Rebecca Kaplan

Posts by AJWS:

Alarming Statistics About Attitudes Toward LGBTI People

A Ugandan activist holds up a popular tabloid 'Red Pepper,' one of several newspapers inciting prejudice and violence against LGBTI people in Uganda, where homosexuality is illegal and LGBTI people are routinely denied their rights. Photo: Evan Abramson

A Ugandan activist holds up a popular tabloid ‘Red Pepper,’ one of several newspapers inciting prejudice and violence against LGBTI people in Uganda, where homosexuality is illegal and LGBTI people are routinely denied their rights. Photo: Evan Abramson

A new report released last week by the Pew Research Center reveals alarming data about attitudes toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) communities around the world. Here are a few statistics that shine a spotlight on the countries in which AJWS works:

  • In El Salvador, 35 percent of survey respondents believe the LGBTI community should be accepted, whereas 62 percent do not;
  • In Kenya, 8 percent of survey respondents believe the LGBTI community should be accepted, whereas 90 percent do not;
  • In Uganda, 4 percent of survey respondents believe the LGBTI community should be accepted, whereas 96 percent do not.

These attitudes are symptomatic of the oppression LGBTI people face on a regular basis—the loss of their jobs, unequal access to healthcare and limited opportunities for education. LGBTI people are ostracized, rejected, threatened and assaulted just for living their lives.

It gets worse.

Read More »

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Justice Overruled? The Overturned Genocide Conviction for Guatemalan Dictator Ríos Montt

On Friday, May 10th, Guatemalans breathed a sigh of relief. Judge Yasmin Barrios read the verdict against Efraín Ríos Montt for the whole world to witness, and in solidarity, defenders of human rights from every corner of the globe sighed right along with them. In a landmark case, Ríos Montt was sentenced to 80 years in prison for crimes against humanity and genocide against the Ixil Mayan indigenous people during the US-backed Guatemala civil war that lasted for 36 years.

A new era of justice in Latin America?

It was the first time that any former dictator from the region had been convicted on Latin American soil. It set a precedent, and evoked hope for the future of justice and accountability for the many crimes committed against indigenous peoples in Latin America and the Caribbean. Read More »

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From Genocide to Justice: Upholding Human Rights in Guatemala

The news from Guatemala on Friday evening, May 10 stunned the world—a Guatemalan court sentenced former general José Efraín Ríos Montt to 80 years in prison for genocide. While we are deeply gratified by this historic verdict, we know that much work remains to be done to ensure justice in Guatemala.

Supporters of human rights across the globe had been watching for months as the Guatemalan courts pursued this landmark case. As the trial unfolded, it exposed the genocide of hundreds of thousands of indigenous people and attempted to hold former military leaders accountable for the atrocities committed during the country’s bloody and decades-long civil war. Read More »

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Chag v’Chesed: Holiday Dvar Tzedek, Shavuot 5773

Chag v'ChesedEver since it was given over three thousand years ago on Shavuot, the Torah has offered Jews a vision of how the world should work. I was thinking about this vision this past December when I was asked to represent HIAS (the 120-year-old Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) at a United Nations conference in Geneva dealing with the status of refugees. The UN invited faith-based organizations to reflect on, among other things, how lessons learned from their religious traditions could offer guidance to the treatment of refugees today. In preparing my opening statement for the conference, I reflected on a subject I had never previously thought about in any systematic manner but that is clearly a pressing issue in the world, as the UNHCR estimates that there are currently 15.1 million refugees worldwide.

What does the Torah tell us about refugees and how they should be treated?

A great deal, I soon learned. Let me cite four examples. Read More »

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A (tentative) win for food justice activists!

Originally posted on the blog of the Brooklyn Food Coalition.

This looks good.

As part of the 2014 Budget Request released last week, President Obama included a proposal that would overhaul America’s international food aid system. It’s not a perfect proposal and it still needs to be approved by Congress, but it’s a huge leap forward.

Right now, the U.S. has a well-intentioned yet wildly inefficient food aid system. Unlike other donor countries, the U.S. ships food from here rather than donating money to purchase food available in or near disaster-stricken countries. As a way of unloading surplus grain, this system works well. As a smart, efficient way of responding to humanitarian crises, it’s atrocious. Read More »

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Let’s Protect Human Rights, Not Big Businesses

Is Shell Oil too big to punish?

That’s the question that our friends at EarthRights International (ERI) asked during their recent campaign in which they called upon the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold human rights for people who have been exploited by big businesses.

In October of 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum (Shell Oil). Shell, through its work with Nigeria’s military regime, was accused of killing nine peaceful protesters and the torture of countless others in the Ogoni region of the Niger Delta. Specifically, the plaintiffs of the case allege that “Shell bribed and tampered with witnesses and paid Nigerian security forces that attacked Ogoni villages.” The case was originally filed in 2002 by 12 Nigerian refugees who are now living in political asylum in the United States. The lead plaintiff, Esther Kiobel, was married to one of the “Ogoni Nine”—a group of nine activists from the Ogoni region of Nigeria who were executed by hanging in 1995 by the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha. Read More »

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Free from Violence? Four Perspectives on Nicaragua’s New Law on Violence Against Women

Women from the Waslala Association of Entrepreneurial Women, an AJWS grantee in Nicaragua, rally to end violence against women.

Women from the Waslala Association of Entrepreneurial Women, an AJWS grantee in Nicaragua, rally to end violence against women.

More than a year ago, Nicaragua passed the Comprehensive Law Against Violence Toward Women (Law 779), which represents significant advances in addressing a pervasive problem in the country. The law recognizes that violence takes many forms—physical, psychological, sexual and economic. It also calls for more state resources to respond to violence against women—in all ways that it manifests. It condemns any public official who gets in the way of women pursuing justice in the courts, and it directs federal resources to build violence prevention programs.The law is comprehensive in addressing multiple forms of violence, but does it skillfully address Nicaragua’s demographic and regional diversity? Checking the pulse on this step forward, AJWS grantees in Nicaragua offer insights about the law’s challenges and opportunities: Read More »

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Passover 5773: Too Many Women Are Still Slaves

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Originally published in The Huffington Post.

Every Passover, we gather with family and friends around the Seder table to read the inspiring foundational story of our people’s liberation from slavery in Egypt. We tell and retell this story every year, and millennia later it informs who we are. There are many ways in which Judaism speaks so strongly to the themes of service and justice, but to me, there is none stronger than our own experience: Once we were slaves in Egypt, and now we are free. Distilled in this line, the sentiment is clear. Our tradition and history compel us to give back to our society, make the world a better place, and ensure freedom for all.

This intimate connection between Judaism and social justice is why throughout American history the Jewish community—our community—has been a vocal advocate for the values of freedom and equality that make the United States the great country that it is. As a Jewish woman and a member of the U.S. Congress, I strive to bring that connection to bear on my work every day. We are all obligated to make those connections in our own way.

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Happy Passover: A Journey to Freedom and Human Dignity

During Passover, we reflect on our ancestors’ journey from slavery to freedom. But our fight is far from over. We must stand in solidarity with those who are still struggling for freedom and human dignity around the world today. Please share this Passover message from AJWS President Ruth Messinger, and share our special Passover reading at your Seder table. Chag Sameach!

passover ruth

 

Passover Reading

 

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Munija Chooses Her Future: Advancing Girls’ Education and Opposing Child Marriage in West Bengal, India

Munija Khatun. Photo Credit: Lydia Holden

Munija Khatun. Photo Credit: Lydia Holden

“My father says not to go to school, that I should be at home. ‘You are marriageable,’ he tells me,” sighs Munija Khatun, 15, as she mashes onions with a pestle for their dinner of fish stew. “My father has two families and takes responsibility for the first family, but not my family. Father comes one or two times a month and dominates the family. He asks why this or why that, why go to school?”

While Munija’s mother toils tirelessly to support her children’s education, her monthly income of 500 rupees ($9) from selling pop rice scarcely covers basic necessities, making the monthly 100 rupees ($1.2) government school fee for each child formidable. Munija helps her mother as much as she can, rising at 5 a.m. to wash the dishes, clean their brick and straw home and take care of the cow. After school, Munija finishes the day’s cleaning, helps her mother prepare dinner and studies for three hours by kerosene lamp. Even with all of her tenacity and hard work, Munija worries she will be married off to become another family’s property, a common occurrence in this remote West Bengal village; by eighth grade 80 percent of girls are pulled out of school for marriage. Read More »

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