Olympic Medals and Championships… at What Cost?

By: Melissa N. Berouty 

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Managing Editor of the News

TOKYO, Japan A glimpse at the dictionary will tell you that a coach is “a person who teaches and trains an athlete or performer.” Yet, any athlete knows that the role of a coach stretches far beyond this simple definition. A coach can serve as a mentor, motivator, or even a catalyst for a young athlete to fall in love with their respective sport. Thus, a coach possesses a great deal of responsibility, power, and influence. However, for decades in Japan, coaches have prioritized Olympic medals and Championships over the safety and well-being of their child athletes, subjecting them to brutal physical and verbal beatings.

Child athlete abuse in the quest for Olympic gold medals. Photo Courtesy of Humanium.

While one might commonly hear tough coaches make tougher players, Japanese coaches utilize a training tactic that far exceeds tough coaching, referred to as taibatsu, or corporal punishment. Japanese child athletes report being “punched in the face, kicked, beaten with objects like bats or bamboo kendo sticks, being deprived of water, choked, whipped with whistles or racquets, and being sexually abused and harassed.” According to Human Rights Watch, in 2020, 425 current and former child athletes reported physical abuse at the hand of their coaches or trainers.

Recently, Japan amended the Child Welfare Act of 1947 to prohibit corporal punishment. While this prohibition does extend to athletics, the protection it offers child athletes is inadequate and irregularly enforced. Similarly, the 2013 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence in Sports and the 2019 government codes put forth by various leading sports organizations fails to specifically address child athlete abuse. Without clear legal implications for a failure to abide, these reforms carry little to no weight in ensuring the safety and welfare of child athletes.

“I was hit so many times I can’t count.” Photo Courtesy of Human Rights Watch.

Under international law, governments are obligated to protect children’s right to not only participate in athletics but to participate in a safe environment, free of both abuse and violence. This right is detailed in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Japan is a party to. With this, it is imperative for leading Japanese sports organizations, such as the Japan Sports Agency, the Japan Sport Association, and the Japanese Olympic Committee, to create clear and comprehensive reporting, investigation, and sanction protocols for child athlete abuse. Without the correction of these institutional failures, child athletes will remain vulnerable.

The Olympics are marketed as an idealistic and extraordinary meeting of the world’s most prominent and gifted athletes. To preserve this façade, numerous nations, from Japan to the United States, prioritize the quest for medals over athletes’ basic human rights. Meanwhile, these athletes, child and adult alike, still represent their countries with pride and dignity. But, at what cost?

In a matter of months, we will all sit down in front of our televisions to watch the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo. Here, the Japanese government has a unique opportunity to set the record straight and “serve as a model for how other countries should end child abuse in sports.” Japan should take the lead in demonstrating that child athletes’ health and well-being do not just simply matter, but that they are the priority.

Participation in athletics should be a root of joy, empowerment, and growth, not fear, abuse, and manipulation. While winning may be the ultimate goal, one day, these child athletes will move on from competition and the global spotlight. As you view the Olympics and Paralympics this summer, keep in mind that behind every uniform is a human being. A human being that should be offered all fundamental human rights both in and out of athletic competition. The abuse of child athletes is not exclusive to Japan and remains a pressing issue worldwide.

For further information, please see:

End Violence – Japan Prohibits all corporal punishment of children – 28 Feb. 2020

Human Rights Watch – Pressure Builds on Japan to Protect Child Athletes – 28 Jan. 2021

Human Rights Watch – I Was Hit So Many Times I Can’t Count: Abuse of Child Athletes in Japan – 20 July 2020

Merriam Webster Dictionary – Coach – 2 Apr. 2021


Modi Regime Cracks Down on Free Speech Amid Farmers Protesting for Fair Agricultural Laws

By: Hannah Bennink

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

NEW DELHI, India – In the midst of massive protests led by farmers in pursuit of fair agricultural laws, the Indian Government has imposed a crackdown on media outlets providing coverage. Police have filed criminal charges against journalists and activists for covering and sharing information on the protests.

Citizens gather to protest for freedom of speech and expression. Photo Courtesy of BBC and Getty Images.

Among the arrested include editors of two prominent independent news outlets, The Wire and The Caravan, as well as Shashi Tharoor, a very prominent opposition Congress party politician who is charged with “misreporting facts” surrounding the death of the protestor. Other charges include sedition, promoting communal disharmony, and making statements prejudicial to national integration.

This is not the first time the press has targeted India despite the freedom of expression being a constitutionally guaranteed freedom. There have been 405 sedition cases filed against Indian citizens for criticizing politicians and governments in the last decade, an overwhelming majority of those arrests coming after Modi gained power in 2014. In 2020 alone, sixty-seven journalists were arrested and 200 physically attacked. Despite the Indian government’s pride in its vibrant and competitive media, the country ranked 142 on the 180-country World Press Freedom Index in 2020 according to Reporters Without Borders.

The Indian government denies that journalists are being targeted. The National Vice President, Baijayant Panda, told the BBC that “All journalists with avowed political affiliations and evident slant against the government have continued to write and speak freely in newspapers, television and online portals.”  The Vice President alleges that recent arrests of journalists have been in response to “serious criminal allegations of fake news peddling in a riot-like situation, with the intent of fanning violence.”

In addition to the arresting journalists, the Indian government has shut down mobile internet services at protest sights in order to “maintain public safety”. Internet rights groups have condemned the shutdowns, asserting they were “suppressing the free flow of information related to peaceful assembly and the right to protest.” International human rights law requires India to ensure that restrictions on the internet and other forms of communication are part of a necessary and proportionate response to a specific security concern, and not to curtail the flow of information or to harm people’s ability to freely assemble and express political views. The Indian government has been known to block internet access in the past. In 2019, they shut off web access more than one hundred times, along with the longest imposed blanket internet outage in a democracy for five months in Kashmir.

Several internationally known figures have spoken out in support of the farmers and the journalists including Rhianna, Rupi Kaur, Greta Thunberg, and Meena Harris. Despite the international attention, arrests have continued, the most recent being February 13th when 22-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi for being a “key conspirator” in the “formulation and dissemination” of a protest “tool-kit” meant to provide resources to farmers.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Disha Ravi: India activist arrest decried as ‘attack on democracy’ – 14 Feb. 2021

BBC News – Why journalists in India are under attack – 4 Feb. 2021

Columbia Journalism Review – India cracks down on journalism, again – 5 Feb. 2021

Human Rights Watch – India: Journalists Covering Farmer Protests Charged – 2 Feb. 2021

The Guardian – Indian journalists face criminal charges over police shooting reports – 1 Feb. 2021

The NY Times Modi’s Response to Farmer Protests in India Stirs Fear of a Pattern – 8 Feb. 2021

Supreme Court of India Temporarily Suspends Implementation of Farmer Laws

By: Reena Patel

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

NEW DEHLI, India – On January 12th, 2021, the Supreme Court of India issued a judgment to suspend the implementation of three proposed “farmer” laws by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) until a committee of government officials and protestors meet to find a solution. The decision to suspend the farmer laws, for the time being, comes after weeks of national protest by Indian farmers, namely farmers from the northern states of Punjab and Haryana.

Farmers protesting at New Delhi’s border during the week of January 4th, 2021. Photo Courtesy of The New York Times.

Currently, Indian farmers sell their produce at government-controlled markets (mandis) that have guaranteed minimum prices for crops. With the mandi system, farmers have assured prices and the option to use the mandi system if prices by private buyers are not satisfactory. The three farmer laws passed by Parliament in September would strip the protections offered to farmers through the mandi system. Instead of using middlemen through the mandi system, the farmer laws would open up the agricultural business to the free market. Farmers see the laws as pro-market laws that would privatize their business and strip their livelihoods for the sake of corporate greed.

While Modi attempted to pass laws that would fundamentally change the quality of life for more than 60% of India’s population that depend on farming to make a living, the farmers have organized to defend their rights. The first protests began in July, mostly taking place in Haryana and Punjab. In November and the following weeks, thousands of farmers from Haryana and Punjab traveled to Delhi. Farmers blocked almost all entry points to Delhi and remain in protest even when police brutalized the protestors with tear gas and water cannons. The farmers have parked their tractors and trailers to remain in protest until the laws are repealed. The protestors have slept in tents and on the street at Delhi’s entry points and show no sign of moving, which raised health concerns for the Supreme Court given the current COVID-19 pandemic.

A protestor and a police officer clashing at a demonstration on Friday, November 27, 2020. Photo Courtesy of The New York Times.

The farmer protest is one of, if not the, biggest protests to take place in India. The reason that many individuals have risked their lives on behalf of the 150 million farmers in India to travel to Delhi during a pandemic and withstand police violence is due to the fact that this movement is more than just a farming issue. Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party are known for their Hindu nationalist policies that exclude the freedoms and rights of religious minorities in India. Punjab and Haryana, states of individuals who are of the Sikh religion, fall into this category of religious monitories. Modi has not faced mass protests on this scale since his regime and has attempted to discredit many of the Sikh protestors as “anti-national.”

Farmers in India are “fearlessly taking on the powerful government” as a “revolution for their rights” because many farmers fear exploitation of their rights. Even now, farmers struggle with increasingly rising levels of debt, and many farmers have committed suicide due to unfair treatment. With so much on the line for farmers, they remain in protest until Modi repeals the three laws completely. 

For further information, please see:

Bar and Bench – Supreme Court Stays Implementation of Three Farm Laws, Forms 4-member Committee to hold Talks – 12 Jan. 2021

BBC News – Bharat Bandh: India Farmers Protest Against Law – 8 Dec. 2020

BBC News – How Narendra Modi Misread the mood of India’s Angry Farmers – 13 Jan. 2021

NY Times – Angry Farmers Choke India’s Capital in Giant Demonstrations – 30 Nov. 2020

NY Times – Indian Farmers vow to Continue Protest, Unappeased by Court Ruling – 12 Jan. 2021

NY Times – Why Are India’s Farmers Angry? – 14 Jan. 2021

Australia Has Violated Human Rights During The Pandemic

By: Dianne Jahangani

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Administrative Editor

AUSTRALIA – As the world continues to face the COVID-19 Pandemic, each country has been tasked with the duty of protecting the lives of its citizens. In the next few months, as the world enters the one-year anniversary of battling against this virus, individuals are growing more impatient by the day. Everyone is focused on surviving the Pandemic to the best of their ability, but what happens when the governments that you look to in times of protection are the same entities that are causing you more harm? Shocking as it may seem, Australia, a nation that has score of 97/100 on Freedom House, is one of these such governments that is causing harm.

Man Takes Photo in Front of Mural in Melbourne After the City Ended Lockdown. Photo Courtesy of The Washington Post and William West/Getty Images

COVID-19 is a scary reality that every single person in the world has been living with for almost a year now; as if that was not enough, when Sydney, Australia made the decision to lockdown more than 3,000 people in public housing towers to contain a COVID-19 outbreak in July 2020, its decision violated human rights. Eight of the nine public housing towers confined its residents in the apartments for a total of five days. Further exacerbating the situation, the ninth tower was under lockdown for a total of two weeks. During this time, residents were left without food and medicine.

Residents did not receive a warning before being required to lockdown. As such, the residents have since reported that they felt trapped and traumatized, and suspected discrimination since the towers consisted of residents who are minorities or immigrants.

Since this lockdown, the state government has conceded that mistakes were made; however, Australia has now placed restrictions on Australians wishing to return home from abroad, which is a violation of International Human Rights of Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Article states, “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.” Tens of thousands of Australians have been stranded abroad because the government has capped the number of people allowed onto flights into the country.

Australia has been praised in the media for tackling COVID, as the nation of 26 million just defeated the second wave of surge of cases in Europe. In November of 2020, Australia recorded a total of 907 deaths, while the United States reported a death toll exceeding 234,000 at that time. It is without a doubt that Australia has been successful, but we are left with the question of “at what cost?” We have to wonder if the end goal of ensuring that no Australian is infected by the virus was worth all of the human rights violations that occurred – the lack of access to food and medicine and the restriction of re-entering the country that one is the citizen of.

For further information, please see:

CNA – Australia’s Victoria state violated human rights in COVID-19 lockdown: Report – 06 Jan. 2021

Freedom House – Australia – 06 Jan. 2021

Reuters – Australian State Violated Human Rights In COVID Lockdown-Report – 06 Jan. 2021

The Globe and Mail – Australian State Violated Human Rights In COVID Lockdown, Ombudsman says – 06 Jan. 2021

The New York Times – ‘Nightmare’ Australia Housing Lockdown Called Breach of Human Rights – 06 Jan. 2021

The New York Times – Stranded Overseas, Thousands Beg Australia to Let Them Come Home – 06 Jan. 2021

The Washington Post – Australia Has Almost Eliminated The Coronavirus – By Putting Faith In Science – 06 Jan. 2021

United Nations Human Rights – International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – 06 Jan. 2021

IACHR Expresses Concern over the Human Rights of U.S. Sex Workers during the COVID-19 Pandemic

By: Rebecca Buchanan

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On November 13, 2020, The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a press release expressing concern over the human rights of U.S. sex workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cat Hollis, Founder of the Haymarket Pole Collective. Photo Courtesy of OPB.

The statement called for the U.S. government to strengthen its guarantees that individuals engaged in sex work would maintain their environmental, economic, social, and cultural rights, particularly during the pandemic’s containment and mitigation measures. The IACHR reiterated its belief that the discrimination and stigma facing sex workers in the United States pose a great risk to human rights and dignity and must be eliminated.

In its press release, the IACHR drew on information from reports indicating that sex workers throughout the United States have experienced increased violence, discrimination, and poverty during the pandemic. The stay-at-home orders and social-distancing measures instituted in most U.S. states have severely decreased opportunities for income through sex work, leaving these workers unable to cover the costs of basic needs and essential services. When reaching out for help, individuals engaged in sex work have been met with dwindling opportunities for housing, a lack of accessible healthcare, and exclusion from many social assistance programs.

Sex work is criminalized in most U.S. states, leaving sex workers dangerously excluded from State registration systems, social services, and necessary healthcare provisions. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these unstable conditions, leaving sex workers especially vulnerable to the virus and its larger effects. Businesses providing sex work were banned from receiving U.S. Small Business Administration Loans, which offered relief to businesses struggling as a result of the pandemic because of a stipulation excluding live performances or services of a “prurient sexual nature.”

Spurned by the U.S. government, sex workers and the businesses that employ them have been forced to turn elsewhere for assistance. The Haymarket Pole Collective, an Oregon based group that advocates for Black and Indigenous strippers and other strippers of color, recently received a grant from the Oregon Health Authority. The $600,000 grant will be used to fund relief and wellness kits which will include mail-in COVID-19 infection test kits, in addition to other necessities.

The work of the Haymarket Pole Collective addresses the impact of sex work discrimination on minorities, which are often disproportionally affected by situations of emergency or social unrest. In its statement, the IACHR expressed fears that minority populations within the sex work community face rapidly increasing prejudice and discrimination during the pandemic. In particular, the IACHR highlighted the uniquely hostile situation of transgender sex workers who often lack government identification documentation aligned with their gender identity or expression. As a result, transgender sex workers “are exposed to the dual denial of various essential services, including health.” The IACHR called on the U.S. to guarantee that transgender individuals receive adequate care policies and health services respectful of their gender identity. 

Finally, the IACHR noted the increased potential for police violence against sex workers as tensions around the pandemic continue to grow. The IACHR urged the U.S. to implement training programs for police officers, medical officials, and social services personnel regarding the social, economic, and human rights of sex workers. If properly implemented, these trainings could provide sex workers with greater access to social welfare systems and allow for more accurate reporting on situations of sexual slavery, labor exploitation, and human trafficking.

For further information, please see:

American Psychological Association – How COVID-19 impacts sexual and gender minorities – 29 June 2020

Amnesty International – Include Sex Workers in the COVID-19 Response – 28 July 2020

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights – Press Release: IACHR calls on States to guarantee the human rights of women engaged in sex work in the context of the pandemic – 13 Nov. 2020

Oregon Public Broadcasting – Program providing COVID-19 relief to Oregon sex workers meets overwhelming demand – 14 Nov. 2020

U.S. National Library of Medicine: National Institutes of Health – COVID-19 Prevention and Protecting Sex Workers: A Call to Action – 14 Oct. 2020