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A blog about human rights in their many forms.

Madagascar, where child prostitution is common, cheap and 'trivial'

With the country in economic decline, foreign sex tourists have swept in to exploit girls as young as 8 or 9 for incredibly low rates. But officials have done very little.
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A nightclub in the town center of Antananarivo, Madagascar. Young prostitutes find most of their clients in such establishments. (Rijasolo/Riva Press/GlobalPost)

MAHAJANGA, Madagascar — At nightfall, the girls gather in small groups along the waterfront and outside the sweaty nightclubs blaring West African pop music. Some are elaborately done up in makeup and colorful cocktail dresses. Others stand plainly in jeans and T-shirts. Most are somewhere between 13 and 17 years old, though they can be as young as 8 or 9.


Kenyans call for attention to justice, the UN Millennium Development Goal that never was

With the United Nations convening in New York next week to debate a new set of global development goals, one Kenyan rights group wants justice reform to have its day in court.
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Tang Yong Jian (R), 40, a Chinese national, buries his face in his palms after he was arraigned in a Nairobi court January 27, 2014 for trying to smuggle 3.4 kg of raw elephant ivory through Kenya on transit to Guangzhou, China from Mozambique. (Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya’s leading legal rights group Thursday called on Kenya’s government to pressure the United Nations to adopt “justice” as one of its primary global development goals beginning next year through 2030.


African migrants in Israel asked to leave the country — or report to a detention center

More than 50,000 Sudanese and Eritreans are seeking asylum in Israel. The government has increased efforts to convince them to leave with threat of incarceration.
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In a press conference on January 22 in a Tel Aviv cafe, the organizers of the protests—all African migrants—accused the Israeli government of neglecting its responsibilities under the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees. They called for intervention of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the international community to make sure Israel is reviewing asylum requests in a fair and transparent manner. (Yermi Brenner/GlobalPost)

TEL AVIV, Israel — On stage, Mutasim Ali was a star. He spoke with confidence and enthusiasm, shouting slogans and sharing his feelings, igniting the thousands of fellow African migrants who gathered last Wednesday to demonstrate for refugee rights. Ali spoke of democracy, of hope and of a non-violent protest, swiftly alternating between Arabic, English and Hebrew. He spoke like a free and proud man.

In a few weeks, Ali could lose his freedom. The Israeli Immigration Authority has recently handed him a warrant. He is to report to Holot Detention Center, an open jail constructed in response to the arrival of the African migrants, within 30 days. Residents in Holot can leave but are required to return three times a day for roll call.

The migrants call Holot a concentration camp. The compound is located in the mostly uninhabited Negev Desert and can hold 3,000 people. For 27-year-old Ali, who escaped Sudan in 2009 because his “life was in danger,” reporting to Holot means he will not be able to work or maintain a normal life.

Ali is one of more than 55,000 African migrants that have entered Israel illegally in the past seven years. Most are from Sudan and Eritrea. All of them smuggled their way into the country through the land border with Egypt, which used to be porous until a fence was completed last year.

While the migrants call themselves asylum seekers, the Israeli government calls them "infiltrators," but is unable to force them to return to their countries because of its commitment to the 1951 International Refugee Convention. Rather, Israel has mostly refused to review asylum applications from Sudanese and Eritreans, in violation of the same convention, according to an Amnesty International Report.


Labor Lowdown: Indonesian maid reports abuse by employer in Hong Kong, sparks protests

The story of an abused domestic worker gains support in Hong Kong.
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Demonstrators shout slogans during a march in support of an Indonesian maid who was allegedly tortured by her employer in Hong Kong on January 19, 2014. The alleged maltreatment of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih by her employer over the course of eight months renewed concerns over abuse of foreign domestic helpers in the southern Chinese city. (PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Here’s what you need to know about domestic worker Erwiana Sulistyaningsih and her alleged abuse by employer, former beautician Law Wan-tung:

The story of a domestic worker who was beaten, starved and threatened by her employer sparked protests in Hong Kong last week.

The case of Indonesian maid Erwiana Sulistyaningsih began to draw attention after she reportedly confessed the abuse to her friend Riyanti in early January: “The truth is I was tortured by my employer. She beat me up and didn't give enough food to eat. I got very weak so she sent me home.”


The State of the Union's working women in 30 all-too-brief seconds

Analysis: President Obama was definitely brief in addressing equal pay for women in last night's State of the Union address, but he was also right.
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US President Barack Obama speaks at the Costco in Lanham, Maryland, on January 29, 2014 to highlight the importance of raising the federal minimum wage for all Americans. Obama vowed to reverse a tide of economic inequality threatening the American dream Tuesday, seeking to outflank Republicans and revive a second term blighted by self-inflicted wounds and partisan warfare. In his annual State of the Union address, Obama promised to wield his executive powers in a "year of action" to lift up workers, improve education and clean the environment if his foes in Congress balk at more sweeping action. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

It was a sobering morning following Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, the whirlwind of television and Twitter play-by-plays, then the immediate Republican responses—sometimes in tones reminiscent of late-night infomercials for antidepressants.

While this year’s iteration of the annual tradition rightfully concentrated on economic opportunity, including cold, hard facts indicating the State of the Union is increasingly unequal, there was one issue within that framework that didn’t get nearly enough attention: gender-based pay inequality in the American workforce.


State of the Union: Increasingly unequal

President Obama addressed rising inequality and promised to help "build new ladders of opportunity." Can he — or Congress — deliver?
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President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber at the US Capitol on January 28, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/AFP/Getty Images)

In his fifth State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama sought to overcome a growing crisis of faith among Americans who find it difficult to believe the United States is a place that affords "opportunity for all" as he recommitted to implementing "concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class."


From Davos to the US Congress, inequality talk isn't actually all that cheap

Heading into President Obama's State of the Union address, elites' discussion of economic disparity is at a high point. Does it mean anything?
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US. Secretary of State John Kerry takes photographs of the Swiss Alps during a helicopter ride from Davos to Zurich on January 25, 2014. Kerry is returning to the US from the Syrian Peace Talks and the World Economic Forum. (Gary Cameron/AFP/Getty Images)

As the Gulfstreams, Falcons and Learjets lifted off from Zurich over the weekend after days of networking, noodling and noshing, they left behind a significant mystery: Was the emphasis put on income inequality at this year’s World Economic Forum gathering a genuine sign that this ‘great divide’ is now recognized as a threat to global stability, or was it the kind of panic that gripped Rome when the Barbarians reached the city’s gates?


Honduras: 'Open for business' and dangerous for those who stand in the way

One indigenous community leader's story is part of a pattern of oppression against human rights defenders, journalists and lawyers in Honduras.
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Policemen stand guard as supporters of the Libertad y Refundacion Party (LIBRE) presidential candidate, Xiomara Castro, protest the day after general elections in Tegucigalpa, Honduras on November 25, 2013. Political tension loomed over violence-torn Honduras on Monday as the conservative candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez led the early count in presidential elections while his leftist opponents claimed fraud. Hernandez declared himself the winner with 34 percent of the vote, after 54 percent of ballots were counted. (JOSE CABEZAS/AFP/Getty Images)
One indigenous community leader's fight against a controversial hydroelectric dam in Rio Blanco, where she is part of a pattern of oppression against human rights defenders, journalists and lawyers in Honduras.

As democratic freedoms decline globally, the US must do more

Commentary: Report finds US leadership in advancing freedom is not an easy sell at home or a simple undertaking abroad, but necessary nonetheless, as global freedom declines.
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Protesters take part in a march commemorating the 1973 students uprising against the military junta, on November 17, 2013 in the center of Athens. Tens of thousands marched in Greece on November 17, amid tight security, to commemorate the 40-year anniversary of the violent suppression of a student uprising against a US-backed junta. At least 12,000 people, according to a police source, participated in the annual march to the US Embassy in Athens, remembering a historic event seen as a key moment in the restoration of democracy. (ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — These are hard times for democracy, reminiscent of 40 years ago, when communist governments, autocrats, military juntas, and white-minority rulers were firmly in control of most countries, and the United States largely accepted them as a permanent fixture of the international landscape. But that time 40 years ago marked the beginning of a historic wave of democratization. The United States came to champion the cause of democratic change and to exert significant influence in bringing that change about.

The Obama administration is hesitant to push for democracy abroad and exercise US leadership in defense of democratic principles. In this, it is in sync with a significant segment of the Republican Party and the American public. Its apprehension is partly a response to recent setbacks for democracy and US failures to advance democratic change, notably in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Freedom House’s annual country-by-country survey, on political rights and civil liberties have suffered eight straight years of global decline.


What it means to be 'Amazigh' in Morocco

The ethnic group indigenous to North Africa calls for national observance of their new year, and many say recent reforms haven't reached rural communities.

RABAT, Morocco — Berbers young and old clenched balloons and flags last week as they gathered outside Parliament calling for a national observance of their new year. 

The Berbers, an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa also referred to as the Amazigh, predate the Arabs of Morocco, but historically they have been left out of the political process. Jan. 13 marked the first day of year 2964 on the Berber calendar.