Sexuality and Gender

The Carr Center explores the roles that gender and sexuality play in the realm of human rights policy and practice. We focus on the underlying social stigmas and cultural traditions that often fortify patriarchal systems of power.

Sexualtiy & Gender - Experts

Equality Discrimination - Experts

Arthur Applbaum

Arthur Applbaum

Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values
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Equality Discrimination - News

UN

Study Group: Spring 2018, Metamorphosis - New Rights On The Horizon

January 16, 2018

Rights are not static things. They don’t stay the same from generation to generation but evolve and change depending on changing norms and circumstances. In a sense, they adapt to history. This is an unpopular notion. Most human rights advocates understandably fear that, if long-fought-for rights are not grounded in the bedrock of such things as natural law or inherent human dignity, they may be subject to disregard or even repeal. As we will argue, rights represent a description of the good society, a society that protects and advances its members’ “lives, liberties, and pursuit of...

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Study Group: Confronting Corruption in Defense of Human Rights

January 16, 2018

Carr Center Senior Fellow Sherman Teichman and Co-Convener Professor Nikos Passas will convene the second semester of their study group, exploring the relationship between corruption and human rights. Download the study group brochure here.

The objective of this study group is to deepen and expand our understanding of the links between...

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Equality Discrimination - Events

Equality Discrimination - Publications

#Us Too: Children on the Move and Belated Public Attention
Jacqueline Bhahba. 4/12/2018. “#Us Too: Children on the Move and Belated Public Attention.” International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family, 21, 2, Pp. 250-258. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Children on the move are having their #Us Too moment. Over the past months, momentous developments point to a more intense engagement with the needs and rights of refugee and other migration-affected children than has previously been evident. As with #Me too, many of the most central claims – the pervasive presence of abuse, the scale of the problem, the striking power imbalances that have perpetuated the problem’s relative invisibility – are not new or surprising per se. It is the avalanche of evidence, the mobilization of affected constituencies, and the sobering realization of the extent and consequences of previous denial that are disquieting.
Trump's First Year: How Resilient is Liberal Democracy in the US?
John Shattuck, Amanda Watson, and Matthew McDole. 2/15/2018. Trump's First Year: How Resilient is Liberal Democracy in the US?. Carr Center for Human Rights Policy . Cambridge, MA: Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard Kennedy School. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This paper by Ambassador John Shattuck, Amanda Watson and Matthew McDole examines the resilience of liberal democracy and democratic institutions in the US after one year of the Trump administration. 


SUMMARY
 

In its 2016 “Democracy Index” report, the Economist Intelligence Unit downgraded the United States from a “full” to a “flawed democracy”. The report cited “an erosion of trust in political institutions” as the primary reason for the downgrade.[1] In January 2018 Freedom House offered an equally dire assessment: “democratic institutions in the US have suffered erosion, as reflected in partisan manipulation of the electoral process . . . and growing disparities in wealth, economic opportunity and political influence.”[2]

Declining levels of political participation and public confidence in government in the US are not new, but the populist forces that propelled the election of Donald Trump in 2016 signaled a new level of public disillusionment with democratic politics as usual. There has been a sharp increase in public discontent with the system of governance in the US over the last fifteen years. An October 2017 Washington Post/University of Maryland poll found that 71% of Americans believe that political polarization and democratic dysfunction have reached “a dangerous low point”.[3] Three years earlier, in 2014, a Gallup Poll showed that 65% of Americans were “dissatisfied with their system of government and how it works,” a dramatic reversal from 68% satisfaction twelve years earlier in 2002.[4]

The US is a flawed liberal democracy.[5] In theory, liberal democracy is the antithesis of authoritarianism. Its ingredients include free and fair elections, freedom of speech and media freedom, an independent judiciary, minority rights and civil liberties, a diverse civil society, the rule of law and a system of checks and balances against concentrations of power. The institutions and elements of liberal democracy are designed to be a bulwark against tyranny by both the executive and the majority.

Mathias Risse. 10/7/2018. “Human Rights as Membership Rights in the World Society”.Abstract

The idea of human rights has come a long way. Even hard-nosed international-relations realists should recognize that the idea has become so widely accepted that nowadays it arguably has an impact. Many countries have made human rights goals part of their foreign policy. International civil society is populated by well-funded and outspoken human rights organizations. We have recently witnessed the creation of an entirely new institution, the International Criminal Court, as well as the acceptance, at the UN level, of guiding principles to formulate human rights obligations of businesses. Around the world, more and more local concerns are formulated in the language of human rights, a phenomenon known as the vernacularization, or localization, of human rights. Ordinary people increasingly express concerns in terms of human rights rather than a language that earlier might have come more natural to them. They are not just helping themselves to a legal and political machinery. They also make clear that they are articulating concerns others have in similar ways where they live.

Jia Xue. 2016. “Rape Myths and the Cross-Cultural Adaptation of the Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale in China.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The study examines the similarities and differences between China and the United States with regard to rape myths. We assessed the individual level of rape myth acceptance among Chinese university students by adapting and translating a widely used measure of rape myth endorsement in the United States, the Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance (IRMA) scale. We assessed whether the IRMA scale would be an appropriate assessment of attitudes toward rape among young adults in China. The sample consisted of 975 Chinese university students enrolled in seven Chinese universities. We used explorative factor analysis to examine the factor structure of the Chinese translation of the IRMA scale. Results suggest that the IRMA scale requires some modification to be employed with young adults in China. Our analyses indicate that 20 items should be deleted, and a five-factor model is generated. We discuss relevant similarities and differences in the factor structure and item loadings between the Chinese Rape Myth Acceptance (CRMA) and the IRMA scales. A revised version of the IRMA, the CRMA, can be used as a resource in rape prevention services and rape victim support services. Future research in China that employs CRMA will allow researchers to examine whether individual’s response to rape myth acceptance can predict rape potential and judgments of victim blaming and community members’ acceptance of marital rape.

Dara Kay Cohen. 8/2015. “Do States Delegate Shameful Violence to Militias?” The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 59, 5, Pp. 877-898. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Existing research maintains that governments delegate extreme, gratuitous, or excessively brutal violence to militias. However, analyzing all militias in armed conflicts from 1989 to 2009, we find that this argument does not account for the observed patterns of sexual violence, a form of violence that should be especially likely to be delegated by governments. Instead, we find that states commit sexual violence as a complement to—rather than a substitute for—violence perpetrated by militias. Rather than the logic of delegation, we argue that two characteristics of militia groups increase the probability of perpetrating sexual violence. First, we find that militias that have recruited children are associated with higher levels of sexual violence. This lends support to a socialization hypothesis, in which sexual violence may be used as a tool for building group cohesion. Second, we find that militias that were trained by states are associated with higher levels of sexual violence, which provides evidence for sexual violence as a “practice” of armed groups. These two complementary results suggest that militia-perpetrated sexual violence follows a different logic and is neither the result of delegation nor, perhaps, indiscipline.

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