Integrating the Gender Normative Pronouns into the Work of United Nations Human Rights Treaties By Casey Chandler
First, it was only the rights of men that mattered, then women’s rights slowly made somewhat of an appearance, and now, the human rights movement has led to the freedom to express one’s true self. This may be an inalienable right; however, it poses a question for the international community: How can universality among peoples be attained if gender normative pronouns only express rights for certain individuals?
For many of the general population, gender normative pronouns undermine the principle of equality among all. It subjects people to fall under a certain category or define themselves as something they might not be. Within the English language, there is a large dichotomy between pronouns, such as his and her. This leaves little room for people who identify as something else. There is no third person inclusive pronoun that encompasses the entirety of the LGBTIQA+ community.
Some people may present the argument that “they” could be used as an inclusive
Term, but it has, in the past, been used to dehumanize people or alienate a group of people. Others find “they” liberating.
Treaties are defined to liberate human kind by setting principles that reflect the ethical treatment of beings. By defining how someone should identify themselves, it violates the end goal of liberating a person from discrimination. When member states distinguish the lack of attention and carelessness of the United Nations towards to LGBTIQA+ community, it allows derogation from general principles of discrimination. For example, in many states within the continent of Africa, homosexual activity is against the law. This concept denies humans to the right to expression and the right to life.
When treaties were first written, they solely mentioned the rights of man, as if man encompassed the entire human kind. Some treaties adopted new perspectives and tried to avoid pronouns in general, but the majority of treaties still use masculine pronouns to refer to the human race. For example, the UN Refugee Convention only uses masculine pronouns to describe the global population. The idea of adopting women’s pronouns into programs and treaties was reviewed in 1996, but it solely said that women have the same rights. There are people that don’t identify as either gender that still have the same rights due to the principle of natural rights. Gender exclusive pronouns are built into many languages. No one bothers trying to change or develop these rights because they have been set in stone for so long. Auto correct in papers suggests using either himself or herself instead of themselves because it is known as proper grammar. Things are slowly progressing, but there is much more within the international community that can liberate people who have been suppressed due to self-expression.
By Robson Swift
My therapist told me to write about things that upset me or make me feel really bad. I think it’s dumb. It’s not like writing my sorrows down will stop me from killing myself. But I’ll give it a go, maybe it will help. At this point I’m just passing time and waiting for it to stop for a while.
Even though you’ll never see this, (you kind of weaseled out of that one) I’m writing to you because you took so much from me. You did so much, every time I think of what you did my stomach churns and I shake uncontrollably. You did all this, you ruined my life and you did it all in one day, congratulations
There was always something off about you. I remember you telling me that you loved “Traveling to see everything the world has to offer, something more.” But you decided to live here. In the suburbs. A tree lined bubble, where the houses never change from the dull white and grey they’ve always been. Where lives in these houses are all the same and routine never changes, where life is a constant circle. You could’ve lived in the city, or in the jewel speckled hills where the rich people live, where houses sparkle with color and character and lives have variety. But you chose here. Was it to hide? Most monsters live in slimy, dark caves, but you chose to hide in plain sight. You chose a place that sleeps at night so you could hunt in the dark. Or was it the only place you could find and you fell into the cycle, felt stuck, started building up anger and desire, needed a release and I was there?
You were a cop. This makes me laugh. You were supposed to protect people and you killed me. You didn’t kill me in the classic way by shooting me or beating me to death because I’m still breathing, walking, my heart still beats, but like a murderer you took my life away. Was your job choice purposeful? Was it some sort of cover? In case I found strength to tell? I mean how could a police officer rape a kid right?
You were my friend. No, a father in a way, mine left and you were there. I would see you outside my window playing with your dogs in the court. I would jump with glee at the sight and run out. Maybe it was some sort of lure, a trap. I don’t know. I just used to feel so free, the wind in my hair, my feet shooting me across the open expanse of concrete. I would chase your dogs around, play catch and vicious games of tug of war. The dogs hopped around and ran with excitable energy. They were like children smiling, giggling with me. Siblings I always wanted, but never got. I miss those smiling children and their gleeful shouts. It’s funny. Back then the court seemed so open, so free, it was my meadow to run around, it was never ending fun. Now it chokes me, the houses are nothing more than white walls that threaten to strangle me. Did you ever feel like that?
Sometimes you’d invite me in to watch TV or to have a snack. That’s when we would talk, about everything. I’d tell you about my absent father and you would talk about your job and the horrors you faced, seeing people die and families torn apart. I didn’t understand what you were saying, but I could tell there was more. Was I the only one you trusted? So many people and I, an eight year old was the only person you could talk to. And even then, you were hiding.
I should have known! Every touch, every hair tussle, every hug, every pat on the shoulder flood back to my mind and make me want to vomit from anger. I should’ve fucking known! Every day with you in the court or at your house was like the rest of my childhood, a sort of blurry grey with just small moments of light, but this day, the day my life ended is painfully clear.
I can’t remember every detail, but it’s one of those days that I can still picture, it’s one of those days that I can still feel. I don’t remember what we were talking about. I don’t even know why I was in your house or what we were doing on your couch. I just remember you forcing my hands down your pants. I didn’t know what was happening, I just let it happen. I felt so scared and wrong. I tried to pull myself from your grasp, but then your hands covered my mouth and wrapped around my neck forcing me down. I don’t remember anything after that. Just pain shooting through me like heartbeats and the sound of a ticking clock.*tic toc tic toc tic toc*. I tried counting the tics as I stared at the white ceiling. It's sort of ironic or comedic in a way. White, the color of angels and heaven was all I could see. It’s like universe was taunting me with the things I lost.
After that I didn’t eat or talk. I mean what could I say? It was like being shot and not knowing what a bullet or a gun is. How can you tell someone what hurt you if you don’t know what hurt you? At first I just had the feeling of shock, I was frozen for years. I just stared out the window looking at the people in their dull houses. A month later, I saw your dogs playing in the street. They were hit by a car and they died.The children: dead.
The rape didn’t truly hit me until I was thirteen. Only then did I truly feel violated, you had taken control of my body and now it wasn’t my own. I couldn’t escape that day or you. You were at every corner, I could see you in everyone’s eyes. I couldn’t walk without fear. At night the day played over and over in my dreams. I would wake up in a cold sweat, my neck bleeding and my fingernails red from trying to claw you off. So many things changed. People were either monsters like you or like the white ceilings, mocking and dull. The houses used to smile at me as I ran through the court now their dull greys and pure whites hide secrets and pain, I’m sure there are so many people like me trapped in their agonizing monotony.
With this weighing me down I knew I couldn’t be happy or even just fine, like the people I saw on the street, so I cut myself. It was kind of comforting. That stabbing, with a real knife was better than the one I felt whenever I slept. Then I tried to kill myself. It was like a twig snapping. It wasn’t that I couldn’t take it. Death just seemed comforting, the idea I could feel nothing. I took my moms pills and hid in the basement. It was kind of warm as I drifted towards the dark nothing. Sounds of kids playing in the court echoed in the room. I could hear the cheerful pounding of their feet on the concrete and their laughs. Maybe I could do that again. This neighborhood is funny. Those kids would never have guessed what was happening in the house above them. They just played.
My mom thought it had something to do with my dad, or school. I try to tell her the truth, but its like these hands inside of me grab my throat and stop me. I could have told her in the hospital after my suicide attempt. I could have told her when I had break down in school and she had to drive me home. I feel like I betray her every time I can’t speak.
Only a month ago police cars surrounded your house. Your wife was in your front yard, collapsed, pounding her fists on the ground as she cried and screamed. Your sons tried to calm her, but they were crying themselves. Your colleagues had tears in their eyes. At that time you just killed yourself: a bullet through the head. I wanted to be relieved or happy. But I was furious that I actually cried. At first, when I cried I didn’t know why, pulses of just pure emotion ran through me, I can’t categorize it. It made me beyond angry that you still found a way into my mind, into my life. But in a way I think I cried for you. I’ll never feel bad for you, if there is a hell you’re in it. But you must have suffered so much. And I know that suffering, I went through it and did what you did. Only, you succeeded.
I know this sounds creepy, but I imagine it. Not in graphic detail or even the bullet going through your head. I just image the blood against the white walls. I imagine it not only in your room where you died, but over the outside of your house too. On the doors, windows, all over your garden and on the roof. I think that blood is over all these houses. Splattered on all their white walls and brown roofs. It’s the kind of blood that no amount of paint will cover up, the kind of blood most people don’t really see. Only we can see it because we’re covered in it.
I went to the hospital after my suicide attempt, and a little while later I started going to my therapist. After one therapy session, I came home and then decided to walk outside. I walked past the dull, blood-stained houses and their accusing eyes. They still made feel trapped and they still choked me, but then I looked at the sky. It was cloudy, a soft wind swelled and made the trees rustle quietly. I love weather like that. I passed flowers that were on the side of the road. I don’t know what kind they were. They were just so bright, almost neon. The yellows and oranges illuminated. I stood there for what felt like forever. They called to me. I just wanted to walk, but they held me. Their stares burned, after a while their colors hurt. I would’ve given everything to look away, but I didn’t. Their eyes, kinder than the houses, looked up at me. I swore that they smiled. They were just so innocent. They weren’t covered in blood, like this place. Like us. They were protected from these houses.They were what people think this place is: peaceful.
It made me feel sick that the neighborhood doesn’t know. But why would they? Isn’t this what they wanted? To pretend that they’re somehow different because of their pretty uniform houses guarded by pretty trees? Free from its blood and gore? In a way, they’re all suffering. My mom, our other neighbors, the kids in the street. They’re trapped in a horror that they created for themselves, in their minds. Ignorance is violent, it is suffering. I hope they break free. I hope they find peace.
I am so sad that I didn’t see you suffer for what you did to me. You might have, but I wanted to see it. I wanted to see you to sit with what you did to me and burn. I can’t do anything now. I can’t have a relationship. I betray my mom every day because of you. You showed me what this place is; nobody deserves that. Everyone deserves to be blind to the houses. I fucking hate everything you are, everything you are to me! I’ll never understand what you did. Or why. At this point I barely care. I’m so tired.
Everyone takes being okay for granted until they are constantly tortured by their own minds. I was one of those people. I would give up everything to be like that again. I am so terrified that that might never happen. All I can do is wait for the answer. I hope that I have the patience.
Sincerely, One of many.
By Javaria Khan- California Chapter
The 44th annual Castro Street Fair took place last Sunday, October 1, in what most people consider to be the most welcoming and lively neighborhood in all of San Francisco: the Castro District.
Founded in 1974 by Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician in the U.S and an icon of San Francisco’s LGBTQ+ movement, the fair is a reminder of battles that have been fought to keep the Castro diverse and thriving. Proceeds go towards funding local organizations and maintaining the giant rainbow flag that flies high above the neighborhood.
This year, there were dozens of resident vendors, artists, businesses, and musicians present with a wide variety of informational booths, food stalls, entertainment, and much more. Among the participating organizations were The Family Link, Most Holy Redeemer AIDS Support Group, and the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band. Thousands of people showed up to celebrate and enjoy a tradition that will hopefully remain strong for years to come.
So begins the tragic story of Kalief Browder, a sixteen year old who was incarcerated with no trial-- only an allegation that sent him to Riker's Island, New York's main jail center and ranked one of the most violent prison centers in the country.
Kalief Browder. A boy with a troubled past but bright future. We're going to fast forward to the incident that has activists calling for reforms of the New York criminal justice system.
Robert Bautiso accused 16 year old Browder of stealing a backpack containing valuable items such as a camera and a credit card. The police officers who stopped Browder and his friend in order to search their belongings, could not find any of the reported stolen items. Yet the officers arrested Browder and his friends anyway even though Bautiso kept changing his statement regarding the date/time of the robbery. Several hours late, while Browder's friend was sent home, Browder remained due to his shaky record with the police. He was brought into the Bronx Country Criminal Court where he was interrogated by a police officer and prosecutor. But Browder stood his ground and maintained his innocence. He kept telling his public defender, Brenden O'Meara, he was innocent. That, unfortunately, did little to persuade the judge. Without any sort of evidence to prove Browder committed the crime, he was sent to Riker's island where he endured several beatings, starved and tortured by inmates and prison guards. Browder's family was unable to pay the 3,000 dollar bail and just like that Kalief Browder was gone.
That was only the beginning.
The three years Browder spent in Riker Prison was three years of constant pain. The 16 year old was serving time for a crime he never commited in a prison center that is known to detain people who were never actually convicted of a crime. The guards at Riker beat the teenage inmates then later threatened solitary confinement if they were to report the incident or go to the clinic for medical attention. Through intimidation the guards ruled with an iron fist at Rikers. Browder himself was subject to abuse by both officers and angry inmates. "In a security footage acquired by the New Yorker of Rikers Island, Browder is seen slammed into the wall by a guard while he was handcuffed on September 23, 2012. The guard then proceeded to tackle Browder to the ground and two other guards joined shortly after." Despite pleading with his lawyer that he wanted to "go to trial". O'Meara never visited Browder in Rikers. This lack of communication between attorney and defendant cost Browder three years of his teenage life. The correction officers often sent Browder to solitary confinement where he had to beg for food and first attempted to commit suicide. Browder constructed a noose out of bedsheets, just when he was about to jump, a guard egged him to "go ahead and jump". Browder didn't jump because he was "scared of dying". But that wouldn't be the first time he attempted to take his life.
As for his trial status, the overwhelming nature of cases in the Bronx made it difficult for the prosecutor and defendant to be ready for trial. Mainly the prosecutor kept requesting for one more day which then led to weeks. This continuous game of trial tag lasted for the rest of the year so Browder had to suffer through another miserable year at Riker's. However, that did not stop Browder from asking his attorney this question: "Can you get me out?"
Prosecutors offered Browder plea bargains which ensured a set number of years in prison then freedom-- but only if Browder admitted he was guilty. Browder rejected any deal that would require him to give up his innocence, something he silently fought to prove. At this time, Browder had been imprisoned for 961 days and had seen 8 judges. With not luck, the trial was "not ready" to come into motion so Browder was stuck in a prison where he did not belong like a boat stuck on a beautiful, sunny day when all it wants to do is sail free.
Finally, one judge offered Browder to plea guilty which would allow him to immediately return home. But, Browder politely declined because he was adamant of proving his innocence. Whether it was a stroke of luck or a miracle the man who had originally accused Browder of stealing a backpack had returned to Mexico. Since the prosecutor's on the case no longer had a witness, the case was dropped and Browder was sent home. Browder is now 20 years old.
Browder may physically be free but his mind will be forever trapped. He was mentally scarred from all the abuse he faced at Rikers from the officers and inmates. Coming home was supposed to be a moment of happiness but instead it was filled with paranoia. Browder no longer engaged in his previous hobbies such as playing video games and playing basketball. He rather felt it necessary to lock himself up in his room and pace back and forth, just like he did back in solitary confinement. Browder separated himself from any social interaction since he anxious being people who looked at him like he wasn't worth anything. Ultimately, Browder had been robbed of his happiness. He was given paranoia and anxiety which resulted in another suicide attempt and being admitted to a psychiatric ward (on three separate occasions).
Browder and his brother were seeking justice from the New York City criminal system, but they were turned down by 11 attorneys. Eventually they were introduced to Paul V Prestia, a prosecutor in Brooklyn who helped them in their fight for justice. Several others joined Browder, his brother and Prestia in this fight-- Preet Bharar (then United States Attorney for South District of New York) revealed plans to sue New York City for the "unnesscary and excessive forced used on adolescence in Rikers Island".
In January 2015, New York City lawmakers voted to end solitary confinement for inmates under the age of 21.
Browder began telling his story to famous celebrities like Rosie O'Donnell and Jay Z (Jay Z who would later produce a documentary about the injustice Browder and other inmates face at Rikers). However, it was difficult for Browder to relive the terrible experiences he faced in the Prison so he was very private about his media presence.
It was insanely hard for Browder to pretend everything was alright, that he could just go about living life again. Paranoia leered over Browder like a dark cloud never leaving him. "He had thrown out his television because he said he feared it was watching him" said journalist Jennifer Gonnerman from the New Yorker.
Kalief Browder was 22 years old when he commited suicide.
I admit that this blog does not serve Browder much justice. There is so much more to his story that I failed to mention. So, I encourage those who took the time to read a little about Kalief Browder's story to click on the following links to get more information on what activists are doing in New York to fight for Kalief and all those who were failed by New York City's criminal Justice system.
I wish to conclude this blog by reminding everybody- no matter your gender identity, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, religion, culture, political affiliations and opinions and mental health state- you all have rights. We all have a voice. Let's be the future you and I can be proud of and get Kalief Browder the justice he deserved.
10% of women have been raped, another 35% sexually assaulted.
25% of the victims have been attacked repeatedly.
66% knew the person who perpetrated the attack.
83% didn't report it to the police.
29% did not tell friends or family.
The overwhelming response to this question was that "they would be too embarrassed or ashamed of the incident to admit it" and the "low conviction rates."(Data compiled from Mumsnet)
The Obama Administration made excellent progress in imposing rigid regulations and policy on college campuses regarding prioritization and reexamination of college campus rape policy in order to remedy the widespread sexual violence issue that plagues American universities.
Today, Betsy DeVos is holding a press conference today that decides the future of rape and sexual harassment policy on college campuses. After an era of progress, an eight years of pushing forwards under Obama's leadership in the field of gender equality and justice for sexual abuse victims, DeVos will pull us backwards in her alterations of rape and sexual violence policy for college campuses.
DeVos argues that the Obama Administration's policy for handling sexual violence on campuses across the nation has resulted in a new type of victim: men. She claims that the existing policy leads to men being falsely accused, and in response, men's lives being ruined. While DeVos claims that she is not attempting to undermine a sense of security for women on campus, and is instead trying to protect the rights of the accused, that is not the case. She is instead implying that there is an incentive system to the current policies regarding rape and sexual abuse, and withdrawing a system that is essential to the safety and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of women nationwide.
The current system provides no incentive to women who choose to report their case of sexual assault, abuse, harassment, or rape to officials on campuses. Most women find it embarrassing to report incidents of sexual violence to officials, and feel as though they are not taken seriously. There is no reward for reporting incidents. There is nothing but courage and bravery required to tell the truth about a traumatizing event like sexual violence. I will clarify now and admit that in the history of this policy, there have been those who have been wrongfully accused. No system is perfect. But, the vast majority of cases have been reported truthfully, and are crucial to justice and safety of women everywhere. If every case reported is considered a falsified report of sexual violence for the sake of a vendetta, then no justice will ever be served to those who are victims, and sexual assault will never be taken seriously or avoided. It is very difficult to falsify sexual violence or rape due to the injuries and trauma sustained to the victim and the rigorous investigations that follow the reporting of the incident, and this fact must be recognized by DeVos. The men being accused of sexual violence do maintain their rights in the manner that an intense investigation ensues, and they get to plead their case as well.
DeVos seems to ignore this fact, and instead recount all of the stories that she has heard from parents of young men accused of rape or other forms of sexual violence that have had their lives "ruined". This is an interesting component of her argument, as it seems that parents of the accused seem to be the most enraged. The simple fact of the matter is that men are finally being held accountable for their actions, and the ugly truth of college campus rape and sexual abuse have come to life. Parents are unable to believe that their child could ever be capable of such an horrific action, but it is an unfortunate reality, not a falsified accusation.
The only remedy DeVos should be making to the rape and sexual violence policies on college campuses is one that clarifies the standard procedures for rape investigations. Implementing a thorough, routine, clarified, and universal procedure for all universities would silence all ridiculous complaints of men being "targeted" by rape policies, and instead serve justice.
Men are not being targeted by rape policies.
Women are not being incentivized to accuse men of rape.
Instead, men are being held accountable for their actions as policy continues to evolve and provide a platform of justice for women.
Betsy, don't take a step backward for your fellow sisters. Take a step forward. Help justice persist. Don't give men more leeway when it comes to college rape policy. Instead, let's ensure that colleges respect the current investigative procedures and serve justice.