Analysis and Commentary on Human Rights

#MeToo: Counting the Collective Harm of Missing Women’s Work

In light of recent revelations about Ryan Adams, a powerful musician and music producer, Illinois law professors Robin B. Kar and Lesley Wexler discuss the collective harm the scourge of sexual harassment inflicts on society, depriving it of countless and invaluable contributions. Kar and Wexler point out that research demonstrates that experiences of sexual harassment cause not only individual harms to women (such as decreases in mental and physical well-being) but also organizational withdrawal, decreases in organizational commitment, and decreases in productivity and job performance. The exact losses due to this withdrawal have yet to be measured, but evidence suggests the magnitude is enormous.

Robert Kraft Is the Canary in the Coal Mine: Conditions Have Changed for the Worse for Powerful Men Using Trafficked Girls and Women for Sex

Marci A. Hamilton—professor and resident senior fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania and founder, CEO, and Academic Director of CHILD USA—discusses the significance of Patriots owner Robert Kraft being charged with soliciting a prostitute at a strip mall in Florida, after a sting exposed a sex trafficking scheme there. Hamilton points out the differences between the handling of Kraft and the mishandling of Palm Beach sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein and suggests Kraft may be the “canary in the coal mine” indicating a shift of power from perpetrators to their victims.

Justifying External Support for Regime Change in Venezuela

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the recognition by the United States and some other constitutional democracies of Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader pending new elections. Dorf points out that many countries suffer under incompetent, corrupt, and authoritarian leaders just as Venezuela did under Nicolás Maduro, yet constitutional democracies typically do not rally behind the ouster of those leaders. What makes Maduro’s case different?

#MeToo Goes Global: Introducing the #MeToo Treaty

Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler discusses a draft treaty by the International Labor Organization that would address, on a global scale, many of the issues of workplace harassment and sexual assault that the #MeToo movement has brought into the spotlight. Wexler describes how the treaty is grounded in human rights language and would create protections for workers far more expansive than even those recognized under current US law, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Unpacking Cambodia’s Nuremberg Moment

Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler reports on the genocide convictions recently handed down by the Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia after trials concluded over crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge regime. Wexler suggests three main takeaways of the rulings, including how the determination of genocide is beneficial to many victims in Cambodia, a reminder about how international legal entities define genocide in the context of this and other human rights atrocities, and a breakdown of the crucial importance of reparations to the Cambodian people.

#MeToo: The 2018 Nobel Prize, Pinkwashing, and Institutional Reform

Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler comments on the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s decision to award the 2018 peace prize to relatively unknown contenders for leading efforts “to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.” Wexler considers whether the decision might be “pinkwashing”—a term Wexler derives from “whitewashing” to mean (1) an institution or individual’s deployment and publicity of policies and practices (2) in response to the identification of a #MeToo or sex discrimination related grievance, (3) which does not address the underlying concern of the aggrieved and (4) is intended to establish, maintain, burnish, or restore institutional reputation. Wexler raises and discusses the question how one distinguishes sincere efforts to address a #MeToo problem from pinkwashing.

The Future of the American City: Part Two

In this second of a four-part series about a new approach to community well-being, Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies comments on the problem of displacement. Margulies points out that influx of capital is not necessarily bad for community well-being but distinguishes gentrification, which can be good, from displacement, which is harmful to communities.

A Beginning, Not An Ending: #MeToo and the Kavanaugh Confirmation

Illinois law professors Lesley Wexler and Colleen Murphy propose that the most lasting legacy of the Kavanaugh confirmation battle will not be Judge Kavanaugh’s imprint on the Court, but the bravery Dr. Ford has inspired in others. Wexler and Murphy view the recent events through the lens of transitional justice and argue that the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh is not dispositive or even indicative of whether the aspirations for #MeToo movement may be realized.

Moral Statutes of Limitation and Restorative Justice for #MeToo Claimants

Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler considers whether there should be a moral (as opposed to legal) statute of limitations for wrongdoing and specifically what obligations a person who long ago committed sexual harassment or sexual assault owes his victim. Wexler proposes a model based on restorative justice principles that would involve acknowledgement of wrongdoing and of the victim and her account; responsibility taking, harm repair, a promise of non-repetition, and subsequent actions that demonstrate a commitment to that promise of non-repetition.

Children’s Rights Softly Emerge in the Midst of the Trump Administration’s Heartless Separation of Children from their Parents at the Border

Marci A. Hamilton, professor and resident senior fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, comments on a laudable decision by a federal district court judge in Connecticut that recognizes children as persons with constitutional rights, in the midst of the Trump administration’s separation of children from their parents at the border. Hamilton calls upon the Senate to ratify the Convention for the Rights of the Child, and upon Congress to pass simple legislation that would ban such separations.

Burn Pits are the New Agent Orange: The Limited Circle of Concern for Pollution Victims of War

Illinois Law professor Lesley Wexler explains why the open air burn pits as used in recent conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan are being called the “new Agent Orange.” Wexler describes the challenges combatants, their children, contractors, and civilians have had in obtaining care for long-term injuries as a result of the use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War and expresses concern that the same may occur for burn pits.

The Children Mistreated at the Border Are a Wake-up Call: It’s Time for the United States Senate to Ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

In light of US immigration policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the borders, Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, calls on the United States Senate to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Hamilton points out that the United States is the only country in the world not to ratify it, and that its failure to do so is entirely indefensible.

The Closing of European Ports: Catastrophe or Immigration Crisis Management?

Illinois Law professor Lesley Wexler considers the significance of various countries’ responses to the rescue of 629 migrants on the Aquarius, a humanitarian rescue ship on the Mediterranean Sea. Wexler considers first whether the responses of Italy and Malta were lawful, and then turns to the question of what their conduct means for immigration policy, not only within the European Union, but worldwide.

Children Are Not the Property of This Administration to Recklessly Traumatize: Stop Ripping Them Away from Their Parents at the Border

Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, decries the policy of the Trump administration of separating children from their parents at US borders. Hamilton explains the trauma such a policy causes and calls upon individuals and organizations to shine a spotlight on its deeply negative consequences.

We Need to Talk About Brazil

Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler comments on the ongoing national strikes by truckers and oil workers in Brazil in protest of the recent steep increase in diesel prices due to international market-based pricing. Wexler expresses specific concerns over calls for a return to a military dictatorship to replace the democracy, despite the prior military government’s corruption and engagement in serious human rights violations including torture, disappearances, and extrajudicial killings.

The Perceived Threat of Trans Identity

Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb explores the reasons behind some people’s refusal to refer to trans men as men and trans women as women. Colb describes some of the concrete harms caused by such refusal, such as policies sending trans women to prisons for the wrong gender—a policy Colb argues violates the Eighth Amendment under the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence.

#MeToo: Not Decapitation, but Possibly Lustration

Illinois Law professor Lesley Wexler explores the narrative of the so-called career death penalty that has arisen from the #MeToo movement and considers lustration—a process of purging or vetting individuals responsible for abuses of the state—as a mechanism to govern some of the high-profile harassers. Wexler calls upon the public and the media to help create a different story—a better world—where individuals who have engaged in harassment no longer need to serve as cultural or economic arbiters.

Pay for Slay?

Illinois Law professor Lesley Wexler discusses the decision by Hamas to pay funds to those wounded and to the families of those killed by Israeli military forces and considers whether such payments ought to be condemned as “pay for slay” disbursements. Wexler concludes that due to the unconditional nature of the offer, at least some payments made by Hamas might be appropriate because they are not conditioned on affiliation with or motivation by Hamas’s military wing.

Risk and Reward for International Prize Revocation: Aung San Suu Kyi, Genocide, and the Nobel Committee

Illinois Law professor Lesley Wexler considers whether institutions such as the Nobel Committee should revoke awards for illegal or immoral behavior by its recipients. Wexler points out that empirical evidence suggests that revocation can sometimes lead to crackdowns or repressions, rather than motivating the recipient to improve their behavior, and thus that revocation should be considered with caution.

Meet our Columnists

Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and legal scholar, holds the James J. Freeland Eminent Scholar... more

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is the C.S. Wong Professor of Law at Cornell University. Colb teaches courses in... more

John Dean
John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973.... more

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He... more

Joanna L. Grossman
Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

MARCI A. HAMILTON is the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program Professor of Practice, and Fox Family... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of... more

Anita Ramasastry
Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry is the UW Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Washington School... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

Lesley Wexler is a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately... more