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.
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Graduate
Violent or Victimized? Race, Gender, and the Rights of Male Migrants under the Global Refugee Regime
Since 2015, the European Union (EU) has experienced a heightened level of asylum seekers arriving in search of formal protection under international law. Male refugees have been particularly vulnerable to high levels of sexual abuse and exploitation, self-harm and suicide, and arrest, detention, and harassment amidst the increasing criminalization of migration. This paper argues that intersectional biases rooted in social constructs of race and gender permeate the global refugee regime, causing male migrants to be coded as security threats and therefore obscuring their vulnerabilities as victims of war. The impact of racial and gendered biases on constructed perceptions of male migrants has jeopardized the refugee regime’s ability to sufficiently provide and protect fundamental rights enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention, namely rights to health and security.
Mailman School of Public Health, Graduate
Sexuality and “Right to Privacy” in Bowers and Lawrence
The “right to privacy” has been a mainstay of human rights discourse, most notably in Article 12 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in a variety of state constitutions and legal codes. How this “right” is understood and legally operationalized, however, varies given time and place and especially when it intersects with different domains, such as sexuality. The legal and cultural understandings of privacy are key to conceptualizations of the individuals and groups allowed the benefits of rights affirmations and protections based on this principle. Unexamined assumptions about sexuality can also shape legal interpretations that, far from being neutral and objective, often invoke normative assumptions that constrict ideas of what individuals or dimensions of sexuality fall within the privacy sphere. Two significant U.S. Supreme Court cases addressing anti-sodomy law serve as instructive case studies of the way the principle of privacy has been invoked concerning rights pertaining to sexuality, and in particular, how conceptions of sexual rights can be both bolstered and narrowed by this principle. In analyzing the cases Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) and Lawrence v. Texas (2003), this paper explores how Constitutional understandings, “folk” ideas about sexuality, and other contextual factors interacted to determine whether and to what extent state intrusion in consensual adult sexual behavior was perceived as a violation of an individual’s right to privacy.