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Global Justice Center Blog

Series #2: Democracy Without Sexual and Reproductive Rights is an Empty Promise

In December 2021 the United States hosted a virtual Summit for Democracy, bringing together leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector to discuss challenges and opportunities facing democracies and to make commitments to defend democracy and human rights at home and abroad. The Summit kicked off a year of action and opportunities for engagement, which will culminate with a second, in-person Summit to showcase progress and plan a path forward.

During this year of action, the Global Justice Center and Fòs Feminista are hosting a series of events highlighting the ways in which governments' commitments to advancing the sexual and reproductive health and rights of people all around the globe is a key indicator of the strength and health of vibrant democracies that respect the human rights of all people. This panel is the second in the series and will take place during the 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), with the priority theme of achieving gender equality in the context of climate change.

The panel will highlight connections between current global challenges, including climate change, conflict, and the rise of authoritarianism, and the role of sexual and reproductive health and rights. It will provide an opportunity to hear from leading experts on the role of sexual and reproductive rights in democracies, the relationship between authoritarian governments and control of bodily autonomy, challenges facing the international human rights framework and multilateral spaces including the United Nations, the anti-rights Geneva Consensus Declaration, shifting the conversation on climate policies, and how states can realize their commitment to sexual and reproductive health and rights at home and abroad.

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U.S. Says Myanmar Military Committed Genocide Against Rohingya

Excerpt of Wall Street Journal article that quotes Global Justice Center President Akila Radhakrishnan.

Calls to prosecute Myanmar’s generals have grown since February last year, when the military overthrew the civilian government of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. The military has since been accused of more abuses including arbitrary arrests, custodial torture and killing of civilians.

“This is a welcome, yet long overdue step from the Biden administration,” said Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center. “The same military who committed genocide against the Rohingya are those who are illegally in power as a result of a military coup—the cycle of impunity must be broken.”

In October 2016 and August 2017, Myanmar’s armed forces launched what they called “clearance operations” in response to attacks on state security forces by Rohingya insurgents in the country’s western state of Rakhine. Independent investigators from the U.S. and the U.N. concluded that Myanmar troops committed widespread atrocities: Civilians were tortured and killed, women were gang raped and children and elderly people were burned alive as entire villages were razed.

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United States to Designate Crimes Against Rohingya as Genocide

NEW YORK — Reports surfaced today that the United States will formally determine that atrocities committed against the Rohingya minority by Myanmar’s military in northern Rakhine State amount to genocide and crimes against humanity. The Biden administration will officially announce the designation tomorrow.

Akila Radhakrishnan, President of the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:

“This is a welcome, yet long overdue step from the Biden administration. Recognizing the crimes against Rohingya for what they are — a genocide — is necessary if the world hopes to marshal a swift and appropriate response. So it’s absolutely crucial that this designation is followed by a renewed campaign of action from the United States to hold the military accountable. The same military who committed genocide against the Rohingya are those who are illegally in power as a result of a military coup — the cycle of impunity must be broken.

“Powerful measures the US could take include pushing the UN Security Council to refer the crisis to the International Criminal Court, taking the lead in demanding a global arms embargo, and securing humanitarian access to vulnerable populations in the country.

“Any such renewed effort from the US should also explicitly recognize the gendered nature of this genocide. The military’s systemic use of sexual and other gendered violence is critical to understanding both the Rohingya genocide and its ongoing post-coup crimes.”

Enabling access to quality abortion care: WHO's Abortion Care guideline

Fundamental to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on health and wellbeing (SDG3) and gender equality (SDG5) is the recognition that access to sexual and reproductive health information and services is central to both individual and community health, as well as the realisation of human rights. Comprehensive abortion care, which includes information provision, abortion management, and post-abortion care, is an integral component of sexual and reproductive health and is a safe, simple health-care intervention that saves women's lives and safeguards their dignity and bodily autonomy.

Globally, abortion remains common, with 30% (three out of ten) of all pregnancies ending in induced abortion. However, estimates suggest that just over half (55%) of all abortions worldwide (and less than a quarter of all abortions in African and Latin America) can be considered as safe. Barriers—such as the scarcity of accurate information or providers and facilities that can safely provide services, restriction of available methods of abortion, abortion-related stigma, high costs, third party consent and other legal restrictions—have made it difficult or impossible for many women to access abortion care, which can lead them to use unsafe methods and negatively affect their sexual and reproductive wellbeing and health.

Fulfilling one of its core functions as a norms-setting agency, WHO has been providing recommendations related to abortion since 2003. With the release of the WHO Abortion Care guideline in March, 2022, WHO has consolidated and updated its recommendations, drawing on the evidence and data on the clinical, service delivery, legal, and human rights aspects of providing abortion care that have arisen over the past 10 years. In line with the WHO guideline process, formulation of recommendations by expert panels was based on available evidence and consideration of other criteria using the WHO-INTEGRATE framework. As a result, 54 evidence-based recommendations and two best practice statements focusing on the above-mentioned aspects of abortion care are presented in this updated guideline.

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Avenues to Accountability for Sexual Violence in Myanmar

The Myanmar military and security forces have used on sexual violence as a tactic to terrorize civilians, especially ethnic minorities and women, girls, and gender-diverse people. Sexual violence was also a hallmark of the Rohingya genocide, as confirmed by the UN Fact-Finding Mission in 2017. Even before the February 2021 military coup, accountability within Myanmar was virtually unattainable; however, a number of avenues for justice exist at the international level. This panel will provide an opportunity to hear from local and international experts on potential avenues to justice and accountability for sexual violence crimes in Myanmar.

  • Akila Radhakrishnan (Moderator)
  • Wai Wai Nu, Founder, Women's Peace Network
  • Esther Ze Naw, Youth Coordinator, Kachin Peace Network
  • Naw Wah Ku Shee, Coordinator, Karen Peace Support Network
  • Ambassador Kelley Currie, Former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues

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