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A blog about human rights in their many forms.

British leaders confront gay conversion therapy

Parliament is considering a ban on a practice some lawmakers are calling 'insane' and 'dangerous.'
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Mayor of London Boris Johnson takes part in an event organized by gay rights charity Stonewall on April 14. 2012 in London, England. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Editor’s Note: This story is the second 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.


Debunking 5 misconceptions about female genital mutilation

No, FGM is not mentioned in the Quran. Yes, it is practiced outside of the Middle East.
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A mother holding her daughter's hand as she is circumcised in Bandung on February 10, 2013. The Indonesian government has come under fire after the UN General Assembly in November 2012 passed its first resolution condemning female genital mutilation (FGM) which more than 140 million women worldwide have been subjected to. (ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images)

An article about female circumcision we posted Tuesday morning caused quite a stir among Redditors about the origin and ethics of female genital mutilation.


Russian activists work to maximize Olympic spotlight amid anti-gay violence

An international chorus of opposition to Russia's homosexual 'propaganda' law is making noise as the International Olympic Committee asks athletes to keep quiet.
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Members and supporters of the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Intersex (LGBTI) community protest US economic trading with Russian companies outside the New York Stock Exchange on November 18, 2013 in New York City. Russia passed anti-LGBTI laws over the summer, including laws that effectively make any pro-gay statements or demonstrations illegal. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

With the Winter Olympics in Sochi still two months away, Russia's LGBTI advocacy community is already preparing for what happens when the Games are over.

"The experience of previous Olympic Games is not very optimistic in this regard," said Anastasia Smirnova, an activist representing a coalition of six Russian LGBT organizations at the United Nations on Tuesday. "As soon as attention is drawn away, ugly things start happening."


Female genital mutilation on the rise among Southeast Asian Muslims

More than 90 percent of women surveyed in Malaysia have been circumcised, and experts say increasing regional Islamic conservatism may be the reason why.
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(Emily Judem/GlobalPost)

Though World Health Organization reporting in 2011 indicated a decline in the practice of female genital mutilation — also known as female circumcision — experts say it is actually being practiced at much higher rates among Southeast Asian Muslims than previously thought.

The rise, they suggest, correlates directly to increasing conservative attitudes throughout the region.

On December 20, 2012, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously accepted a resolution on the elimination of female genital mutilation, saying that the practice affects between 100 and 140 million women and girls worldwide. But nearly a full year later, it appears the ban has had little to no effect in the southernmost tip of Southeast Asia.

More from GlobalPost: Debunking 5 misconceptions about female genital mutilation

A 2012 study conducted by Dr. Maznah Dahlui, an associate professor in Malaysia’s University of Malaya’s Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, found that 93.9 percent of Muslim women surveyed had been circumcised. In Indonesia, a 2010 Population Council study of six provinces indicated that between 86 and 100 percent of teenage girls had undergone the procedure. In both studies, 90 percent of Muslim women surveyed expressed support for the practice, claiming that it fulfills a religious obligation and fosters purity in women by controlling their sexual desire.

“Many people are doing it because they believe it is wajib or mandatory in Islam - a belief that was reinforced by a 2009 fatwa by Malaysia’s Islamic council that made it religious obligation,” said Suri Kempe, an activist from Muslim feminist organization, Sisters in Islam. “Yet there is nothing in the Qur’an that states that female circumcision is required. The bottom line is that Islam is not supposed to cause harm.”


America's domestic workers, mostly female immigrants, 'undervalued and underpaid'

A new study finds that over 90 percent of the United States' domestic workers are women, and they're living in poverty.
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(Emily Judem/GlobalPost)

A new study of the United States’ domestic worker industry shows a disproportionate number of laborers are women —predominantly immigrants — many of whom have trouble "making ends meet." The report, published Nov. 26, documents the economic instability and lack of legal protections for domestic workers.

Here is a closer look:


US support builds for passing International Violence Against Women Act

IVAWA was reintroduced to Congress on November 21, an effort to make women's rights a permanent part of US foreign policy.
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(Emily Judem/GlobalPost)

Rights groups say the passage of a recently revived bill would boost efforts to end gender-based violence around the world, potentially inspiring similar commitments from other countries.

The International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) is garnering renewed support since being re-introduced to the House of Representatives last week by Congresswomen Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Nita Lowey (D-NY). IVAWA would make violence against women prevention and response a permanent foreign policy priority through the Office for Women’s Issues at the State Department.

Currently, the office exists only when a presidential administration wants it to exist, according to rights group Women Thrive Worldwide, and if Congress passes the bipartisan bill into law it cannot be disbanded based on presidential terms.

The last time IVAWA was introduced to Congress and the Senate, in February 2010, the bill never made it to a vote. American Jewish World Service President Ruth Messinger, in a press conference hosted by the AJWS, said the United States could lead the change in how the international community responds to violence against women  if the bill were passed.

"We are, as the United States, the largest donor compared to other Western nations—Canada, Australia and Western Europe—that gives money and that makes it particularly important for us to target our aid to sensitive issues," she said. "If we say women's empowerment—action against violence against women—is important before a government can receive full funding, then countries will adopt similar policies."

Congresswoman Schakowsky added that passing the bill is not only imperative from a humanitarian standpoint; it is also important to US national security.

“It is no coincidence that the most dangerous places to be a woman are some of the most unstable places in the world," she said in Thursday afternoon's press conference. "Studies have proven that investing in women, protecting their fundamental rights strengthens entire communities. Combating violence against women is a critical step toward promoting regional and global stability.”


Nelson Mandela, Elder of the global village (1918—2013)

A look at Nelson Mandela's unconventional human rights group, The Elders, upon his passing at the age of 95.
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A boy accompanying his mother, member of the Conscience and Dignity Foundation, holds balloons with an image of former South African President Nelson Mandela during an event to mark Nelson Mandela International Day at Independence Angel square in Mexico City on July 18, 2013. (Yuri Cortez/Getty Images)

The widely adored South African leader Nelson Mandela, anti-apartheid icon and former president of the 'Rainbow Nation,' died Thursday at the age of 95, leaving behind a rich legacy promoting equality and human rights worldwide. A lesser-known part of his legacy is his founding of an international group known as The Elders.

Several years ago Peter Gabriel of the rock group Genesis and entrepreneur Richard Branson approached Mandela with an idea. That idea swiftly grew into a conversation.

The notion was simple: “many communities look to their elders for guidance, or to help resolve disputes. In an increasingly interdependent world—a ‘global village’—could a small, dedicated group of individuals use their collective experience and influence to help tackle some of the most pressing problems facing the world today?”

The Elders were formally established in Johannesburg in July of 2007.


Seeking the will to prosecute modern-day slavery

Human trafficking remains a massive global undertaking with a surprising number of cases in the US. Though prosecution is exceedingly rare, a London gathering celebrated those who are fighting to change that.
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An alleged Indian human trafficking victim (R) is hugged by her sister after being rescued from a village in Karnal around 100 kilometers from New Delhi on September 16, 2013. In India, mostly women are trafficked or tricked into different forms of slavery ranging from domestic service to prostitution. Desperately poor parents also sell their children who are then forced into begging rackets and manual labor. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, some 38,000 children were kidnapped last year in India compared with 33,000 the year before. Child rights groups say the actual number is probably much higher. (Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images)

LONDON — From the global underworld of human trafficking came stories of modern-day slavery: prostitutes from Eastern Europe with barcodes tattooed to their arms to signify ownership by pimps in New York; Nepalese men kept inside storage containers and forced to work as bonded labor in Dubai; and Indian girls, some as young as eight, trapped in a labyrinth of brothels with padlocked cages in Mumbai.


16 Days of Action: The burden of gender-based violence on women's health

With just under a week remaining in the campaign to end violence against women, GlobalPost spoke with the World Health Organization on how violence impacts wellness.
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(Emily Judem/GlobalPost)

There are six days left in the United Nations Secretary General’s 16-day campaign, UNiTE to End Violence Against Women, and in just the last week a number of staggering statistics have gone viral on the Web, exposing the international community to facts that, activists hope, will have lasting effects on the minds of many.

By now, certain essential data provided by the World Health Organization’s mid-June report on violence against women are known well among those following the 16 Days campaign:

A third of women worldwide have been subjected to physical or sexual violence by a partner or stranger; women who have experienced abuse at the hands of a loved one are twice as likely to suffer from depression than women who do not; children who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners as adults.

The WHO’s global review of violence against women has become an integral piece of UNiTE’s campaign, but it has done more than simply uncover the numbers behind a vast spectrum of human rights abuses against women that spans beyond geographical boundaries, political or religious landscapes—it has revealed a “public health problem of epidemic proportions.”


Obama warns of 'dangerous and growing inequality' in America

President Obama pledged to devote the remainder of his term to increasing opportunities for Americans, acknowledging that this is a time of unprecedented inequality.
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US President Barack Obama speaks on economic themes at the Center for American Progress December 4, 2013 in Washington, DC. Obama spoke at the think tank about economic inequality and a lack of upward mobility. (Aude Guerrucci/AFP/Getty Images)

After weeks dominated by the dysfunctional launch of his most important piece of legislation reforming the national health care system, Barack Obama on Wednesday tried to nudge the national spotlight on a deeper issue: the still growing gaps in income and opportunity between the richest Americans and the rest of the country.

Citing the words and deeds of presidents past — Democrats and Republicans alike — Obama equated income disparity as measured by an array of economic statistics as the “defining challenge of our time.”