This article summarizes the experience and results of a campaign for access to medicines for HIV in South Africa, led by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) between 1998 and 2008. It illustrates how the TAC mobilized people to campaign for the right to health using a combination of human rights education, HIV treatment literacy, demonstration, and litigation. As a result of these campaigns, the TAC was able to reduce the price of medicines, prevent hundreds of thousands of HIV-related deaths, but also to force significant additional resources into the health system and towards the poor. The article asks whether the method of the TAC has a wider application for human rights campaigns and, particularly, whether the protection of the right to health in law, and the obligation that it be progressively realized by the State, provides an opportunity to advance human rights practice.
Abstract How might teachers challenge oversimplified narratives regarding the life and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK), in order to support ideals of human rights in education? In this study, we examine ongoing history education where teachers try to promote a more radical human rights perspective on the history and legacy of MLK by contrasting contemporary uses of history with primary sources from the era of the civil rights movement. Teachers ask students to engage in tandem with what we call the ‘historical’ and ‘practical’ past and we find that this may be constructive, but also challenging, in human rights education. We observe that students are able to deconstruct textbook narratives but find it difficult to challenge authorities and media that oversimplify popular perceptions of the past. Yet many students did learn a more active perspective on the life and deeds of MLK, evident even a year after the initial teaching took place, clearly influenced by the authentic historical writings of MLK. This study highlights important potentials and limitations in the attempts to teach students about, through and for human rights by making the past both historical and practical. This study also illustrates ways that promoting alternative historical perspectives can help students interrogate the past alongside their own present.
Abstract International and foreign law is a powerful tool of transnational human rights advocates. Through litigation, advocates can create a global body of persuasive fundamental rights jurisprudence that can be used across borders. Using the August 2016 decision of the Belize Supreme Court in Orozco v. Attorney General as a starting point, this essay traces how LGBT rights activists are constructing a transnational body of jurisprudence decriminalizing consensual sexual relations between persons of the same sex. Belize courts had previously been receptive to international and foreign citations in other contexts, such as constitutional death penalty challenges. Advocates themselves, rather than judges, are the primary instrumental drivers of this jurisprudential ‘sharing’ process. The Belize decision is likely to be cited in future constitutional challenges against anti-sodomy laws elsewhere in the Commonwealth, helping to reinforce a global trend towards decriminalization of homosexuality.
Abstract The resettlement of refugees from a place of danger to a safe country brings an assumption of security, peace and access to human rights. It should herald the beginning of a fulfilling life in a new homeland. Australia has a resettlement programme of about 13,000 people per year. Many of these people settle extremely well and successfully establish themselves and their families in the Australian community. However, research over the past decade into settlement experience has highlighted the fact that not all newly arrived refugees have a positive settlement experience, and many put the blame for the problems they experience on ‘human rights’. Funding was obtained from the Australian Research Council by the authors to explore what exactly the concept of ‘human rights’ meant to diverse refugee communities. The research identified that the rights that were causing the majority of concern were women’s rights and children’s rights. They became the focus of all problems experienced in settlement, and named as the reason for the loss of dreams of a new and happy life. At the base was confusion and lack of understanding about the meaning of human rights and their links to Australian domestic law. This lack of knowledge was often shared by both refugees and the community members and settlement service providers who were endeavouring to assist them to settle successfully. The research identified that the problem was complex and intersectional. It was obvious that a sophisticated analysis was needed to explore the issue and to identify solutions. Klug’s suggested analytical framework of human rights as part law, part philosophy, and part political movement was found to be extremely appropriate, facilitating the application of three very different lenses. It was used as a tool to unpack the different interpretations of rights, and to identify potential solutions.
Abstract In the past 20 years, feminist non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have increasingly engaged in transnational legal activism in the Americas not only to seek individual remedies for victims/survivors of abuses of women’s human rights, but also to pressure states to make legal and policy changes, to promote human rights cultures and to strengthen the demands of women’s movements. Yet the scholarship on transnational feminist activism overlooks transnational litigation practices. Studies of transnational legal mobilization tend to ignore the relationship between human rights and feminist advocacy networks, or between NGOs and the victims whose knowledge and experience serve as the basis for transnational litigation practices. This article draws from research on transnational legal activism over cases of women’s human rights presented to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against Brazil. It builds on the ‘epistemologies of the South’ framework to examine how human rights NGOs that specialize in transnational litigation, feminist advocacy NGOs, grassroots feminist organizations and victims/survivors (or family victims) of intimate (partner) violence against women engage in transnational legal activism, negotiate power relations, and exchange their knowledges/visions on human rights and justice. The legalistic view on human rights held by the more professionalized NGOs tends to prevail over grassroots feminist organizations’ and survivors’ perspectives on human rights and justice. To promote global justice, human rights activism must include epistemic justice and must legitimate all types of knowledge produced by all the actors involved.
Abstract Because everyday human rights issues determine the ways in which people are able to live their lives, they are of extreme importance not only to each of us as individuals but also to us as members of a society. Their relevance means that everyday human rights issues should be central to our collective social memory and practice just like decisive international and domestic human rights events, victories, abuses and personages. The challenge, however, lies in trying to make these everyday issues attractive and ‘newsworthy’ enough to capture people’s attention. What role can media play in illuminating these everyday human rights issues? This paper tries to answer this question by critically analysing a human rights radio show/podcast produced in Aotearoa/New Zealand, Speak Up-Kōrerotia.