International Law Conference on the Status of Women

GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan spoke at this event hosted by the New York City Bar Association.

Description:
This exciting Conference will coincide with the 64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in New York City and the 25th Anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing where First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton historically proclaimed, “Women’s Rights are Human Rights.”  Speakers, panelists and moderators at the Conference will address various topics, including: the status of women and the role of lawyers and the law in improving the status of women; United Nation’s initiatives to improve the status of women; global human rights concerns and abuses specifically impacting women; innovative approaches to improving the lives of women through the rule of law and government policy; elevating women lawyers and fostering diversity within the legal profession; and the role of legal societies, professional organizations and international NGOs in aiding women. 

A Pro Bono Engagement Forum and Reception will kick off the Conference to allow attendees to connect with one another about potential opportunities to offer legal services on a pro bono basis to NGOs focused on serving women.

Moderators:
Robyn Griffin, Managing Director, The Huntington National Bank
Lauren McMillen Ormsbee, Partner, BLB&G

Welcoming Remarks:
Roger Juan Maldonado, 
President, New York City Bar Association 

Speakers: 
Fiona Bassett,
 Board Member, The Hopeland Charity Foundation
Julie E. Fink, Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP
Francoise Girard, President, International Women’s Health Coalition 
Barbara Hart, President and CEO, Lowey Dannenberg, P.C.
Stephanie Johanssen, Senior Advocacy Officer and UN Representative, Women's Refugee Commission
Laila Khoudeida, Co-Founder and Director of Women’s Affairs for YAZDA
Charlotte Laurent-Ottomane, Executive Director, Thirty Percent Coalition
Dr. Faith Mwangi-Powell, CEO, Girls Not Brides
Consolee Nishimwe, Author, Tested to the Limited, Educational and Motivational Speaker
Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, United Nations  
Akila Radhakrishnan, President, Global Justice Center 
Jessica Reijnders, Executive Director, Free A Girl USA 

Human rights groups sue Pompeo, try to disband State Department commission

Excerpt of McClatchy article that features the Global Justice Center.

They are suing Pompeo, in his capacity as secretary of state, in the Southern District of New York, as well as the State Department and its director of policy planning staff Peter Berkowitz, the executive director of the commission.

The other plaintiffs in the case are the Center for Health and Gender Equality, or CHANGE, the Council for Global Equality and the Global Justice Center.

Their lawsuit alleges members of the commission hold biased views, and they were selected by Pompeo to yield a predetermined outcome. It argues that the commission’s work is not in the public interest.

Read the Article

Human rights organizations file suit over Pompeo's 'unalienable rights' commission

Excerpt of CNN article that features the Global Justice Center.

Pompeo unveiled the commission in July 2019, saying it would be tasked with examining the role of human rights in foreign policy and refocusing on which rights should be "honored." Lawmakers and human rights organizations had expressed concerns that the initiative was an effort to roll back protections for women, LGBTQ groups and minorities.

On Friday, Democracy Forward filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York on behalf of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights, the Center for Health and Gender Equity, the Council for Global Equality and the Global Justice Center. It targets Pompeo, the State Department and the department's director of policy planning staff, Peter Berkowitz.

The groups allege that the commission was created and operated in violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, the 1972 statute that establishes guidelines that such committees must adhere to.

Read the Article

Latin American Feminists Are Rising Up Against Violence. The International Community Should Join Them.

Excerpt of Ms. Magazine op-ed by GJC's Danielle Hites.

Latina feminist activists have poured onto the streets to challenge government and police officials for their failure to protect women from this lethal discrimination. Pointing to the misogynist and machismo institutions, they have made clear that their inaction is complicity.

The international community must lift these voices and hold governments accountable to their obligations to protect the rights to life, equality and freedom from torture.

Read the Op-Ed

UN Secretary-General Delivers Call to Action on Human Rights

NEW YORK – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres delivered a call to action today on human rights in an address to the Human Rights Council.

Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center, had the following response:

"The Secretary-General’s call to action is a welcome effort to re-center human rights into the work of the United Nations. Particularly important is its specific area of focus on gender equality and equal rights for women. Still, it is equally important that gender equality is integral to all focus areas as a cross-cutting issue.

“With the UN’s recent failure to adequately respond to the serious violations against the Rohingya in Myanmar in mind — as documented in the UN’s own internal report by Gert Rosenthal — it is essential that this call to action translates to meaningful action. It’s insufficient for the UN to pay mere lip service to the concept of human rights. Rather, the call to action should be used to fundamentally shift the UN’s culture and ensure that all parts of the system work to promote, not suppress, human rights.”

Meet Akila Radhakrishnan, President of the Global Justice Center

Excerpt of DropLabs article that features GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

What we become inspired by often is genuinely determined by our experiences. For some, the passions they discovered at a young age eventually do manifest into their professional careers, and for others, such a pathway becomes best informed by time and experience. In Akila Radhakrishnan's story, a mixture of both helped shape the direction of her career today. As a kid, Akila recalls always saying she wanted to be a lawyer, citing her love for being argumentative as an indicator of the direction she wanted to pursue when she got older. However, it wasn't until attending law school, working in the field and learning more about herself and the work she aimed to achieve that a path in advocating for human rights ended up unfolding.

Presently, Akila serves as the president of the Global Justice Center, an international human rights organization. Founded in 2005, the non-profit organization works to advance gender equality by helping to implement and enforce human rights laws. Akila's journey into her present role has been accented by incredibly hard work, a dedication to social justice and a willingness to be as diligent as possible in upholding the GJC's mission.

Read the Article

Sign-on letter against State Dept's pregnancy and racial profiling rule

Dear Secretary Pompeo:

We, the undersigned ​XX​ organizations, demand that you rescind the final regulation published Friday, January 24, 2020, in the Federal Register, Visas: Temporary Visas for Business or Pleasure, RIN: 1400-AE96. This regulation is an attack against immigrant women, particularly those of color, and with low incomes. The Department of State (“Department”) justifies these changes to temporary visas in the name of national security, when in reality they are thinly veiled racist and xenophobic attacks on the health, dignity, and well-being of immigrant women of color and their families. The consequences of this regulation will only stoke fear and confusion in immigrant communities who are already subject to the brutal whims of an administration that embraces blatantly discriminatory policies against immigrants and people of color.

Download the Letter

Illegal US Abortion Restrictions: Key Points for the Universal Periodic Review of the United States

Introduction

During the United States’ (US) second-cycle Universal Periodic Review (UPR), multiple states made recommendations concerning US abortion restrictions on foreign assistance, including the Helms Amendment. In addition to donor and recipient countries, these restrictions have also been the subject of concern for human rights bodies and experts. The US has failed to take any action on these state recommendations; in fact, in 2017 the Trump administration further entrenched and expanded the scope of these policies with the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule (GGR).

The restrictive abortion policies include those imposed by the US Congress – the Helms and Siljander Amendments (Helms-related restrictions) – as well as the Presidentially imposed GGR. The restrictions impact different pools of money: the Helms-related restrictions dictate how US foreign aid can be spent and apply to all foreign assistance funds, while the GGR limits how funds from any donor can be spent if a foreign non-governmental organization receives US global health assistance. These restrictions not only ignore the US’s own obligations under international law, but violate a broad array of women’s rights, deny them essential services, and put their lives and well-being at risk.

The Global Justice Center’s full submission highlights continuing concerns over these US policies which impose blanket prohibitions on abortion services and speech, in violation of US obligations under international humanitarian law, international human rights law, customary international law, and UN Security Council Resolutions. It is long past time for the US to repeal these regressive and harmful policies, direct their aid to pursue positive health outcomes for women, and to realize women’s fundamental rights under international human rights and humanitarian law

Download Fact Sheet 

The Persistent Danger of Trump’s Definition of “Unalienable Rights”

Excerpt of Ms. Magazine op-ed by GJC's Elena Sarver.

The State Department’s newly formed Unalienable Rights Commission held its third public meeting today. It’s been six months since the commission was first announced in July 2019 by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, but it’s important to not lose sight of the dangers this commission poses.

To start, the very existence of this group as a way to determine and define human rights fundamentally distorts and misunderstands the very nature of human rights—they cannot be limited based on the views of a single government. Further, we should be most alarmed at its obvious intent: to erode long-established human rights in service of a regressive agenda, with clear antagonism toward abortion rights in particular.

At the outset, the commission is working under a seriously flawed premise. Universal human rights norms exist to hold states accountable: they cannot be defined or redefined based on the demands of an individual administration. Especially an administration like Trump’s, which has systematically disengaged from, rejected and attempted to erode the human rights system since its inauguration.

Read the Op-Ed

"That's Illegal" Episode 12: The Commission to Undermine Human Rights

GJC's Elena Sarver and Merrite Johnson dive into the Trump administration’s new “Commission on Unalienable Rights.” The commission is stacked with socially conservative ideologues with a history of hostility to abortion rights and LGBTQ rights. Its goal? To remake human rights in the image of Trump and his regressive agenda.

Enjoy this episode? Follow us on iTunes and Soundcloud!

How the International Criminal Court Has Failed LGBTQ Survivors

Excerpt of Ms. Magazine op-ed by former GJC intern Claire McLeod.

Gender has long been used as a tool to carry out mass atrocity crimes. These persecutions include not only discrimination based on gender identity, but also sexual orientation. Members of targeted groups, by the perpetrators’ own design, experience violent crimes in distinct ways by reason of their sexuality and gender. Further, the enactment of violent crimes can vary based on cultural beliefs and prejudice against the targeted group held by the perpetrator and society. And yet, despite the inextricable role played by gender and sexuality, the ICC and international criminal law at large have generally failed to apply either in analyzing mass atrocity crimes. 

Read the Article

There can be no real accountability in Myanmar if women remain on the sidelines

Excerpt ofWomen's Media Center op-ed co-authored by GJC Senior Burma Researcher Phyu Phyu Sann.

Myanmar presents one of the world’s most difficult challenges to combating impunity, assisting victims, and reforming the institutions responsible for committing sexual violence and other crimes in conflicts. For years, women in Myanmar have called on the international community to intervene to put meaningful pressure on their human rights abusers. They are demanding an end to military control in the country and accountability for perpetrators of sexual violence and other egregious crimes against women.

Read the Full Op-Ed

Gender Inequality and Sexual Violence in Myanmar: Part of the Problem is Preventing a Cure

Excerpt ofMizzima op-ed by GJC Senior Burma Researcher Phyu Phyu Sann & GJC Special Counsel Michelle Onello.

When it comes to protecting women from violence in Myanmar, what little difference a year makes. Last year during the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, the Government pledged to submit a Prevention of and Protection from Violence Against Women (PoVAW) Law to Parliament in early 2019 and give “priority and focus” to protecting women and children from violence.  As we approach another 16 Days of Activism, the PoVAW law, in the drafting stage since 2013, has not yet been submitted to Parliament, making clear that protecting women from violence is far from a priority or focus for the current Government.

Read the Full Op-Ed

Episode 12 – Genocide and gender with Akila Radhakrishnan

Excerpt of Asymmetrical Haircuts podcast episode that features GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

We grabbed Akila Radhakrishnan – the president of the Global Justice Center based in New York, an international human rights organisation focused on gender equality and the rule of law, that’s been at the centre of all the lobbying for this move. 

Their special interest is in the gendered nature of genocide – check out their reports The Rohingya from Discrimination to Destruction– and Beyond Killing by the amazing Sareta Ashraph.

Read the Full Article

Women, peace, security agenda approaches 20th year with shaky progress

Excerpt of Devex article that quotes GJC Deputy Legal Director Grant Shubin.

The Security Council passed a new resolution on Wednesday calling for the full implementation of 1325, showing the “urgency and need” for making good on the agenda, according to Grant Shubin, the deputy legal director of the Global Justice Center. But the new resolution has its own gaps, including the fact that it does not have any sexual and reproductive health and rights language, Shubin said.

Read the Full Article

Discrimination by Design: Key Points for the Universal Periodic Review of Iraq

In advance of the Human Rights Council’s forthcoming review of Iraq, it is critical that attention is paid to the need for fundamental reform of Iraq’s legal system in order to achieve justice for Daesh’s victims, and more broadly for the people of Iraq. As currently codified, Iraq’s criminal laws do not punish the most egregious aspects of Daesh’s sexual and gender-based violence. If prosecuted under these laws, basic features of Daesh’s crimes will go unpunished, such as rape with objects, forced marriage, and gender-motivated torture, as well as the international atrocity crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

The Global Justice Center’s full submission highlights a number of concerns over Iraq’s criminal laws as violations of Iraq’s obligations under the treaty bodies to which it is a party – including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and the Geneva Conventions.

Download Fact Sheet 

Reproducing Impunity: Gendering the Draft Convention on Crimes against Humanity

The Draft Convention on Crimes against Humanity offers an opportunity to improve accountability for grave violations of international law; however in its current form, it continues to limit justice for sexual and gender-based violence.

The International Law Commission (“ILC”) undertook the task of compiling a Draft Convention on Crimes against Humanity in 2014. In the ILC’s first draft, it replicated the definition of crimes against humanity verbatim from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (“Rome Statute”)[1] for the sake of expediency, sparking unprecedented engagement from gender groups and experts to reform the provisions. As a result, during the final cycle of the ILC drafting process, 20 of the 33 states that submitted comments and a cohort of 23 UN experts called for the removal of an outdated definition of gender that failed to recognize a basis for persecution and limited justice and accountability for such crimes.

Removing the gender definition was a crucial step towards recognizing that it is not enough to merely replicate existing language without reckoning with legal developments and the gendered dimensions of mass atrocity crimes. However, the call did not go far enough to address the draft treaty’s inadequacies on sexual and gender-based violence, including restrictive definitions of torture, enslavement, and other sexual and gender-based acts “of comparable gravity” that constitute crimes against humanity. This factsheet will focus on one such crime under the treaty—forced pregnancy.

Download Fact Sheet 

Iraq: Submission to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

I. Introduction

1. In advance of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s (Committee) forthcoming review of Iraq, it is critical that the Committee pay particular attention to the need for fundamental reform of Iraq’s criminal legal system in order to achieve justice for Daesh’s victims, and more broadly for the women and girls of Iraq. As currently codified, Iraq’s criminal laws do not punish the most egregious aspects of Daesh’s sexual and gender-based violence. If prosecuted under these laws, basic features of Daesh’s crimes will go unpunished, such as rape with objects, forced marriage, and gender-motivated torture, as well as the international atrocity crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

Download the Full Submission