Winners of the Essay Contest, along with other selected participants, are invited to present their papers during the Human Rights Essay Colloquium. The colloquium, which takes place each spring semester, is an opportunity for students to present human rights papers and engage in open and lively discussion with other students and faculty members.
View all past Essay Contest winners below. Click on the winner to see their paper abstract.
Columbia College, Undergraduate
Forced Sterilization of HIV-Positive Women in Chile: Addressing a Violation of the Right to Health
Chile has grappled with the issue of the forced sterilization of women and girls with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) for several decades. This trend is particularly relevant, as it reveals that the forced sterilization of females with HIV—a significant human rights violation—has seemingly continued unabated in the region. This paper aims to understand why the practice remains in Chile and to explore the ways in which different actors have responded to this violation. The paper will first provide a brief context of this issue and a general definition of forced sterilization through the lens of human rights norms, specifically the right to health. It will then discuss the key drivers of forced sterilization against HIV-positive women in Chile, as well as analyze the response of leading civil society organizations (CSOs) to the situation. Finally, it will offer recommendations on how to address the multifaceted and complex dynamics of this crisis.
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Graduate
Inadequate Private and Public Housing in Hong Kong: A Violation of the Right to Housing
This article examines Hong Kong’s responsibility to protect the right to adequate housing through the application of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Hong Kong’s Basic Law. While inadequate housing standards are seen as commonplace in developing countries, inadequate housing has been exponentially increasing in Hong Kong’s thriving economy. Although Hong Kong recognizes certain economic, social and cultural rights under domestic legislation, it is apparent that Hong Kong does not recognize the right to housing as a fundamental human right. As seen in the last decade, housing in both the public and private sector have not met the standard of “adequate housing” as described in CESCR General Comment No. 4. The author finds that Hong Kong views housing as a financial instrument, commodity and privilege, rather than a human right, infringing on the economic and social rights of low-income vulnerable populations, including the LGBTQ+ population, ethnic minorities and the elderly. This article recognizes Hong Kong’s obligation to fully protect, respect and fulfill the right to housing under the ICESCR and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To add, this article will discuss a possible multipronged housing strategy to mitigate violations to the right to housing in Hong Kong’s property-led market.
Understanding Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan as a Multi-Faceted Problem
This paper explores the increased prevalence in bride kidnapping since Kyrgyzstan’s independence in 1991, as well as how bride kidnapping fits into a global tradition of gender-based violence. Bride kidnapping has some roots in the pre-Soviet era—although the specific nature of those roots is controversial—but the practice has seen unprecedented growth in Kyrgyzstan since independence. While official data are lacking, some experts believe that up to one third of Kyrgyz marriages are a result of nonconsensual bride kidnapping. This paper discusses the factors that help explain the increased popularity of bride kidnapping. Bride kidnapping is largely a cultural phenomenon, and this paper looks at the role of culture—and invented Kyrgyz history—in fueling an increase in bride kidnapping. However, bride kidnapping is not solely a cultural phenomenon, and this paper also discusses the economic and political incentives that have contributed to the rise in bride kidnapping. Finally, this paper discusses how bride kidnapping, while fairly uncommon in most of the world, fits into a global tradition of gender-based violence. Given these varied explanations for the rise in bride kidnapping, and the intersection of these explanations, this paper concludes that any efforts to decrease rates of bride kidnapping would need to be nuanced and multifaceted.
Teachers College, Graduate
Assessing the Transformative Potential of UNRWA’s Human Rights, Conflict Resolution, and Tolerance (HRCRT) Curriculum for Palestinian Refugees
Nakivale Refugee Settlement: An Analysis of UNHCR’s Three “Durable” Solutions
This paper examines the constraints of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and its three durable solutions: repatriation, local integration, and resettlement. Through the examination of existing literature, this paper discusses the inefficiency of the durable solutions in providing effective solutions to Protracted Refugee Situations (PRS). The case study, which is the Nakivale Refugee Settlement in southern Uganda contains a large population of PRS, and its surrounding city, Mbarara, has housed a significant amount of self-settled refugees who thrive without humanitarian assistance. This paper argues there are more than three solutions to PRS and that a lack of new policy implementation of methods such as self-settlement by UNHCR is further perpetuating PRS, globally.
School of General Studies , Undergraduate
When Catholicism, Government, and Social Movements Come to Play: A Historical Comparison of Abortion Policy around the World and its Implications on Human Rights
Abortion and reproductive rights are highly contested topics among individuals, parties, religions, and governments. Policies vary cross-nationally, and change over time within countries depending on a variety of salient reasons. This paper, based on research and an analysis of scholarly writings on abortion policy, examines five countries across areas of the world: Latin America (Brazil), Central/Western Europe (Germany), The Global West (United States of America), Eastern Europe (Poland), and Northern/Nordic Europe (Sweden). I attempt to comparatively consider the reasons and motivation for their respective abortion policies over time. In this paper, I will argue that there are three main players that tend to shape the policies in a country: the level of Roman Catholic Church influence, the government type, and the strength/success of social movements. I conclude my argument with a discussion of how policy players and policy feedback shape abortion discourse and laws. I discuss the importance of recognizing reproductive rights as human rights vital to approach with as much equality as any other human right may be. It is time to step out of discriminatory and divisive policies and into ones that treat all sexes and genders equally, worldwide. Understanding the policy players in this fight will help move towards success.