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.
School of Continuing Education, Graduate
The Detention of U.S. “Sex Offenders” Outside of the Criminal Justice System: A Human Rights Perspective
Using a human rights framework, this paper investigates the practice of civilly committing individuals identified as “sex offenders” in the United States. In the US, sex offenders can be civilly committed after they fully have served their prison sentences. These commitments are indefinite, and there is a great deal of secrecy surrounding the process. The practice of confining sex offenders outside of the criminal justice system is problematic in multiple ways; the legal rationale for this action is connected to broad designations of mental illness, yet sex offenders are categorized primarily as a category of criminal. I argue that the ways in which “sex offenders” have been categorized, stigmatized, isolated, and indefinitely incarcerated constitute a violation of human rights. Finally, I discuss the implications of sex offender human rights for the entire human rights landscape within the United States. The sex offender is one of the most despised categories of human in this country, and the treatment of individuals in this category may be seen as a test case for others who are socially unpopular. Even the most despised groups of humans are still entitled to human rights: that is part and parcel of the human rights concept itself. Taking away the rights of the denigrated few has been historically a first step in a larger progression of human rights violations; the silent acceptance of abuses, as long as they are perpetrated against despised groups, often leads to tacit acceptance to the progressive encroachment of human rights abuses throughout a society.