The University has a reputation for progressive social policies,
including a race-conscious admissions policy and providing same-sex
partner benefits, which makes it a perfect place to develop a
dialogue around international human rights issues, said Daniel
Herwitz, Director of the Institute for the Humanities.
Yesterday, the Institute sponsored “Human Rights,
Political Violence and the Global South,” a daylong
conference examining the aftermath of recent human rights
violations in Africa and Latin America.
Conference speakers included academics, political figures and
human rights activists from the United States, Rwanda, Peru,
Argentina and Pakistan.
While panelists discussed the transitional process from military
régimes to democratic states, a recurring theme of the
conference was the role of women’s rights.
In a morning lecture, Florence Kayiraba, mayor of Rwandan
district Kicu Kiru, described how women contracted AIDS and HIV
through forced sexual acts, which were used during the genocide
against ethnic Tutsi women in the 1994 massacre in Rwanda.
At the closing panel, Mamadou Diouf, professor of history and
Afro-American and African Studies, described sexual violence in
Africa as an example of the discrepancy over public and private
“Sexual violence goes beyond the idea of rape, but
includes forced marriage and female sexual mutilation,” Diouf
Javed Nazir, the former editor of a pro-democracy newspaper in
Pakistan who is now a human rights fellow at the Institute, said in
Pakistan, if a woman accuses a man of committing rape and is unable
to prove forced sexual contact, she is then charged with adultery
Nazir added that while human rights violations occur during
massacres or genocides in Latin America and Africa, investigating
“what happens on a daily basis is just as
“The reason we’re here is to present a global,
comparative perspective on human rights,” Herwitz said.
“American universities have the resources to bring people
from across the world — therefore it is our
Jean-Herve Jezequel, visiting professor of history, said in many
discussion of human rights, “there is a discrepancy between
the discourse of human rights and the way human rights are
To explain these discrepancies, Jezequel suggests an examination
of the historical cycles of violence and revolution, referring to
the revolutions in Europe during the enlightenment.
The day’s lecture series closed with a roundtable
discussion comparing human rights efforts in Africa and Latin
The conference was celebration of the induction of the Global
Fellowship Program, a joint venture of the Institute for the
Humanities and the International Institute, Herwitz said. It was
funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation, an organization that
provides grants to humanities programs in higher education.