The U.S. State Department calls out international human rights violations regularly, but in its Annual Human Rights Report they took a look at the issues here at home. An important new exercise in self-analysis, the Obama administration recently submitted a review of the U.S. human rights record to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. The report has drawn praise and criticism from across the political spectrum.
It details the core human rights values of the United States and provides a robust account of various domestic human rights issues and their histories. There are far too many topics to explore in this brief issue update, but highlighted below are a few things mentioned in the report that have made recent headlines.
- Human Trafficking. Since the release of the report, Craigslist has self-censored its adult services section. It's a symbolic victory for the victims that worked so hard to shine a national focus on sex slavery. However, as many have pointed out, venues for human trafficking abound in America's major cities and opportunities on the internet are limitless. Thus, many question whether this step alone will have consequential effects on the overall human trafficking issues. Some feel that close oversight of happenings on the internet is a violation of First Amendment rights, while fresh reports of domestic human trafficking make an argument for the other side.
- Immigration. In a recent press release, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer called the human rights report "downright offensive," and described the overall reporting process as "internationalism run amok." Brewer, in full campaign mode amidst a challenge from Democrat Terry Goddard, condemned the report's inclusion of Arizona's controversial immigration law, which subjects aliens to misdemeanor charges should they be caught by state officials without their legal documents. In a related development, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio is the subject of a Justice Department lawsuit seeking to determine whether his department has used racial profiling in his self-proclaimed crusade against undocumented immigrants.
- LBGT Rights. The report devotes a full section to the human rights of LBGT Americans. While the administration takes a pass on staking out a position on the super hot issue of same sex marriage, the report does mention Obama's commitment to repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell. Queen of pop, Lady Gaga turned the controversial issue into water cooler chatter last week when she chose to be escorted to MTV's Video Music Awards by four former members of the U.S. military, all of who have been impacted by Don't Ask Don't Tell. Lady Gaga is a committed gay rights activist.
All kinds of musicians, notoriously political or otherwise, have made human rights their issue lately. Whether the immigration law protests by Maroon 5, Kanye and Ben Harper, Ricky Martin's stand against human trafficking or Prince's support of Proposition 8. (Shocker, right?) these men have all weighed in and taken action. The best way for you to get involved is to do something! Approach the candidates running for office in your hometown and find out where they stand on these and other human rights issues.