Human Rights Abuses: Opinion Pieces by Victoria Goodson and Aminah Starks

We made it to the weekend guys! As promised, I have two more opinion pieces from Victoria Goodson and Aminah Starks. Both are classmates of mine and I’m pleased to share their work! Again, if you would like to leave a comment, I’ll make sure to pass on to them!

Titles today include: Are Dry Towns Based on Safety or Religion? (Victoria) and Where is it Okay to be Gay? Definitely not Chechnya. (Aminah)

Enjoy!

Are Dry Towns Dry based on Safety or Religion?

By: Tori G.

Even though I was only six years old when I moved from West Palm Beach, F.L. to Boiling Springs, N.C., I could immediately tell that something was different. I’m not talking about the fact that there are more trees in NC than in FL, or that there were now four seasons we experienced instead of two, or that the town was much more rural than the last. But there was something different in the way the people around me (peers and adults) talked about morals, values, and the way “right people should behave and think”.

Over time, I realized that these morals and values were strongly connected to people’s religious beliefs. The first two questions people asked me when I met them is 1) What is your name? 2) What church do you go to? As I grew into adolescence, the topics of religion, faith, and church became an almost weekly occurrence in school. I found this strange since my family never talked about these things at home, and yet other people I met seemed very sensitive to these topics. People seemed to get into heated arguments and debates if someone didn’t go to a similar denomination that they did, or if someone wasn’t from one of the mainstream Christian religions, such as: Agnostic, Atheist, Spiritual, nondenominational, LDS, Jehovah Witness, Buddhist, etc.

So needless to say, I found out very quickly through my experiences at school with my peers, with teachers, and meeting other adults from the community that the town of Boiling Springs, NC was founded by people with conservative Christian values, and it continues to be this way today. When I entered high school, one of the most frequented topics that would come up in conversation with my peers was how the town of Boiling Springs had banned alcohol from being sold anywhere within the city limits, and how it was such an inconvenience. Immediately, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that the reason for this ban was due to religious reasons.

Adults must drive to the nearest towns of Shelby, Forest City, or Gaffney to buy alcohol from an establishment or to access a liquor store. This makes things more complicated and dangerous for adolescents who experiment with alcohol who live inside Boiling Springs town limits. There is also a private Christian affiliated college called Gardner Webb University that serves as the pride and joy of the town, but nevertheless, college students often take the risk of driving drunk back from parties originating from out of the town.

If the town of Boiling Springs, NC wants to place restrictions on alcohol from being sold within the town for safety reasons, I can understand that it would be for the good of public safety. However, it is evident from my 12 years of experience of growing up in this town that the town officials, the university administration officials, teachers, establishment owners, students, etc. all know someone or they themselves drink alcohol. Yet, these same people will argue till they are blue in the face that alcohol should remained banned from the town.

Bottom line? The town’s ordinance and regulations that ban alcohol from being sold within the town is a violation of several human rights and should be revoked…

  • Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) (1948) states that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
  • The United Nations (1981) passed The Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (DEIDRB), and it states in Article 1, Section 3 that: Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. Article 2, Section 1-2 details that: 1) No one shall be subject to discrimination by any State, institution, group of persons, or person on grounds of religion or other beliefs. 2) For the purposes of the present Declaration, the expression ‘intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief’ means any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on religion or belief and having as its purpose or as its effect nullification or impairment of the recognition, enjoyment or exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis.
  • Article 4: Section 1-2 of DEIDRB indicates that the town of Boiling Springs, North Carolina has not only an obligation to rescind this legislation based on the evidence that they are discriminating other religious beliefs and human rights, but also that they should take measures to prevent this type discrimination as well.

               By allowing this ordinance to exist, town officials are in violation of the DEIDRB and the DHR. The town officials did not base their decision to restrict alcohol selling, buying, and consumption because of safety of its citizens or to preserve order (as seen in Article 1, Section 3 of United Nations, 1981). Instead, they are violating the rights of residents of the town by enacting an ordinance whose purpose is to impose their religious beliefs upon all who live there (as seen in Article 2, Section 1-2 of United Nations, 1981).

               My belief is that it will take another 100 years before the town would seriously consider revoking the alcohol restriction ban, even though there is able evidence that shows they are violating the resident’s human rights. People shouldn’t have their right to buy or sell alcohol violated restricted if even a fraction of the reason is based on religious principles. We need to allow people to exercise their rights; including the right and freedom from religion. To not impose or enforce others to change their way of life or restrict them from living their own lives based on their own beliefs.

 

Where Is It Okay To Be Gay? Definitely not in Chechnya.

By Aminah Starks

4.20.17

Individuals of the LGBT community face great adversity for simply existing. The struggles these individuals face are not unique to one region or culture. It seems that this is an intolerance that occurs at an international level. From targeted shootings in United States to hate crimes and targeted brutality in South America, socialized hate toward this community is rapid and unwavering. Most recently the Chechen government has taken this hatred to a drastic level.

Reportedly, as of early April, the Chechen government has commenced a campaign of extermination of gay men. Individuals have been forcibly abducted, tortured and disappeared. There have been reports of individuals being beaten and administered electrical shocks. Additionally, over 60 men have fled Chechnya and at least 3 have been reported dead as a result of this ongoing violence.

Reports of this anti-LGBT campaign have been denied by the Chechen government. Alvi Karimov, Spokesperson for Chechnya’s leader ,Ramzan Kadyrov, attempted to recant allegations by stating

“You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic,”… “If there were such people in Chechnya, the law-enforcement organs wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.”

This statement in itself is not only full of disregard, but blatant intolerance of the gay community. There is clearly a gay community that exists in Chechnya. This community not only receives violent hate from people in their communities but is also the target of brutal violence from those in power. Outed gays receive persecution from even their own families. Some go as far as to kill the individuals in a practice known as honor killings. Homophobia is widespread and is not just reinforced but openly practiced by the government.

This type of violence against the LGBT community is not unique to Chechnya but is an international problem. From blatant hatred and violence to disrespect and intolerance, LGBT community faces adversity at an international level. To combat this hatred not only does the truth need to be reveled for situations like Chechnya but action on behalf of these individuals needs to be taken. Governments that are bit more progressive on these issues need to put pressure on countries like Chechnya to cease brutal violence. Mechanism should be put in place that offer fleeing individuals proper refuge and support. Homophobia is often extremely deep rooted at societal and cultural levels, campaigns can be put into place to dispel stereotypes and dismantle prejudices. Most importantly governments and individuals need to be held accountable for the atrocities they commit. When looking at the situation in Chechnya, remember that there are untold stories just like this one that occur across the world. Getting the truth out about this horrendous situation and providing advocacy for its victims is a start in changing the paradigm of acceptance of LGBT hatred.

 

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