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A blog about human rights in their many forms.

How to stop sexual slavery in conflict zones

Analysis: The international community needs a tougher, more coordinated response to militant groups who abuse women and girls.
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A woman holds a card to campaign for the release of the 219 kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls during a rally in the Nigerian capital Abuja on Oct. 14, 2014. Boko Haram, who has claimed responsibility for the abduction, is one of many extremist groups around the world known for committing acts of violence against women. (PIUS UTOMI EKPEI /AFP/Getty Images)

The last few months have seen extremist groups such as the Islamic State (IS) and Nigeria’s Boko Haram rise in infamy for their brutal treatment and sexual enslavement of women and girls in the territories they control.

Most recently, Boko Haram released a video that featured leader Abubakar Shekau denying reports of a truce with the Nigerian government and claiming that the more than 200 schoolgirls the group kidnapped in April have been converted to Islam and married off to combatants. In fact, aside from a recent Human Rights Watch report, there is little solid information on how many girls have been abducted in the last few years, where they are today and if they have been married to combatants or sold.


Poll: Millennials will be swing vote in midterms, 2016

Young people will be the determining demographic in upcoming elections, but they are also losing their faith in the abilities of their government.
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Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Kansas Senator Pat Roberts' wife Franki Roberts share the stage at the Prairie Fire shopping center Oct. 27, 2014 in Overland Park, Kansas. Experts say both Republicans and Democrats will need to exert extra effort in bringing the millennial vote to their side of the campaign for the midterm elections. (Julie Denesha/Getty Images)

America’s youth have become fair game in the upcoming midterm elections and beyond, according to a new national survey by the Institute of Politics (IOP) at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

“In contrast to where they were four years ago, young people are very much up for grabs,” IOP polling director John Della Volpe said during a conference call Wednesday that discussed the results of the survey.

The poll found that US millennials – 18- to 29-year-olds in this case – are dissatisfied not only with both major political parties, but also with the government as a whole. 


International collaboration emerges as key to youth unemployment crisis

Will it be enough to put hundreds of millions of young people to work?
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LAGOS, NIGERIA -- Tayo Olufuwa, 23, has taken his future into his own hands by starting Jobs in Nigeria, an online jobs listing service for unemployed professionals. The site now has more than 200,000 users. (Lauren Bohn/GlobalPost)

NEW YORK — With little disagreement that the global youth jobs crisis is one of the most pressing issues of our time, problem solvers have begun developing and implementing coordinated solutions.

These range from renewed focus on affordable education to public-private partnerships aimed at closing the "skills gap" to entrepreneurship programs — and combinations of all of the above. Will it be enough to put hundreds of millions of young people to work?


How labor unions can help beat Ebola

Commentary: Rubber tappers in Liberia are helping with prevention and detection, representing an effective new approach.
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Family members gather outside a home in the West Point neighborhood where a man's dead body awaited the arrival of an Ebola burial team to take him for cremation on Oct. 17 in Monrovia, Liberia. The World Health Organization says that more than 4,500 people have died due to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa with a 70 percent mortality rate for those infected with the virus. (John Moore /Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — As the United States military heads to Liberia to aid in the fight against Ebola, officials should not overlook an unlikely but potentially powerful ally: the rubber tappers who help make their tires.

It may seem an unlikely alliance to have a union of rubber tappers — some of the poorest people in the world — helping the US military and international relief organizations. But they have two invaluable assets: the trust of the local population and the potential to continue supporting programs the relief agencies put in place.

They are making significant contributions even as the disease poses an increasing threat to community leaders and their families.


Synod leaves questions about Vatican stance on homosexuality

Church leaders moved away from an early draft of the synod's record, but some LGBT rights advocates and clergy say evolution is underway.
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Bishops attend a papal mass for the beatification of Paul VI, who died in 1978, and the end of Vatican's synod on the family at St. Peter's square on Sunday, Oct. 19. (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE /AFP/Getty Images)

VATICAN CITY — The closing of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family was celebrated in a Mass for thousands, led by Pope Francis in the Vatican City on Sunday.

It followed the release of the official record of the synod, or Relatio Synodi, which was approved paragraph by paragraph by the assembled bishops on Saturday, with three of the 62 paragraphs failing to get the necessary votes. Though most synods don't generate much news, a draft version of the report released last week ignited a firestorm when a section under the heading “Welcoming Homosexuals,” said, “homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community,” and asked if the community was capable of welcoming people with such “tendencies.”

The new version “significantly backtracks on LGBT issues from the draft released earlier this week,” according to Francis DeBernardo, executive director of Maryland-based Catholic gay rights group New Ways Ministry.

“It's very disappointing that the synod's final report did not retain the gracious welcome to lesbian and gay people that the draft of the report included,” DeBernardo wrote. “Instead, the bishops have taken a narrow view of pastoral care by defining it simply as opposition to marriage for same-gender couples.”


Australia is curtailing civil liberties in response to the Islamic State

IS has spooked Australia's government to push through a series of reforms reminiscent of post-9/11 America.
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Women greet eachother during Eid al-Adha celebrations at a festival at Paul Keating Park in Bankstown on October 4, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. Eid al-Adha, also known as 'Festival of the Sacrifice' is a Muslim holiday that celebrates the prohit Ibrahim for his willingness to sacrifice his own son at the order of Allah. (Lisa Maree Williams/AFP/Getty Images)

MELBOURNE, Australia — Shamaila Saeed sat in a circle with a dozen women and teenage girls, discussing passages from the Quran. It was a typical afternoon in the women’s section of the IEWAD mosque and community center in Narre Warren, a southeastern suburb of Melbourne.

The tranquil setting seemed a world apart from the police station parking lot in nearby Endeavor Hills, where five days earlier Abdul Numan Haider, an 18-year-old Muslim from Narre Warren, had stabbed two counter-terrorism officers with a knife before they shot and killed him.


Boko Haram agrees to release kidnapped girls after ceasefire

The break in violence is a relief for Nigeria and for the world, but experts don't expect the peace to last.
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Supporters of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign march for the release of the 219 Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram militants, in Abuja, Nigeria on Oct. 14. (PIUS UTOMI EKPEI /AFP/Getty Images)

The Nigerian government and the Islamist militant group Boko Haram have reportedly agreed Friday to a ceasefire which would set free more than 200 schoolgirls the group abducted in April. 

“They’ve assured us they have the girls and they will release them,” Nigerian presidential aide Hassan Tukur told BBC Focus on Africa. “I am cautiously optimistic.”

The agreement was reached Thursday night and comes after one month of negotiations, Tukur said. No details have been reported about the terms of the girls' release.


New center to help coordinate global response to youth unemployment crisis

More than 400 million jobs will need to be created in the next decade to keep up with the growing labor force, the International Labor Organization reports.
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Greek unions rally against unemployment in central Athens in July. The last few years have seen youth unemployment rise to crisis levels, with more than 74 million young people without jobs today. (LOUISA GOULIAMAKI /AFP/Getty Images)

As youth unemployment spirals into crisis levels worldwide, solutions are increasingly relying on stakeholders from varying sectors to come together, push for reform and innovate on a global scale, according to panelists at a policy forum on the issue, held Oct. 15 in Washington, DC.

“This has risen to the level of what we call a grand challenge that needs to be addressed in a very complex and coordinated fashion,” said Wayne Holden, president and CEO of the research firm RTI International, which hosted the forum.

The forum covered educational reforms that would better prepare millennials for the current job market and the role businesses can play in directing and funding career programs. The four panelists of varying backgrounds talked about innovations that have succeeded in getting young people employed and, above all, the need to forge partnerships that could take those innovations to a nationwide and global scale.


England, Northern Ireland brace for more health worker strikes

Demonstrations continue as the government refuses to budge on protesters’ demand for 1 percent wage hike.
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National Health Service (NHS) workers, including a midwife and her baby (C), gather outside St Thomas' Hospital on Oct. 13 in London, England. Unions are seeking a 1 percent raise for all workers, but the government says it would cost too much. (Peter Macdiarmid /Getty Images)

LONDON – Midwives, nurses, paramedics and other healthcare professionals across England and Northern Ireland went on strike Monday morning to protest the reversal of a promised 1 percent wage increase, the first time such an action has been taken in 30 years.

Thousands of people picketed in front of hospitals throughout the country, and for the rest of this week, National Health Service (NHS) employees are performing work-to-rule – meaning they are only working the bare minimum that their contracts demand. Next Monday, radiographers will strike, leading the series of actions by NHS employees into a second week that unions say is a “last resort” to demand fair pay.


Vatican document fires up gay rights debate

As Catholic bishops from around the world discuss "family issues," friendlier language toward gays and lesbians is creating fireworks.
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Pope Francis (R) smiles as he arrives for his speech at the Synod on the Families, to cardinals and bishops gathering in the Synod Aula, at the Vatican, on Oct. 6. Pontiff on Sunday launched a major review of Catholic teaching on the family that could lead to change in the Church's attitude to marriage, cohabitation and divorce. (Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images)

VATICAN CITY — “The drama continues!” laughed Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle of the Philippines, opening the second week of press conferences on the 2014 Extraordinary Synod of Bishops taking place amid the buzz of wandering tourists around the Vatican.

Tagle began the usual media briefing Monday afternoon by summarizing some of the most noteworthy aspects of the previous meeting, part of a landmark gathering on Catholic families and social issues. He had on hand the freshly released Relatio Post Disceptationem, a synthesis of discussions from the first week of the synod. And that document has already created a firestorm.