most absurd human rights violations

The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (131): Protester Charged With Sexual Assault After Kissing Riot Police

This photograph of Nina De Chiffre went viral on social media and was hailed as a symbol of peaceful protest in the country

This photograph of Nina De Chiffre went viral on social media and was hailed as a symbol of peaceful protest in Italy


[A] 20-year-old student was photographed kissing officer Salvatore Piccione during a protest against a planned rail link in Northern Italy. …

COISP, a union representing Italian police officers, later revealed that they had lodged a complaint with Turin prosecutors. Franco Maccari, the union’s general secretary told La Repubblica: “We have accused the protester of sexual violence and insulting a public official.

“If the policeman had kissed her, World War III would have broken out,” he said. “Or what if I had patted her on the behind? She would have been outraged. So if she does that to a man on duty, should it be tolerated?”, he added. “A kiss is a positive thing,” he said. “But in this context, between these two people, it was just disrespect.”

It later emerged that Nina De Chiffre had not only kissed the officer but had also licked her fingers and touched his mouth. According to reports the protester has since been charged with “sexual violence” and causing “offence to a public official”. (source)

Obviously not the first time the word “rape” has been redefined to fit the needs of the powerful. More posts in this series are here.

human rights violations, ironic human rights violations, law

Ironic Human Rights Violations (17): Who Protects Us Against Our Protectors?

iconic vj day photo sailor kiss

This photo’s subjects, George Mendonsa and Greta Zimmer, were two strangers, and a drunk Mendonsa – on a date with his future wife Rita at the time – noticed Zimmer in her nurse’s uniform, grabbed her and kissed her forcefully without her consent. A closer look at the image in question shows corroborating details that become stomach-turning when properly viewed: the smirks on the faces of the sailors in the background; the firm grasp around the physically smaller woman in his arms such that she could not escape if she tried; the woman’s clenched fist and limp body.

(source, source)

Here’s a story brimming with irony:

An Air Force officer who led the branch’s sexual assault prevention unit been arrested for allegedly committing an act of sexual assault. Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski is accused of drunkenly approaching a woman in a parking lot in Virginia and groping her. The woman fought back, and Krusinski’s mugshot appears to show cuts and bruises on his face. The news came on the eve of a new Pentagon report showing the epidemic of sexual assault among servicemembers is continuing to rise. There was a 6 percent increase in reports of sexual assaults in the military in fiscal year 2012 compared to the previous year. The number of people who anonymously said they were sexually assaulted, but never reported the attack, rose dramatically from 19,000 in fiscal year 2011 to 26,000 the following year. (source, source)

More on rape. More ironic human rights violations.

most absurd human rights violations

The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (117): Segregation of HIV-Positive Prisoners

prison rape


South-Carolina is now the only US State where HIV-positive prisoners are segregated in separate housing units with unequal program opportunities, inferior mental health care and fewer work options.

There’s absolutely no reason to do that, unless you want to maintain the reign of sexual terror that is still widespread in US prisons. AIDS is almost exclusively transmitted by way of sexual intercourse and needles. Segregating HIV-positive prisoners makes it easier for prison rapists to pursue their hobby. If you don’t know who’s positive and who’s not, you’ll think twice about raping someone. In the “HIV wards”, since they contain only HIV-positive prisoners, there’s also no more reason to refrain from rape.

Things like this make it hard to believe that legislators and prison authorities are not intent on making prison as horrible as possible.

More absurd human rights violations.

human rights violations, law, most absurd human rights violations

The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (113): If You Don’t Bite or Kick Your Rapist, It Isn’t Rape



[T]he Connecticut State Supreme Court overturned the sexual assault conviction of a man who had sex with a woman who “has severe cerebral palsy, has the intellectual functional equivalent of a 3-year-old and cannot verbally communicate.” The Court held that, because Connecticut statutes define physical incapacity for the purpose of sexual assault as “unconscious or for any other reason … physically unable to communicate unwillingness to an act,” the defendant could not be convicted if there was any chance that the victim could have communicated her lack of consent. Since the victim in this case was capable of “biting, kicking, scratching, screeching, groaning or gesturing,” the Court ruled that that victim could have communicated lack of consent despite her serious mental deficiencies. (source)

This is outrageous. Lack of physical resistance is not evidence of consent, nor should it be. If you require rape victims to fight back you’ll only cause more violence and more harm since attackers will answer violence with violence. Rape victims should not be asked to go to such lengths in order to prove that they did not consent. And in any case, one has to assume lack of consent in the case of people with a mental defect, as in the example above. The same is true for people under the statutory age of consent.

More absurd human rights violations here.

measuring human rights, statistics

Measuring Human Rights (29): When More Means Less, and Vice Versa, Ctd.

less is more


Take the example of rape measurement: better statistical and reporting methods used by the police, combined with less social stigma and other factors result in statistics showing a rising number of rapes, but this increase is due to the measurement methods and other effects, not to what happened in real life. The actual number of rapes may have gone down.

This is a general problem in human rights measurement: more often means less, and vice versa. The nature of the thing we’re trying to measure – human rights violations – means that the more there is, the more difficult it is to measure; and the more difficult, the more likely that we wrongly conclude that there is less. (See here). When levels of rights violations approach totalitarianism, people won’t report, won’t dare to speak, or won’t be able to speak. It’s not social stigma or shame that prevents them from speaking, as in the case of rape, but fear. Furthermore, totalitarian governments won’t allow monitoring, and will have managed to some extent to indoctrinate their citizens. Finally, the state of the economy won’t allow for easy transport and communication, given the correlation between economic underdevelopment and totalitarian government.

Conversely, higher levels of respect for human rights will yield statistics showing more rights violations, because a certain level of respect for human rights makes monitoring easier.

More on measuring human rights.

human rights violations, law, most absurd human rights violations

The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (104): Homosexuals Suffering the Egg Test in Lebanon



First of all, the state has no business criminalizing and prosecuting people for homosexual behavior. And secondly, even if it does it shouldn’t force doctors to commit anal rape in order to detect such behavior.

The Lebanese Order of Physicians has rounded on a controversial practice in which chicken’s eggs are inserted in the anus of suspected homosexuals and banned doctors from carrying out the so-called egg tests.

Doctors participating in the “test” have been warned by the order that they face disciplinary measures.

The “test” was conducted on 36 men who were arrested during a raid on a gay porn cinema in Beirut.

The men were charged with “acts against nature” and forced to undertake the “tests of shame”, according to Lebanese magazine L’Orient-Le Jour. ….

The Justice Ministry reissued instructions that prosecutors had to obtain consent before the tests took place. It added that refusal by a suspect to comply with the test could be used as “evidence of homosexuality”. (source)

Furthermore, why would people even believe that the egg test can prove homosexuality?

A similar practice is common in Turkey. More absurd human rights violations.

law, most absurd human rights violations, torture

The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (94): Virginity Tests in Egypt

virginity test


Egypt’s army has devised an original method to defend itself against possible allegations of rape by women “in its care”:

By now, almost everyone has heard the about the 18 women protestors in Egypt’s Tahrir Square who this past spring were detained, beaten, given electric shocks, strip searched and forced to submit to “virginity tests“. (source)

May I suggest that trying to protect yourself against potential charges of rape by violating women’s bodies isn’t really very smart? Of course, the real reason for these tests is torture and intimidation. Women will probably think twice before participating in protests if they know what may happen if they are detained. The tests themselves are horrific, but they can also entail future harm: if the tests are negative, women risk prostitution charges, jail sentences and social stigma.

The tests involve an inspection of a female’s hymen, on the mistaken assumption that her hymen can only be torn as a result of sexual intercourse. This is one account of the way in which the tests were conducted:

[T]he female detainees were separated into two groups, the married and unmarried. The seven unmarried women were given a medical checkup during which the “virginity test” was done. …

“They took us out one by one … they took me to a bed in a passageway in front of the cell. There were lots of soldiers around and they could see me.

I asked if the soldiers could move away and the officer escorting me teased me.

A woman prison guard in plainclothes stood at my head and then a man in military uniform examined me with his hand for several minutes. It was painful. He took his time”. (source)

Fortunately, an Egyptian court has now ruled that virginity tests on female detainees are illegal, referencing the human rights guaranteed in the Egyptian Constitutional Declaration of 2011 as well as Egypt’s obligation under international law. Which of course doesn’t mean the tests will end. Virginity tests in general have not been outlawed, only those taking place in military detention premises. And it remains to be seen if the military will respect the ruling.

More on gender based violence. More absurd human rights violations.

annals of heartlessness, law, privacy

Annals of Heartlessness (12): The Right to Masturbate

Gustav Klimt's Woman seated with thighs apart (1916)

Gustav Klimt's Woman seated with thighs apart (1916)


While you might think of masturbation as a sort of last refuge for the incarcerated — a truly inalienable freedom, given the happy proximity of the sex organs — that is not the case. In fact, a number of state prisons regard jerking off as a rule infraction. … [Such restrictions are “well-entrenched” in the correctional environment [in the U.S.]. (source)

And probably elsewhere as well. The rules apply even when there’s no indecent exposure. In the 19th century, some U.S. prison officials even

chloroformed masturbators and implanted metal rings through their foreskins. (source)

These days, prison officials often turn a blind eye and don’t enforce the rules. But sometimes

prisoners do … get in trouble for engaging in autoerotic behavior. Early on the morning of May 16, 2000, in South Carolina’s Lieber Correctional Institution, Officer Patricia Sinkler saw inmate Freddie Williams “in the front entrance of the shower, curtains open, with his left hand propped up against the wall, turned sideways, making back and forth movements with his right hand on his penis,” according to a court document. Sinkler filed a disciplinary report recommending that Williams be charged with sexual misconduct, and he was brought before a hearing officer and convicted. Williams appealed multiple times, insisting he had not intentionally exposed himself; the officer had simply walked past when he was going at it. He lost and had to relinquish 240 good-time credits.

masturbationA similar case occurred in Florida in 2006: Broward County inmate Terry Lee Alexander was sitting alone on his bunk masturbating when a female deputy who was monitoring him from a central control room more than 100 feet away took exception to Alexander’s “blatant” exertions and wrote him up. Alexander was charged and convicted of exposure, with the jury determining that a cell is “a limited access public place.” The same deputy had also filed reports on seven other locked-up masturbators. When Alexander’s attorney asked the deputy in court if she had considered calling a SWAT team to halt his client’s activity, she replied, “I wish I had.” (source)

Whether all this means that prisoners – or the population in general – should have a legal right to masturbate, is another matter. Probably not I guess. Not every prohibition on government intrusion should necessarily be translated into a right. The right to privacy should be sufficient to protect the act of masturbation and a specific right to masturbate is superfluous. And yes, inmates shouldn’t lose their right to privacy just because they’re in prison, even if some limitations of that right are inevitable in their case.


(source unknown)

Especially for the general population, a right to masturbate is utterly superfluous, since people normally enjoy enough privacy beyond the prison walls in order to be able to masturbate without government intrusion. Prisoners, however, may not always be granted enough privacy, as the cases cited above make clear. But instead of claiming a right to masturbate, inmates should insist on their right to privacy.

What about the right to be able to consume pornography? Again either for prisoners only or for the general population. For the latter, this right is covered by free speech. For the former, such a right would entail the additional right to be given pornography, as prisoners can’t go about procuring it themselves in the free speech marketplace. A prisoners’ right to pornography is not covered by free speech. However, I doubt it would be a good thing to have it. It may be good policy if prisons make porn available, but that doesn’t mean prisoners have a right to be given porn. Which doesn’t mean that prison officials have a right to take pornography away from prisoners once they have it. People don’t lose all their rights when they are incarcerated. And that includes private property.

In any case, taking away prisoners’ porn or their right to masturbate is likely to be counterproductive, as it will create unrest and lead to an increasing number of sexual predation cases among prisoners.

More on porn and masturbation. More in the annals of heartlessness.