Ius Gentium

University of Baltimore School of Law's Center for International and Comparative Law Fellows discuss international and comparative legal issues



 Roman Msaki 

The history of women and high heels is very interesting. Our early ancestors they didn’t care about putting shoes leaving alone high heels. In all likelihood, they went barefoot. Shoes in the form of sandals emerged around 9,000 years ago as a means of protecting bare feet from the elements (specifically, frostbite).

The Greeks viewed shoes as an indulgence—a means of increasing status, though it was a Greek, actually Aeschylus, who created the first high heel, called “korthonos” for theatrical purposes. His intent was to “add majesty to the heroes of his plays so that they would stand out from the lesser players and be more easily recognized”.[1]

Greek women adopted the trend, taking the wedge heel to new heights that the late Alexander McQueen would have likely applauded. The adoption of shoes, and the heel, for Greeks appears to coincide with Roman influence, and ultimately Roman conquest. Roman fashion was viewed as a sign of power and status, and shoes represented a state of civilization[2].


The widespread popularity of the heel is credited to Catherine de Medici who wore heels to look taller. When she wore them to her wedding to Henry II of France, they became a status symbol for the wealthy. Commoners were banned from wearing heels, although it’s doubtful that they would have been able to afford them anyway. Later, the French heel predecessor to the narrow, tall heel of today would be made popular by Marquise de Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV. These shoes initially required women to use walking sticks to keep their balance until the height of the heel was reduced[3].

In the United States the campaign “Walking a Mile in her Shoes” was designed to raise male awareness and condemn rape, sexual assault and gender violence[4]. The main aim of the drive was to enable men to experience a day on “heels”.


But, the story of Nicole Thorp, a secretary of the London big accountancy firm “PWC”[5]  in United Kingdom tells us another story, a different perspective on wearing high heels. In her firm, high heels are mandatory. She was sent back home in December 2015 for wearing flats instead of high heels[6]. She refused to obey the then rules of her employment agency, Portico, that she should wear shoes with heels that were between two and four inches high. Ms. Thorp argued that wearing them all day would be bad for her feet.[7] She started a petition in 2016, which attracted about 150,000 signatures[8] far beyond the required number of signatures needed to trigger a response by the government.

“This may have started over a pair of high heels, but what it has revealed about discrimination in the UK workplace is vital, as demonstrated by the hundreds of women who came forward via the committees’ online forum…………… (words omitted for emphasis); The current system favors the employer, and is failing employees,” she said in reflection of what really going on in employment sector in United Kingdom.[9]


The United Kingdom passed the Equality Act in 2010 in order to ensure equal treatment at work for all genders. However, dress code regulations have been solely left within employers’ hands. As a result, two House of Common committees, (the Petition committee and the Women and Equality Committee) invited the public to send in their own examples of discriminatory dress codes. As a result, they were inundated with examples. The committee heard from women who were asked to wear shorter skirts, to unbutton blouses, and of dress codes that specified shades of nail varnish and hair color choices.[10]

The committees report[11] revealed evidence dating from 1880 to the present day which showed a “direct causative relationship” between the protracted use of high heels and serious conditions including stress fractures bunions, lower back pain and posture change and increased energy demand, as energy consumption and heart rate increases with heel height. The Government response was positive, and it has agreed to review equality issues in a forthcoming parliamentary session in March 2017.


Despite the long-term health effects resulting from wearing high heels, some women still believe that wearing high heels at work should be required. For them, wearing high heels give a woman source of power and a higher status at work. Yet should it be REQUIRED or just recommended?

What is happening in the U.K reminds me of the Louisiana Law on “separate but equal” which had existed for decades, until it was declared unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education[12]. Is it fair to subject women to harsh and stringent dress code rules than men? They are equal because they got a chance to be employed, but treated separately because of sex. Here, women are clearly held to a separate and unequal treatment than their male counterparts.

Roman Msaki is currently a 2L student at University of Baltimore. He has a LL. B from the University of Dar-es-Salaam (Tanzania), a post-graduate diploma in legal practice from the Law School of Tanzania, and a LL.M in the Law of the United States from the University of Baltimore. He has an interest in international law due to participating in the Philip C. Jessup International Moot Court Competition in 2012 for his university in Tanzania. Since then, he has regularly served as a Jessup judge in both regional rounds (Kenya, Uganda and Ghana) and the international rounds, held annually in Washington D.C. Last semester, he was a research assistant to Prof. Nienke Grossman. He is a member of the International Law Society, Immigration Law Society, International Law Student Association and American Bar Association. His main areas of interest in international law are: International humanitarian law and use of force.

[1] Smith, E.O. High Heels and Evolution: Natural Selection, Sexual Selection and High Heels; Journal of Psychology, Evolution and Gender pg. 254, December 1999. Available at: eosmith.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/JournalArticle30.pdf. (Last visited January 29th).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4]  See for instance: www.walkamileinhershoes.org/ ; www.walkamileinhershoes.org/calendar.html accessed on 29th January 17.

[5] PWC stands for “Pricewaterhouse Coopers”.

[6] For her short interview see: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-38737300 accessed on 29th January 17.

[7] Ibid.

[8]  See: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/129823; Accessed on 29th January

[9] Supra: note 4

[10] See: www.forbes.com/…/high-heels-and-workplace-dress-codes-urgent-action-needed-say..  Last viewed on 29th January.

[11]The report can be viewed at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/petitions-committee/news-parliament-2015/high-heels-and-workplace-dress-codes-report-published-16-17/?utm_source=petition&utm_campaign=129823&utm_medium=email&utm_content=reportstory, Accessed on 29th January 17.

[12] 347 U.S. 483 (1954).


The Mammary Games: Polarity on Breastfeeding Practices

Bryana Spann

Throughout the 2016 election and into the new administration of the President, women’s rights advocates have further reverberated their platform to let the world know that we matter. On January 21, 2017, millions of people around the world took to the streets voicing their outrage towards the insulting rhetoric of the past election cycle. With dozens of speakers and thousands of signs decrying the police brutality, the defunding of Planned Parenthood, and discrimination against minorities, there seemed to be a missing message: the absolute right to breastfeeding.


Global Discourse on Breastfeeding

The benefits that come with breastfeeding have been highly regarded within the international community for the past few decades. Groups such as UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that women breastfeed their child within the first hour of birth and exclusively for the first six months of the child’s life.[1] At six months, soft or semi-solid foods be introduced to complement breastfeeding for up to two years or more.[2] Not only does breastfeeding benefit the child’s health, development and nutrition but it also substantially decreases the chances of child and infant mortality.[3] Optimal breastfeeding is especially important in developing countries that have a high risk of disease coupled with low access to clean water or sanitation. In such conditions, an exclusively breastfed child is 14 times less likely to die in the first six months than a non-breastfed child. [4]


Despite the benefits that come along with exclusive breastfeeding, it’s simply not a reality for the majority of women. With about 830 million women workers worldwide, less than 40 per cent of the world’s infants are exclusively breastfed at the appropriate time. [5] The WHO, UNICEF, and the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) recently published a joint report, citing the inadequacy of national laws to protect and promote breastfeeding.[6] The report tracks country involvement and adaptation with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes (the Code) as part of their membership in the WHO.[7] Generally, the Code is aimed towards, “safe and adequate nutrition for infants, the protection and promotion of breastfeeding, and by ensuring the proper use of breastmilk substitutes, when…necessary, on the basis of adequate information and through appropriate marketing and distribution.” [8] Although 135 countries have in place some form of legal measure related to the Code, only 39 countries have laws that enact most or all of the Code. [9] Most of the implementation of the Code has taken place in developing countries of the “Global South”, where the populations are more susceptible to high rates of infant mortality due to respiratory infection and diarrhea. Some of the most pervasive challenges in implementing the Code include the lack of political will to participate, interference from manufacturers and distributors, as well as the absence of coordination by stakeholders. [10]

Taboos and Attitudes towards the Boobs

Despite the global initiatives by UNICEF, WHO, and IBFAN, there still seems to be cultural taboo against mothers who choose to breastfeed in public. Some of the most important elements to successful exclusive breastfeeding is “on demand” feedings and expressing milk when not around the child.[11] This ensures that adequate milk production is maintained throughout the different stages of breastfeeding. Sadly, this becomes more problematic with the lack of maternity leave, as well as the lack of nursing accommodations at work and public places such as restaurants, shops, and airports.


In May 2015, Rep. Tammy Duckworth from Illinois introduced the Friendly Airports for Mothers (FAM) Act to the House following her travel experiences with her infant daughter [12]. She realized that many national airports didn’t provide suitable space to breastfeed in airport terminals. The FAM Act would require all major U.S. airport to provide “lactation rooms”, with seating, a table and an electrical outlet. Although 62 per cent of the country’s 100 largest airports considered themselves as “breastfeeding-friendly”, only 8 per cent of them provided suitable breastfeeding accommodations. [13] The mandate would aim to bring privacy, comfort, safety, and convenience to traveling mothers. As of 2017, the bill is still with the House Subcommittee on Aviation. [14]

Just this year, traveling mothers have had their own issues across the pond. Gayathiri Bose, a Singaporean mother of two, was traveling to Paris from Frankfurt Airport when she was confronted by German authorities.[15] She was traveling without her baby, but with her breast pump so that she could regularly express breastmilk. This raised suspicion with a female police officer. According to Ms. Bose, the police officer asked her to prove she was lactating by asking her to manually expressing her breastmilk. The incident proved to be an embarrassing moment for Ms. Bose, who is now seeking legal action following her encounter. A Frankfurt police spokesman has confirmed that Ms. Bose’s breast pump checked as a possible suspected explosive and denies her allegation. Claire Dunn, travelling from London Heathrow airport found herself in similar debacle when she was questioned by two male security guards over her breast pump.[16] She alleges that the men had no idea what the object was and kept asking her why she needed the pump if she wasn’t traveling with her baby. [17] Anisha Turner, who traveled from London to India, also found expressing to be problematic during her flight in December 2016. [18] Turner was traveling without her one year old daughter and was able to find numerous nursing facilities in the Mumbai Airport but was stuck expressing milk in disabled bathroom stall in Heathrow Airport, evidencing the disparities in attitudes between the “Global North” and the Global South” regarding breastfeeding.


Traveling mothers seem to have an uphill battle when it comes to nursing on the go. As the Women’s March takes its next steps, it’s important that citizens reach out to leaders in the organization to force this issue into the spotlight. Phone calls, letters, and social media have also been great tools in reaching out to congressmen and governors. It’s going to take a more open and frank conversation on breastfeeding, women’s health, and child mortality to educate government officials and society as a whole on an inherent part of motherhood.  

Bryana Spann is a 2L student at the University Of Baltimore School of Law. She completed her undergraduate studies at the College of Charleston, where she majored in International Studies with a Concentration in Asian Studies. She also spent a semester abroad in Shanghai, where she studied subjects such as the Government and Politics of China as well as Chinese Calligraphy. Currently, Bryana is member of the International Law Society, the Black Law Students Association, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. having previously served as its Global Impact Chair for the Gamma Xi Omega Chapter. Having worked as a law clerk with the Lake County Public Defender, her interests include international human rights, civil liberties, as well as pro bono criminal defense.

[1] http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/breastfeeding/facts/en/

[2] Id.

[3] https://www.unicef.org/nutrition/index_24824.html

[4]https://www.unicef.org/nutrition/index_breastfeeding.html#2 (citing Black R. et al. ‘Maternal and child undernutrition: global and regional exposures and health consequences’. (Maternal and Child Undernutrition Series 1). The Lancet, vol. 371 No. 9608, January 2008, pp.243-60

[5] https://www.unicef.org/nutrition/index_breastfeeding.html#2

[6] https://www.unicef.org/media/media_91075.html

[7] Id.

[8] http://ibfan.org/the-full-code

[9] https://www.unicef.org/media/media_91075.html

[10] Id.

[11] http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/breastfeeding/facts/en/

[12] http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/rep-tammy-duckworth-leads-charge-lactation-rooms-airports

[13] Id.

[14] https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2530/all-info

[15] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-38767588

[16] http://www.bbc.com/news/health-38809100

[17] Id.


[18] Id.


Behold, the power of a woman…

J. Michal Forbes

Sex strikes, or lysistratic nonaction, are a real and, arguably, useful tool for women around the world in order to force their men to implement change.[i]  A sex strike is when persons, typically women, withhold sex from their partners to achieve certain goals.

Most recently, sex strikes made headlines when Mishi Mboko, a Kenyan parliamentarian, asked all female voters to withhold sex with their partners.[ii] With tension rising in anticipation of the presidential election, Mboko urged women in areas where the opposition is popular to withhold sex until their husbands showed them their voter registration cards.[iii] Ms. Mboko said that “sex is a powerful weapon” that would encourage reluctant men to register as voters.[iv]

Despite having a few prominent female politicians, Kenya remains a misogynic, patriarchal conservative society.[v] Since Kenya gained its independence from Great Britian in 1966, the country has only had four presidents, including the incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta.[vi] Kenyatta, coincidentally, is the son of Kenya’s first present, Jomo Kenyatta.[vii] There was much controversy when Uhuru Kenyatta initially took office in 2013, with the Kenyan Supreme court having to intervene and determine that the elections were valid with no regularities.[viii]


Mombasa Women Representative Mishi Mboko

Since then, many other political groups have sought to oust President Kenyatta’s Jubliee Party. Mboko, who is a member of the rival National Super Alliance has said that the need for all citizens to vote is so crucial that women must do their parts by forcing their husbands to vote. However, the National Super Alliance is not the only party pushing country wide voter registration. President Kenyatta himself is also advocating that Kenyas coming out and register as voters, except he is not advocating a sex strike.[ix]

The question arises why do Kenyan woman feel as though they do not have a political voice and they need to use sex as a bargain tool. First, it is important to note that Kenya is a party to the Convention of Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), a treaty that serves as in “international bill of rights for women”, describing and defining what constitutes discrimination against women and establishing an international agenda for national action to end such discrimination.[x] By becoming a party to CEDAW, the Kenyan government has agreed to make a series of changes to protect women’s rights, including incorporating women equally into their government.[xi] However, despite new Kenyan laws designed to increase the number of elected women in Kenya politics, Kenyan women still have the lowest level of parliamentarian representation in their region.[xii] Though Kenyan women have the right to vote, they are not reflected in their government.

However, as aforementioned, Kenya is a conservative patriarchal society, where most woman shy away from politics and focus on business. Kenyan woman have learned that in addition to their rights, they can maintain a certain level of control over their husbands by withholding sex.

Ms. Mboko is not alone in her attempts to use Kenyan women to use their feminity to help implement change in the voting booth. Esther Murugi, another Kenyan poltician, has also called on Kenyan women not to cook for their husbands and for pastors not to welcome worshippers to their churches unless they can prove they are registered voters.[xiii]

This is not the first time that a sex strike was used by women to try to implement political change in Kenya. In 2009, after a number of failed peace-building measures, the Women’s Development Organisation, a women’s right group announced a weeklong sex-in as an attempt get former President Mwai Kibaki and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga to make reconcile.[xiv] The group approached both the politician’s wives and even went so far as to pay prostitutes not to work.[xv]

The question arises as to whether sex strikes have actually shown to be effective. Sadly, there has been no empirical evidence that sex strikes are successful in obtaining any kind of political leverage. In fact, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, who helped organized a sex strike in Liberia in the early 2000s in an effort to end the country’s civil war, mentioned in her memoir that the Liberian sex strike actually has “little to no effect”.[xvi]


Would this work in the United States?

In 2015, Spike Lee’s musical drama “Chi-Raq” explored the effect of a sex strike in America. In the movie, the girlfriends of top rival gangs in Chicago withheld sex from their boyfriends until the bloodshed stopped.[xvii] Similar to the strike in Kenya, they required all women, including mistresses and prostitutes to support their cause.[xviii] In the end, their sex strike resulted in the rival gun member dropping their weapons and ending the bloodshed.[xix]

Soon after the move, a woman in Chicago started a petition in order to get all the women in Chicago to go on a similar strike in hopes of achieving a similar goal.[xx] Though the petition is now closed, it gained roughly 100 signatures. While ultimately unsuccessful in gaining massive traction, it good to know that feminist grassroots organizations in America are considering alternative methods to bring international attention to local issues.

J. Michal Forbes is a proud native of Prince George’s County, Maryland, Ms. Forbes has a fiery passion for international law, travel and frozen yogurt. After receiving her B.A. in Political Science from the University of Maryland, Baltimore she taught ESOL in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area before joining the US Peace Corps in 2011. Ms. Forbes served in the Peace Corps in Ukraine from 2011 to 2013, in a small town between the Red Sea and the Black Sea in Crimea. Fluent in Russian, Ms. Forbes soon caught the travel bug and traveled/worked extensively throughout Eastern Europe during her 27 month commitment. Currently a 3L, Ms. Forbes is a member of the International Law Society, Immigration Law Society, Black Law Student Association and the Women Lawyers as Leaders Initiative. She has worked for Maryland Legal Aid and the NAACP’s Office of the Attorney General. She was recently awarded the honor of being named Article Editor with the University of Baltimore Law Forum, a scholarly legal journal focused on rising issues in Maryland. It is her dream to work for the U.S. government assisting with asylum seekers and refugee. 

In her free time, Ms. Forbes enjoys eating frozen yogurt with her husband and learning Arabic.

[i] Do Sex Strikes Ever Work?, Slate, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2012/08/sex_strike_in_togo_do_sex_strikes_ever_work_.html

[ii] Kenyan Politician Proposes Women Withhold Sex Until Men Register To Vote, NPR,  http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2017/01/17/510284069/kenyan-politician-proposes-women-withhold-sex-until-men-register-to-vote

[iii] No sex for Kenyan men without voting cards, says Mombasa woman representative Mishi Mboko, Standard Digital, https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/mobile/article/2000230176/no-sex-for-kenyan-men-without-voting-cards-says-mp.

[iv] Kenyan woman urged to withhold sex in vote drive, BBC News, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-38649235

[v] Why women do not vote for women, Standard Digital, https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2000223551/why-women-do-not-vote-for-women

[vi] Uhuru Kenyatta sworn in as Kenya’s fourth president, The Telegraph, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/kenya/9981906/Uhuru-Kenyatta-sworn-in-as-Kenyas-fourth-president.html

[vii] Id.

[viii] Uhuru Kenyatta’s election victory is upheld by Kenya’s supreme court, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/31/kenya-court-upholds-kenyatta-victory

[ix] KTN Prime: President Uhuru Kenyatta to take on country wide campaigns for voter registration, KTN News, https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/ktnnews/video/watch/2000120571/ktn-prime-president-uhuru-kenyatta-to-take-on-country-wide-campaigns-for-voter-registration

[x] Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women, UN, http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/

[xi] Id.

[xii] FACTBOX: Women in Kenyan politics in numbers, Thomson Reuters Foundation News, http://news.trust.org//item/20131206165550-iroep/

[xiii] Deny Husbands Sex Until They Register to Vote, Says Kenyan MP, Newsweek, http://www.newsweek.com/kenyan-mp-tells-women-deny-husbands-sex-until-they-register-vote-429809

[xiv] Kenyan women go on sex strike to force politicians to talk, The Telegraph, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/kenya/5245040/Kenyan-women-go-on-sex-strike-to-force-politicians-to-talk.html.

[xv] Id.

[xvi] Kenyan Politician Proposes Women Withhold Sex Until Men Register To Vote, NPR,  http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2017/01/17/510284069/kenyan-politician-proposes-women-withhold-sex-until-men-register-to-vote

[xvii] Chi-Raq (2015), IMDb, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4594834/

[xviii] Id.

[xix] Id.

[xx] Women in Chicago: End senseess violence, go on a SEX STRIKE, change.org, https://www.change.org/p/april-lawson-sex-strike-in-chicago-no-justice-no-cootchie


The 21st Century and Witchcraft; A Human Rights Disaster from a Bygone Age

Alexander Ayer
Witchcraft. The very word congers up a myriad of different images, thoughts, and ideas. From popular fiction series about children learning spells to the older fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, our culture is inundated with tales of magic and those who practice it. However, there was a time in the past when people lived in fear of those they believed possessed malevolent powers. Most people in America today see the idea of witches as the realm of pure fantasy. Further, the days of people accusing each other of actually being witches, and carry out hunts to purge these perceived threats have surely long past. This must have been the product of a darker and more ignorant time in human history.


Well, witch trials are not just the product of a bygone era where angry mobs dragged oddly hatted women into the center of town claiming she turned someone into a newt. More than 2,000 people have been killed in witch hunts between 2000 and 2015 in India alone.[1] Even more troubling, the practice of witch burning has surfaced in both Asian and African nations.[2]
The Problem
This problem has manifested in several countries around the world, particularly in central and south-east Asia, as well as sub-Saharan Africa. However, this post will be restricted primarily to India, because there has been some fairly reliable reporting on the frequency of these allegations as well as some recent developments.

Troublingly, just as in the darker days of old, witchcraft allegations are primarily aimed at the most vulnerable in a society; women, the old, the young, the disabled, and those who are too different.[3] Women, just as in the days of Europe’s witch hunts, are particularly vulnerable to these accusations due to ingrained social views in more rural and isolated areas.[4] Of the approximately 2000 people killed in India in recent years most have been women.[5] One particular trend aimed at landed women has been using witchcraft allegations to seize property. Land-owning women are accused of witchcraft, and then firewood for a pyre is gathered in view of their homes. The older women who are usually the targets of these scheme will then flee and their land will be seized.[6]

However, witchcraft allegations are not always used as a thinly veiled cover for privet gain. There are people who genuinely believe in witchcraft and its potential for harm.[7] Worse, there are people who are accused of witchcraft who come to believe it themselves. Some individuals think that they are possessed by evil spirits, or are under the sway of demons and thus might be capable of inflicting magical harm on their neighbors even if they don’t understand how.[8]

Fear and lack of knowledge seems to be the fuel that causes witch frenzies to burn the brightest. Many communities which have seen a rise in witch hunts lack sufficient medical care and education.[9] When confronted with deadly and infectious deceases or other misfortunes many of these communities have turned on each other and blame the already weak or disenfranchised.[10] However, witchcraft has been blamed for other problems as well, including cancer, the death or a child or other family member, or a poor harvest.[11]

Accused witches can face a number of problems. Once branded a witch an individual may be shunned, beaten, banished, beheaded, or even burned alive.[12] These trials and hunts are notoriously lacking in due process. In one incident in 2014, an Indian athlete attended a village meeting after the deaths of four village members, once there she was accused of witchcraft, trapped with a net, and beaten until she lost consciousness.[13] In some cases treatment may even rise to the level of torture; where in addition to suffering severe physical harm, accused individuals may be forced to consume poisonous liquids, animal blood, or human waste.[14]

Just How Bad Is It?
It has been hard for authorities to get a sense of how wide spread the problem has become. Apart from incidents going unreported or being reported as something else, one particular issue has been the fact that most incidents have been occurring in rural or isolated areas.[15] However, the UN estimates that the number could be as high as the tens of thousands killed, and millions harmed in other ways worldwide.[16] Further, just because most of these incidents have occurred in more remote areas, some have not. The U.N. Human Rights Council has been receiving reports from neighboring Nepal that witchcraft allegations are spreading to more developed areas.[17]


How Did I Not Know This Was Happening!
One of the major difficulties is the unwillingness of some countries to acknowledge these witch hunts are even happening. UN officials have been pushing various governments to acknowledge and address the problem, but there has only been moderate successes thus far.[18] Many governments and local authorities have traditionally been reluctant to intervene, viewing most of it as cultural in nature and thus not wanting to get involved. In other cases, authorities simply lack the resources to fight the poverty and lack of knowledge that spreads much of the witch hunt zeal.[19]

Is There Hope?
Hope does endure. This problem has been defeated before. Witch hunts where far more common in Europe during the 16th century and even occurred in America for a time during the 17th century. They ended, and witch hunts around the world can end as well.

Ignorance and fear are the cause, and poverty is an exacerbating problem. These are factors which can be addressed. South Africa has done as much, stemming a witch hunt pattern in their country by launching an education program about the scientific and medical causes of many diseases such as HIV and AIDS.[20]  South Africa has also begun holding tribal leaders responsible by warning that, if a person is accused and is killed for witchcraft, the South African authorities would get involved and my hold the leaders themselves responsible.[21]


Action has begun to take place in India as well. In the Indian state of Assam, where witch hunts have been a serious problem, a law was passed in recent years banning witchcraft accusations and making such accusations punishable with possible imprisonment.[22] In The five years between 2001 and 2006 Indian police authorities believe that approximately 300 people were killed in witch hunts in Assam, now advocates are hoping the law will help end this nightmare.[23]

The UN is still determined to get countries to acknowledge and address witch hunting practices. The U.N. High Commissioner of Human Rights stated in relation to witch trials in Liberia that “… human rights obligations must take precedence over any local practices considered to be ‘cultural’ or ‘traditional’ where such practices are incompatible with human rights principles.”[24]

My Thoughts
I think this is a practice which can be beaten once and for all. It is not enough to simply go to these places and explain that the accused are not witches, this has been ineffective in the past.[25] The first step in solving this disaster is to acknowledge that it is happening. The UN has been trying to push more governments to publicly acknowledge that these events are happening in their boarders.[26]  I think this is where the solution has to start. It is hard to address a problem while simultaneously ignoring it.

South Africa’s policy of education is great idea. If people understand the scientific causes behind their misfortunes they are less likely to attack the vulnerable. There is genuine concern due to the spread of infectious disease, possible crop failures, and loosing loved ones. However, it is a lack of understanding which leads to people seeking their own answers by turning on their neighbors. Let us use knowledge to kill ignorance.

There must also be more social help for the accused. The accused must feel as though going to the authorities will help them, and that means the authorities must be willing to get involved to end this heinous practice. India’s law, providing some legal protection for the accused by making it illegal to openly carry out witch trials, is an excellent way to start. Further medical support and economic development would probably also help these already stressed communities from descending down the dark road of the witch hunt.

This human rights nightmare can be ended. We know what it will take, and we have existing models to work from, both from history and the present day. We have ended this scourge before, let us do so again.

Alexander Ayer  is a third year (3L) law student at the University of Baltimore School of Law. His undergraduate studies were completed at Hood College, where he majored in history and graduated cum laude in 2014. Alexander is expected to graduate from the University of Baltimore School of Law in the Spring of 2017. As part of his international law background he took part in a study abroad program at the University of Aberdeen School of Law in Scotland. Alexander is drawn to international law by the comparative approach of seeing how different societies solve similar problems in different ways, as well observing how history has effected the laws and policies of various nations, and the behaviors demonstrated by counties interacting with each other on the world stage. In addition to international law, Alexander is also interested in disability law and copyright law.



[2] http://nationalgeographic.org/news/witch-trials-21st-century/

[3] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-religion-witchcraft-idUSTRE58M4Q820090923, http://nationalgeographic.org/news/witch-trials-21st-century/, & http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16904&LangID=E

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/07/21/thousands-of-women-accused-of-sorcery-tortured-and-executed-in-indian-witch-hunts/

[5] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/25/world/asia/india-assam-state-witch-hunts.html?_r=0

[6] http://nationalgeographic.org/news/witch-trials-21st-century/

[7] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-35975360 & http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/25/world/asia/india-assam-state-witch-hunts.html?_r=0

[8] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/25/world/asia/india-assam-state-witch-hunts.html?_r=0, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-35975360, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/25/world/asia/india-assam-state-witch-hunts.html?_r=0

[9] http://nationalgeographic.org/news/witch-trials-21st-century/

[10] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-35975360

[11] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/25/world/asia/india-assam-state-witch-hunts.html?_r=0 & https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/07/21/thousands-of-women-accused-of-sorcery-tortured-and-executed-in-indian-witch-hunts/

[12] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-29655662

[13] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-29655662

[14] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/07/21/thousands-of-women-accused-of-sorcery-tortured-and-executed-in-indian-witch-hunts/

[15] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/07/21/thousands-of-women-accused-of-sorcery-tortured-and-executed-in-indian-witch-hunts/

[16] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-religion-witchcraft-idUSTRE58M4Q820090923

[17] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-religion-witchcraft-idUSTRE58M4Q820090923

[18] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-religion-witchcraft-idUSTRE58M4Q820090923

[19] http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16904&LangID=E & http://nationalgeographic.org/news/witch-trials-21st-century/

[20] http://nationalgeographic.org/news/witch-trials-21st-century/

[21] http://nationalgeographic.org/news/witch-trials-21st-century/

[22] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/25/world/asia/india-assam-state-witch-hunts.html?_r=0

[23] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-religion-witchcraft-idUSTRE58M4Q820090923

[24] http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16904&LangID=E

[25] http://nationalgeographic.org/news/witch-trials-21st-century/

[26] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-religion-witchcraft-idUSTRE58M4Q820090923

1 Comment

Ireland and Poland: Two Catholic Nations, Two Views on Abortion

Jasmine Pope

“No woman can call herself free who does not control her own body.”
– Margaret Sanger

Ireland and Poland are both predominately Catholic nations and the Catholic Church views abortion as a grave sin. It is no wonder, therefore, that, the issue of abortion has been at the forefront of these two countries’ political agendas recently. Irish and Polish men and women alike have gathered on either side of the debate: pro-choice or pro-life.

The Situation in Ireland      


On September 7, 1983, by a vote of sixty-seven percent to thirty-three percent, Ireland amended its Constitution to include what is referred to as the Eighth Amendment. Ireland’s Eighth Amendment, “acknowledge[s] the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and as far as practicable, but its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”[i] While the Eighth Amendment does not specifically mention the word abortion, the Amendment essentially criminalizes abortion, under any and all circumstances. While there are other countries that mention the right to life in their Constitution, Ireland’s goes so far as to “give the unborn an equal right to life with a conscious, sentient, thinking, feeling woman.”[ii]

The Situation in Poland


Poland, also a predominately Catholic nation voted not to back a total abortion ban. Thousands of women and men protested in the streets of Warsaw against a legislative proposal for a total ban on abortion.[iii] The proposed legislation would have implemented a ban, even in instances of rape, incest, and when the mother’s life was at risk.[iv] The Minister of Science and Higher Education, Jaroslaw Gowin, states that the protests “have caused us to think and taught us humility.”[v] This is not to say that Poland is completely pro-choice on abortion. Many Polish women end up seeking abortions in Germany or other neighboring European countries because Poland only allows for abortion in the narrow instances previously mentioned. But Poland, unlike Ireland, does not seek to constitutionally implement a total ban on abortion. However, the proposed law would make abortion a criminal offense with a prison term for both the doctor and the woman.[vi]

International law implications?

Ireland and Poland are both parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Article 12, the Right to Health, of CEDAW states that “States parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of health care … States Parties shall ensure to women appropriate services in connection with pregnancy…”[vii] Ireland and Poland are both parties to the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). Within the ECHR there is the Right to Life (Article 2) and the Right to Respect for Private and Family Life (Article 8). Article 8 states that “there shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right.”[viii] Therefore, in light of the purposes of CEDAW and ECHR, does Ireland and/or Poland’s abortion laws violate their international law obligations under these conventions?


Meanwhile Poland, has banned abortion except in instances of rape, incest, or where the mother’s life is threatened, and only within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.[ix] Even so, Poland’s restrictive abortion law requires that two doctors must approve the procedure, which of course, many doctors have declined to do. Ireland and Poland’s regulations on abortion are among the strictest in the world.

Social Media and Grassroots Movements

Times are changing, whether we like it or not. As a result, many movements, either pro-choice or pro-life, have sprung into existence. One particularly interesting movement is Ireland’s Repeal The 8th movement.[x] The movement uses social platforms such as Twitter via the hashtag “#repealthe8th” to spread awareness and to find support beyond Ireland’s borders.

There are petitions and organizations alike, all focused on one thing: repealing the 8th Amendment.[xi] Dublin has become a city ripe with demonstrations from both sides of the aisle on this issue. One protester stated that, “it’s a woman’s right to choose and it is ridiculous to say that anybody else, the state or the church, has [the] right to tell that woman what happens to her body.”[xii] LifeNews has referred to the Eighth Amendment as, “a beacon of human rights protection internationally as it provides legal protection to both unborn babies and their mothers.”[xiii] The Artists’ Campaign to Repeal the Eighth Amendment stated that “the resulting physical and emotional trauma inflicted on women is inexcusable and an ongoing cause of shame for Irish citizens.”[xiv]  The Artists’ Campaign to Repeal the Eighth Amendment also noted that the Eighth Amendment “is a key source of Ireland’s failure to reach international human rights standards and of the State’s failure to meet its obligations to vindicate women’s human rights.”[xv]


Conversely, in Poland, pro-life foundations and the Ordo Iuris legal institute pushed for a new bill which would make abortion illegal in all circumstances.[xvi] The Catholic Church in Poland supported this initiative, which would also punish any doctor that performed an abortion with a jail term of up to five years.[xvii] This is not the first time that a complete and total ban on abortion has come up in Poland. In 2011, 2013, and 2015, the Polish Parliament debated and rejected the exact abortion ban advocated for by pro-life foundations.[xviii]

What does this all mean?

Women’s rights are human rights. A woman’s right to choose is just that, a woman’s right to choose. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated that “the emphasis must not be on the right to abortion but on the right to privacy and reproductive control.  As many have said over the years, pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion.[xix] This debate is not simply about religion and moral beliefs, this debate boils down to a basic right of choice. Women should be able to have the choice of having or not having an abortion. This is an issue that everyone should be concerned about. Everyone is entitled to live their life as he or she sees fit, and it is not up to the rest of the world to judge them based on the decisions that they make. But it is up to us to treat each and every person with kindness and respect, and to allow women to make decisions for themselves.

Jasmine Pope is a second year law student at the University of Baltimore. She graduated from Towson University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science, with a minor in History. Jasmine is extremely interested in and passionate about international human rights, particular the rights of women and children. She also participated in the Summer Study Abroad Program in Aberdeen, Scotland. She has also studied abroad in Benalmádena, Spain. Currently, she serves as the Secretary for the International Law Society. Jasmine is currently a member of the Inter-American Human Rights Moot Court Team. Jasmine is also a Staff Editor for the Journal of International Law and works for the Law Office of Hayley Tamburello.

[i] http://www.repealeight.ie/.

[ii] https://www.ifpa.ie/Hot-Topics/Abortion/Abortion-and-the-Irish-Constitution.

[iii] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/after-mass-protests-poland-govt-wont-back-abortion-ban/2016/10/05/6df9449a-8af1-11e6-8cdc-4fbb1973b506_story.html.

[iv] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/after-mass-protests-poland-govt-wont-back-abortion-ban/2016/10/05/6df9449a-8af1-11e6-8cdc-4fbb1973b506_story.html.

[v] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/after-mass-protests-poland-govt-wont-back-abortion-ban/2016/10/05/6df9449a-8af1-11e6-8cdc-4fbb1973b506_story.html.

[vi] http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/poland-abortion-law-1.3789335.

[vii] Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, art. 12, http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/text/econvention.htm#article12.

[viii] http://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Convention_ENG.pdf.

[ix] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/04/18/why-would-poland-make-its-already-strict-abortion-law-draconian/.

[x] http://www.repeal.ie/, http://www.repealeight.ie/.

[xi] http://www.abortionrightscampaign.ie/repealthe8th/.

[xii] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-ireland-abortion-idUSKCN11U0J2.

[xiii] http://www.lifenews.com/2016/07/27/tax-funded-pro-abortion-mural-calling-for-repeal-of-8th-amendment-is-removed/.

[xiv] http://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/leading-irish-artists-call-for-repeal-of-8th-amendment-1.2352493.

[xv] http://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/leading-irish-artists-call-for-repeal-of-8th-amendment-1.2352493.

[xvi] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/04/18/why-would-poland-make-its-already-strict-abortion-law-draconian/.

[xvii] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/04/18/why-would-poland-make-its-already-strict-abortion-law-draconian/.

[xviii] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/04/18/why-would-poland-make-its-already-strict-abortion-law-draconian/.

[xix] http://www.pewforum.org/2008/09/30/pro-choice-does-not-mean-pro-abortion-an-argument-for-abortion-rights-featuring-the-rev-carlton-veazey/.


Burkini & Beachside Oppression: Islamophobia Wave Hits France

J. Michal Forbes

Warm sand, clear blue skies and a seamlessly endless ocean. France’s beaches along the Mediterranean have been known as some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, as well as some of the sexiest.  Whether it’s Cannes or Saint-Tropez, visitors expect the same things from French’s shores—sunlight, small swimsuits and sexy women. Then along came the burkini, which to some, threatened France’s cultural beach identity.

Last month, amidst much international scrutiny and speculation, over 30 French towns banned the burkini from their shores.[i] The first question that comes to most people’s mind is what exactly is a burkini.  Designed by Australian Aheda Zanetti, the burkini is a custom swimsuit designed specifically for Muslim women who adhere to the Islamic tradition of dressing modestly.[ii]  The burkini resembles a full body suit and covers the whole body with the exception of the swimmer’s face, hands and feet.


Within a matter of hours, the ban on burkinis took social media by storm and suddenly the entire world was looking at France’s shores. French Premier Manuel Valls even supported the towns that wanted to ban the burkinis claiming that France’s beaches should be “free of wardrobe associated with religion and politics”.[iii] He also said the burkini is “an expression of a political project, a counter-society, based notable on the enslavement of women.” Social scientists around the world even chimed in, alleging that the ban was not about swimwear, but about protecting France’s non-Muslim majority from having to confront a changing word and protecting Muslim women from patriarchy. [iv]

France’s ban on burkinis, did not last however. In matter of a few weeks, France’s highest courts held that mayors do not have the right to ban burkinis.[v] Since 1905, the French government has practiced laïcité, under which the government does not recognize any kind of religious influence in governmental affairs. The current ban on burkinis was seen by some as a violation of laïcité, and the government’s interface in religious affairs.



The question arises: is the ban on burkinis really an attempt to maintain and cultivate the culture of France’s shores? It may have been originally, but around the world many critics see it as France’s latest attempt to suppress the Islamic faith within its country.  In light of the recent terrorist attacks in Nice this past summer, the ban, which was enacted weeks later, is more like Islamophobia masked as cultural preservation.

The ban on the burkinis was nothing more than a push to further ban Islamic garments. A movement that first began in 2004, when the French government previously banned Muslim headscarves (hijabs) from schools. Then again, in 2011, when France became the first European country to ban wearing in public the burqa, a full-body covering that includes a mesh over the face, and the niqab, a full-face veil with an opening for the eyes. Though the ban was ultimately upheld by the European Court of Human Rights in 2014, debate still occurred across the world whether or not this constituted religious oppression. This burkini ban is just the latest law enacted to suppress Islam within France.


The debate surrounding the Ban on Burkinis is far from over. This issue will likely reemerge in the next French presidential election slated for 2017. There is no doubt that the issue of keeping France “homogenous “will be at the forefront.  Once again, burkinis may be banned from France’s shores.


If the ban on burkinis becomes national law in France where does religious oppression stop? Will nuns be prohibited from wearing coif? Perhaps priest will be prohibited from wearing clerical collars? However in a country where Catholics make up almost 88% of the population those bans are likely not to happen.[vi] The real issue is Islam and Islamophobia within France.  France’s attempts to remain homogeneous in a world that is multicultural could lead to negative implications for France. And to think, the ban on burkinis was the spark that started the fire.


J. Michal Forbes is a proud native of Prince George’s County, Maryland, Ms. Forbes has a fiery passion for international law, travel and frozen yogurt. After receiving her B.A. in Political Science from the University of Maryland, Baltimore she taught ESOL in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area before joining the US Peace Corps in 2011. Ms. Forbes served in the Peace Corps in Ukraine from 2011 to 2013, in a small town between the Red Sea and the Black Sea in Crimea. Fluent in Russian, Ms. Forbes soon caught the travel bug and traveled/worked extensively throughout Eastern Europe during her 27 month commitment. Currently a 3L, Ms. Forbes is a member of the International Law Society, Immigration Law Society, Black Law Student Association and the Women Lawyers as Leaders Initiative. She has worked for Maryland Legal Aid and the NAACP’s Office of the Attorney General. She was recently awarded the honor of being named Article Editor with the University of Baltimore Law Forum, a scholarly legal journal focused on rising issues in Maryland. It is her dream to work for the U.S. government assisting with asylum seekers and refugee. In her free time, Ms. Forbes enjoys eating frozen yogurt with her husband and learning Arabic.


[i] http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/24/europe/woman-burkini-nice-beach-incident-trnd/

[ii] The Surprising Australian origin of the ‘burkini’, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/08/17/the-surprising-australian-origin-story-of-the-burkini/

[iii] Manuel Valls: Burkini ‘not compatible’ with French values, http://www.politico.eu/article/manuel-valls-burkini-not-compatible-with-french-values/

[iv] France’s ‘Burkini’ Bans Are About More Than Religion or Clothing, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/19/world/europe/frances-burkini-bans-are-about-more-than-religion-or-clothing.html?_r=0

[v] French court suspends burkini ban, http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/26/europe/france-burkini-ban-court-ruling/

[vi] The Church in Decline: France’s Vanishing Catholics, http://www.ibtimes.com/church-decline-frances-vanishing-catholics-1125241


Ireland and the Road to Gender Equality

Alison Aminzadeh

When one thinks of a state currently in turmoil, The Republic of Ireland is not usually the first to come to mind. However, the country has faced intense criticism directed at its criminalization of abortion.[1] Is the state suffering from collective cognitive dissonance? It has been lauded for becoming the first country to legalize marriage equality by popular vote, after only decriminalizing homosexuality almost twenty years ago.[2] Many point to this quick turnaround as evidence of the state’s increasingly progressive politics and that Ireland is an “inclusive and tolerant nation.”[3] At the same time that the Irish voters made this historic decision, women and girls still did not have access to safe and legal abortions.[4] The absence of this right is evidence that Ireland is neither a progressive paradise nor an intolerant wasteland; despite the many ways the country has overcome its history of discrimination, half its population does not have access to the reproductive health services that are a hallmark of equality in developed nations.[5]


Abortion is sometimes considered a right under international law,[6] but women and girls in Ireland can only obtain one if the pregnancy endangers the life of the woman.[7] According to the Irish Family Planning Agency, this also includes suicide, as this would qualify as a serious threat to the mother’s life. The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act of 2013 provides for this exception.[8] After much deliberation about the suicide exception, the PLDPA was constructed to require two psychiatrists and one obstetrician to ensure that the test (based in the constitution) is met: (1) there is a real and substantial risk that the woman will die from suicide, (2) in the reasonable opinion of the psychiatrists and the obstetrician, terminating the pregnancy is the only way to avert this risk, and (3) in arriving at that opinion, the doctors have held in regard the need to preserve the life of the unborn as far as practicable.[9] Besides Andorra, Malta, and San Marino, Ireland is the only country in Europe that bans abortion, even in instances of rape, incest, and fetal impairment.[10] Amnesty International launched a campaign to encourage Ireland to – at the very least – allow abortions in these exceptional cases.[11] The draconian law, Ireland’s Regulation of Information Act, also criminalizes doctors and counselors who provide patients with information on abortion, including the process for safely obtaining an abortion.[12]

Organizations such as the Irish Family Planning Agency work to provide this information to patients anyway. While it is illegal to counsel women seeking abortions over the telephone, they are permitted to have face-to-face interactions abroad.[13] As is the case in the United States, there are also pregnancy crisis centers that imply they can provide abortions; in reality, however, these locations discourage them through misinformation and intimidation tactics.[14] Despite the many obstacles women seeking abortions face, they have the right to request and receive counseling and other information on abortion services in other states, travel to another state for a safe and legal abortion, and be treated with dignity and respect.[15] Many of these women seek abortions in Britain, where it is legal up to 24 weeks.[16] After returning to Ireland, however, these women also have the right to free post-abortion counseling and medical check-ups in Ireland. Notably, Ireland funds these services.[17]


Amnesty International published a report based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, titled She is Not a Criminal: The Impact of Ireland’s Abortion Law.[18] The report addressed a wide range of topics that address the repercussions of this law, including stigma, suicidal intent and early delivery, and censorship regarding patient counseling.[19] The report also specifically addresses several facets of international law. For example, the report specifically states that there is an international human rights obligation to address gender stereotypes. It argues that a slew of restrictive laws – Eighth Amendment (1983), Article 40.3.3 of the Irish Constitution, Bunreacht na hEíreann, and the PLDPA of 2013 – reinforce a deep-rooted desire to control the sexuality of females.[20] The report also makes a persuasive argument that Ireland has “outsourced” its human rights obligations; in other words, these restrictive laws have forced women and girls to leave the country in order to find what they are entitled to under international law.[21] This is especially true for the most vulnerable populations of women: the poverty-stricken, the ill, migrants, and asylum seekers.[22] Irish women and girls may have a constitutional right to travel abroad to seek safe and legal abortions, but the right is inaccessible to these vulnerable groups.[23]

For the reasons stated, the Irish government should amend the PLDPA and Ireland’s Regulation of Information Act to reflect greater access to reproductive rights, especially safe and legal abortion. Only sixty-eight other countries around the world subject women and girls to such restrictive abortion laws (entire bans, or bans with the exception of saving the life of the mother).[24] Twenty-six percent of the world is subjected to these draconian laws. However, most of these sixty-eight countries are outside of Europe and North America.[25] Compared to those states to which it is most culturally similar, Ireland’s abortion laws are unreasonably restrictive and run contrary to the spirit of international human rights.

Alison Aminzadeh is a third year law student at the University of Baltimore. She is currently a Rule 16 attorney working on the Human Trafficking Project as a part of the Civil Advocacy Clinic. She is also a Senior Staff Editor for the Journal of International Law, and the former President of the Students Supporting the Women’s Law Center. 

[1] Abortion & Irish Law, Irish Family Planning Association (last visited Mar. 28, 2016), available at https://www.ifpa.ie/Pregnancy-Counselling/Abortion-Irish-Law.

[2] Kaitlyn Denzler, Marriage Equality but Not Reproductive Rights: Ireland’s Inconsistency on Human Rights, Amnesty International (Jun. 9, 2015), available at http://blog.amnestyusa.org/europe/marriage-equality-but-not-reproductive-rights-irelands-inconsistency-on-human-rights/.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Population – female (% in total) of Ireland, Trading Economics (last visited Mar. 28, 2016) available at http://www.tradingeconomics.com/ireland/population-female-percent-of-total-wb-data.html.

[6] Abortion remains a controversial issue and there is disagreement about whether there is an international right to it. However, it is argued that many sources of international law imply the right. For example, the ICESCR states that women are guaranteed the right to the “highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.” Safe and Legal Abortion is a Woman’s Right, Center for Reproductive Justice 2 (Oct. 2011), available at http://www.reproductiverights.org/sites/crr.civicactions.net/files/documents/pub_fac_safeab_10.11.pdf, citing International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, adopted Dec. 16, 1966, art. 12 G.A. Res. 2200A (XXI), U.N. GAOR, Supp. No. 16, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966) (entered into force Jan. 3, 1976), [hereinafter ICESCR]; Amnesty International, supra note 2. Furthermore, in 2010, the European Court of Human Rights heard A, B, & C. v. Ireland. While the court did not decide on the substance of the Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws, it did hold that – under international human rights – women were entitled to a clear process that would let them know whether the Irish law would allow them to legally have an abortion. Heike Felzmann, Challenging Public Deliberation: abortion and suicidality in the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act of 2013, Nat’l Univ. of Ireland Galway 3 (Eds. Allyn Fives & Keith Breen, last visited Mar. 28, 2016), available at http://www.academia.edu/13878703/Challenging_public_deliberation_abortion_and_suicidality_in_the_Protection_of_Life_During_Pregnancy_Act_2013; http://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/FS_Reproductive_ENG.pdf.

7 Irish Family Planning Association, supra note 1.

8 About Us, Irish Family Planning Association (last visited Mar. 28, 2016), available at https://www.ifpa.ie/about_us.

[7] Id.

[8] Irish Family Planning Association, supra note 1.https://www.ifpa.ie/Pregnancy-Counselling/Abortion-Irish-Law. The 8th Constitutional Amendment to the Irish Constitution – Article 40.3.3 – guarantees the right to life to the unborn. Attorney General v. X (“the X case”) made the vague law more specific, forbidding abortion even if cases of rape; however, the 1992 case held that being suicidal was an exception. The inclusion of the suicide exception in the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act of 2013 was highly contested for several reasons, one of which was the argument that allowing this exception would cause the “floodgates” to open. Incidentally, whether a woman is suicidal from pre-existing mental health conditions or directly as a result of her pregnancy needs not be distinguished. Felzmann, supra note 5, at 2-3.


[9] Felzmann, supra note 5, at 9, citing Implementation of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act of 2013: Guidance Document for Health Professions, Dep’t of Health, Ireland (2014), available at http://health.gov.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Guidance-Document-Final-September-2014.pdf.

[10] Denzler, supra note 2.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Irish Family Planning Association, supra note 1.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Abortion is legal in Britain up to twenty-four weeks, subject to some conditions. Id.

[17] Id.

[18] See generally She is not a Criminal: The Impact of Ireland’s Abortion Law, Amnesty International (2015), available at http://www.amnestyusa.org/sites/default/files/she_is_not_a_criminal_-_embargoed_09_june.pdfs.

[19] Id. at 17, 27-28.

[20] Id. at 13.


[21] Ireland: Government Must Accept UN Call for Constitutional Referendum on Abortion, Amnesty International (Jun. 22, 2015), available at http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/press-releases/ireland-government-must-accept-un-call-for-constitutional-referendum-on-abortion.

[22] Amnesty International, supra note 18, at 24.

[23] See generally Id.

[24] Felzmann, supra note 5, at 4, citing R. Boland & L. Katzive, Developments in Laws on Induced Abortion: 1998-2007, International Family Planning Perspectives 110-20 (2008).

[25] Id.

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Like a Girl – Yeah, So What!?

Ali Rickart

The “Like a Girl” was a campaign started by the company, Always, as a way to boost self-confidence, equality, and empowerment.[1] The campaign began as an advertisement depicting the term “like a girl” and showing various people (men, women, boys, and girls) explain what they think the phrase means. The powerful messages shows that young girls view “like a girl” as a representing strength and equality, yet all other persons meant or understood the phrase as indicating weakness, inequality, and even as an insult. Since this campaign launched, Always has begun other campaigns such as #BanBossy, another phrase directed at girls and women that is meant as an insult, even though their male counterparts are praised as leaders when they display similar attitude and behavior. Always has partnered with the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality through education around the globe.

International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on March 8. This year’s theme: Make It Happen.[2] We must make greater equality happen by having more women in senior leadership roles, equal recognition of women in the arts, growth of female owned businesses, increased financial independence of women, more women in science, technology and engineering, fairer recognition of women in sports. We must make wage equality amongst the sexes a reality instead of an aspiration. Just like the company, Always, organizations and women around the world are working to make equality happen. This day is celebrated as an official national holiday such countries as Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia.[3] The United States dedicates the entire month of March to Women’s History. As Gloria Steinem stated, “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization, but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”[4]


Feminism, also known as the women’s liberation movement, is a movement to support the equality of women. The movement began, primarily, with legal issues such as women’s suffrage and property rights. This movement soon spread to include things like equal pay, protection against domestic violence, reproductive rights, and more. Feminist scholars have divided the feminist movement into three ‘waves’, each wave gaining momentum in the fight for equality.[5] Each wave has started in the Western World, specifically the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, before spreading across the globe. The second and third waves of feminism deal with many more social, political and legal issues than the first wave of feminism. The third wave of feminism is slightly more nuanced and refers to the inclusion of sexuality as another category involving women that is lacking in equality.[6]

One of the most prevalent tools regarding women’s rights arose out of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The Convention was negotiated and adopted by the General Assembly (vote: 130 to 0, with only 10 abstentions) in 1979. Through special presentation at a world conference and subsequent fast state signing, CEDAW entered into force on September 3, 1981.[7] This was the fastest a human rights convention had ever entered into effect.[8] While CEDAW is widely ratified, it has one of the largest numbers of reservations. Although reservations are not allowed to be incompatible with the object and purpose of the Convention, there are often conflicts between the reservations and the states own national constitutions or laws. A majority of reservations are made on grounds of potential conflict with national laws, traditions, religion or culture. Ironically, some states that are parties to CEDAW and have made reservations have not entered such reservations to corresponding provisions in other human rights treaties.


In an effort to gain more unity between the sexes, UN Women has launched the HeForShe campaign. This campaign promotes feminism generally and is intended to bridge the gap between women and men activism for women’s rights. The campaign describes itself as “bring[ing] together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity, for the benefit of all.”[9] Men from all over the world have agreed to take a stand for gender equality. An interactive map on the HeForShe website shows the number of men in each country that have signed the pledge, totaling 232,188. The only states that didn’t seem to have any men that signed the pledge was French Guinea in South America and the autonomous province of Kosovo.[10] Some of the African countries such as Guinea, Lesotho, Chad, Burkina Faso, Congo, and a few others have fewer than ten men that have signed. Yet, that’s still a start.

Another important movement occurring in women’s rights is the Girl Rising movement. This movement is attempting to establish education for women around the world, as many countries either do not allow girls to attend school or may not have sufficient resources for them to attend school.[11] In 2013, the movement released a powerful film, titled “Girl Rising”, which documented the lives of nine different girls in nine different areas of the world. The movie is a powerful representation of the inequality of something that seems so open to developed countries yet so inaccessible in most of the world – education. The facts that the film brings to light are astounding, including the fact that educating girls can break cycles of poverty in just one generation.[12]

One person cannot fix the world, but as Girl Rising states, “one girl with courage is a revolution.”[13] Yet, women cannot do it alone. I challenge men to have courage and help further the momentum of the revolution by joining the HeforShe movement. Everyone should get involved to fight for both equality and the right of access to education. If we start small and work towards attainable solutions within our own country, when we ban together we can gain enough momentum that we can change the world. Let’s make it happen in 2015.

Alexandra Rickart is a second-year student at the University of Baltimore School of Law, planning to graduate in May 2016 with a concentration in International Law. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 2013 with a B.A. in Communication and a minor in Business. Her primary interests include international law, international criminal law, and domestic criminal law.
In addition to being a CICL Fellows, she is the Secretary of the International Law Society and a Staff Editor for the University of Baltimore Journal of International Law. She competed in the 2014-15 Jessup International Moot Court Competition, Mid-Atlantic Region. During her first year of law school, she was a tutor for Baltimore elementary students as part of the Truancy Court program through the Center for Families, Children and the Courts. Alexandra is currently a law clerk for a criminal defense firm in Baltimore.

[1] Like a Girl: Boost Your Self-Confidence #likeagirl, Always, http://www.always.com/en-us/likeagirl.aspx.

[2] About International Women’s Day, http://www.internationalwomensday.com/about.asp#.VPyYiUKTRUQ.

[3] About International Women’s Day, http://www.internationalwomensday.com/about.asp#.VPyYiUKTRUQ (China, Madagascar, and Nepal have this national holiday for women only).

[4] About International Women’s Day, http://www.internationalwomensday.com/about.asp#.VPyYiUKTRUQ.

[5] Linda Nicholson, Feminism in “Waves”: Useful Metaphor or Not?, New Politics (Winter 2010), http://newpol.org/content/feminism-waves-useful-metaphor-or-not.

[6] Rebecca Walker, Becoming the Third Wave, Ms. (January/February 1992).

[7] Short History of CEDAW Convention, United Nations, http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/history.htm.

[8] Id.

[9] HeForShe Campaign, UN Women, http://www.heforshe.org.

[10] Id.

[11] Girl Rising, Girl Rising, http://girlrising.com.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.