially vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse, as they are sometimes locked in the homes where they work and are not given protection under Qatari Labor Law.

The poor treatment of migrant workers might be an attempt by Qatar to keep its population under control. After all, over 80 percent of the Qatari population is now composed of migrant workers, meaning that 20 percent of the population actually benefits from the riches of Qatar, while the rest are forced to suffer. As one Nepalese migrant worker states, “No one respects our feelings, we are just labor, all people hate us.” Unless Qatar changes its laws and issues drastic reforms, it risks becoming a country where modern day slavery becomes more and more prevalent, and the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen.

— Ashrita Rau

Sources: BBC, BBC, BBC, Business Insider, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch, Migration News, The Guardian, The Guardian, The Guardian
Photo: The Telegraph