Human Rights Issue Update: You Can’t Say ‘No’ If You’re Not Awake

If you’re like me, you enjoy kicking back and enjoying everything the summer has to offer. But every once in a while I interrupt my scheduled bliss and check in on what’s happening in the world – and it ain't always pretty. This month, I’ve got some news for you on an astonishing verdict in a rape case and civilians getting killed by their government in Syria. But wait, it’s not all bad! There’s also news about Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore working to keep exploited kids out of sex ads, and the U.S. getting on board with international human rights guidelines on drug sentencing. So read on.

  • Did you know it’s possible to consent to sex while unconscious? That’s what a Houston jury decided in a recent civil suit brought in an alleged rape case. Jamie Leigh Jones, who worked for defense contractor KBR in Iraq, brought a case against her attacker and the company after returning to the states. According to press reports, she claimed she was druggedblacked out, and woke up bruised and bleeding in her most personal areas. Then when she reported the attack to her employer, she was locked in a shipping container and denied food and water for at least 24 hours. If that’s not enough to make you queasy, get this: her alleged attacker claimed the sex he had with Jones - while she was unconscious - was consensual. How is this possible? Well the defense went after her credibility, her past and her motives, which was enough to convince a Jury that there wasn’t even a 51% chance she was telling the truth.
  • Have you followed what’s happening in Syria? Well, not too many Americans have. But over 100 civilians were killed by government shellings and attacks there in late July, and this is part of a pattern that’s been happening for months. Italy even pulled its ambassador out of the country due to the "horrible repression of the civilian population.” Yet, with the government not allowing western journalists into the country, the story has remained mostly under the American radar. As a result, the international community has done little more than just condemn the actions.
  • It seems a little tweet can go a long way, especially if you’re Ashton Kutcher. Kutcher targeted American Airlines via Twitter, asking them to remove their advertising from Village Voice Media, which, he said, allows the sexual exploitation of young girls by way of their classified advertising section, In response, Kutcher and wife Demi Moore launched their “Real Men Don't Buy Girls” campaign. Village Voice Media responded to Kutcher with an article, “Real Men Get Their Facts Straight.” Similar public outcry last year forced Craigslist to shutter its adult services section which also featured ads for underage girls who were assumed to be forced into prostitution against their will.
  • In the past, the sentences for crack cocaine possession were disproportionately tough. (Like, it would take 100-times that much cocaine powder to get the same sentence.) Last year, Obama signed a bill designed to address that disparity called The Fair Sentencing Act, which relatively lessened the sentences for individuals caught with crack, moving forward. But what about the folks who were sentenced under the pre-"Fair" system? Well, on June 30 the United States Sentencing Commission voted to make retroactive sentencing guidelines for those imprisoned because of crack. The change reduces more than 12,000 offenders’ sentences by approximately 37 months. African Americans have traditionally bourn the brunt of the harsher sentencing guidelines with 80% of crack convictions in 2008 handed down to black people, even though the majority of crack users are white.

If there are human rights issues that interest you, be sure to let me know. Enjoy the rest of your summer!