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A blog about human rights in their many forms.

Activists to gay conversion therapists: 'Don't try to fix us'

Protesters challenged attendees of the National Association For Research and Therapy of Homosexuality's annual conference on a widely discredited practice.

Editor’s Note: This story is the first in a running series on the global debate about the controversial practice of gay conversion therapy — also known as reparative therapy and sexual reorientation therapy — which has been widely discredited by professional organizations but remains legal in most places. The stories will explore the intersections of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) identities and mental health.


Authorities in Hungary leave victims of domestic violence on their own

Commentary: European countries have adopted a landmark convention on preventing and combating domestic violence. But Hungary hasn't signed on.
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An elderly woman holds a banner that reads 'My father is the strongest man ... but only we know, and only at home' during a demonstration against domestic violence in front of the Hungarian parliament building in Budapest on Sept. 16, 2012. (ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images)

BUDAPEST — It's a haunting photograph. Rozsa, a young woman staying at a shelter for domestic violence survivors in the Hungarian countryside, looks straight into the camera, her eyes completely drowning in deep purple and blue, the colors of abuse.

Staff at the shelter we visited gave us the pictures and her case file. The imprints visible on Rozsa’s legs, back and buttocks suggest she was beaten repeatedly by fist and whip.


Labor Lowdown: This week in workers' rights

What you need to know about the United States, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka.
Members of GetEQUAL, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organization, stage a protested on Capitol Hill on May 20, 2010 in Washington, DC, calling on congressional leaders to schedule a vote for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which was passed by the Senate yesterday. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The US Senate approved a “historic” bill for LGBT workers on Thursday, striking joy and anxiety for those following the Employment Non-Discrimination Act as it moves on to the GOP-dominated House of Representatives. Domestic workers are seeing new rights in Saudi Arabia, as the Saudi Press Agency announced a new law on Saturday, while domestic workers in Sri Lanka prepare to present revised legislation to the country’s labor department. Qatar’s human rights watchdog has revealed that they will be establishing a center for the protection of migrant workers.

Here are some continuing issues to keep in mind:


Bangladesh will again close its border with Myanmar, blocking Rohingya refugees

Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in Myanmar are "infiltrating" Bangladesh, says Bangladesh's Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar wait in a line in Teknaf after their boat was intercepted while trying to cross the Naf river into Bangladesh to escape sectarian violence on June 18, 2012. Just over a year ago, the Bangladesh/Burma border was closed, and Bangladesh was coming under increasing international pressure to open its border to Rohingya. (MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Bangladesh has decided to close its border with Myanmar to prevent the passage of the country’s Rohingya Muslims who are seeking refuge from persecution by majority Buddhists, the Dhaka Tribune reported Friday.

Bangladesh’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dipu Moni, made the declaration to the House of the Nation—the country's supreme legislative body—on Thursday, saying that the “infiltration” had put pressure on Bangladesh, and so the government would take legal actions against any “illegal infiltrators and those giving them shelter.”

“Given the recent unstable situation in the Rakhine state, the foreign ministry has adopted measures to immediately seal off the Myanmar border to stop the infiltration of the Myanmar nationals for national interests,” Moni told parliament.

She said the government had already made locals along the border aware of the situation, and given law enforcement agencies instructions on taking legal action against those who do not comply.


Russia intensifies pre-Olympic security precautions against 'radical Islam'

A late-October suicide bomb in Volgograd, Russia has inspired more severe security measures leading into the 2014 Winter Olympics.
One of the Olympic torches rises in front of a poster with the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic logo just outside the Red Square in Moscow, on October 7, 2013, during a ceremony to kick off the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic torch relay across Russia. (KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)

Oxfam challenges brands like Coca-Cola, Pepsico and Nestle to help fix global food system

A campaign seeks to harness the power of the 10 biggest food companies to fight hunger, malnutrition, poverty and human rights abuses.
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Coca Cola cans are seen on a production line at a bottling plant near New Delhi, India. (Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images)

BOSTON — Since February, four of the world’s largest food companies have officially embraced the United Nations' principles on empowering women. Coca-Cola has announced new plans to prevent water pollution among suppliers and Nestle became the first major brand to commit to work with local communities before making agricultural land deals.

The moves come six months after the food giants started working with the nonprofit Oxfam to identify agricultural policies that could be perpetuating hunger, poverty and human rights abuses. As part of the project, called “Behind the Brands,” Oxfam is acting as a sort of consultant to the 10 biggest food companies, including Pepsico, General Mills and Kellogg’s. At the same time, though, Oxfam has been loudly trumpeting the companies’ wrongdoings to the world using petitions and social media campaigns.


Camus, at 100, a prophet of human rights

Camus is remembered as one of the great writers of the 20th century, and a figure of continuing controversy.
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Albert Camus (New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection/Library of Congress//Wikimedia commons)

NEW ORLEANS — A century ago today, Albert Camus was born into a poor, overcrowded home in Algiers, Algeria, the capital of France’s colonial department. He would become one of the youngest writers to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1957, at 44.

Camus’s centenary has unleashed a tide of books, conferences and critical assessments that affirm his stature as one of the great writers of the twentieth century, and a figure of continuing controversy whose work now resonates with the yearnings of the Arab Spring and the challenges of combatting 21st century extremism.

Camus’ mother, illiterate and partially deaf, became nearly mute in reaction to her husband’s death in World War I. The boy was not yet two. With scholarships and good mentors, Camus received a classical education; he moved to France at the outbreak of World War II and published a celebrated novel, The Stranger, at 29. In Paris, he wrote for a clandestine newspaper during the Nazi Resistance. He was prolific after the war, but three years after winning the Nobel Prize, he died in a car accident in France. 


Talking Peace: This week in global diplomatic negotiations

What you need to know about the US, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and negotiations on Syria.
Democratic Republic of Congo Army soldiers stand on November 5, 2013 in Bunagana, which had been the M23 rebel base, in the eastern North Kivu region. Rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo's powder-keg east surrendered on November 5 after a crushing UN-backed offensive ended their 18-month insurgency in a region that has seen some of Africa's deadliest conflicts. ( Junior D. Kannah /AFP/Getty Images)

Weeks of NSA spying revelations have put pressure on US diplomatic relations with its allies, so it is no surprise that Secretary of State John Kerry this week set out to ease some of the tension. Kerry has been visiting a number of countries in the Middle East and Europe after acknowledging that US surveillance may have gone too far. One country not on the itinerary is Brazil, whose president recently canceled diplomatic visits to Washington and condemned the US at the UN General Assembly.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, however, may now be in a slightly awkward position after Brazilian officials this week confirmed a Sao Paulo newspaper report that the country's intelligence agency had also spied on the US, Russia, Iran and Iraq.

Syria peace negotiations, set to take place this month, have been delayed, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the M23 has declared it will set down its arms and engage in political talks with the government.

Here’s what to keep an eye on:


For Tanzania’s albinos, superstition leads to violence

People with albinism in rural Tanzania live in fear of attacks by those who believe their body parts will bring them riches.
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Zainab Muhamed's daughters play in their Dar es Salaam home, where the family fled after unfamiliar men attempted to enter their previous home in southern Tanzania. One year ago, a different group of men arrived here demanding to see one of the daughters, presumably with sinister motives relating to her albinism. (Jacob Kushner/GlobalPost)

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — One October night in Tanzania’s southernmost Mtwara region, a group of men with their faces covered pounded on the wooden door to Zainab Muhamed’s home and told her to open up. They would not say what they wanted — but it was obvious.

Muhamed had just given birth to the second of two daughters with albinism — a genetic abnormality resulting in an absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes that makes the bearer appear extremely pale.


Qatar: A poet sits in a desert cell for reciting his work at home

Op-Ed: Poet Mohammed al-Ajami will spend 15 years in prison for his Arab Spring-inspired poem — unless Qatar's new emir can be convinced to grant him a pardon.
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Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly on September 24, 2013 in New York City. (Brendan McDermid-Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

DOHA, Qatar — We stood outside the guard house in the desert wind on the outskirts of the city. Doha Central Prison rose on the horizon of a barren, rock-strewn landscape, electric wires cutting across a cloudless sky. We had been told we had permission to visit Qatari poet Mohammed al-Ajami, whose 15-year sentence for two poems had been confirmed the previous day by the high court.