Human Rights Day shines a spotlight on women’s issues
Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 01:03
Indiana State University’s 12th annual Human Rights Day event prompted discussions about rape, domestic violence and global awareness with featured speakers who attended from across the state.
Other topics that are rarely discussed, including discrimination, gender norms, human trafficking and government policies were fair game for students and the ISU community as well as campus visitors.
It was an event that is crucial to the university because it’s easier to expose college-age and Vigo County Corporation students alike to mulitple issues of equality, said Ann Rider, associate professor of languages, literatures and linguistics who also operated the women’s studies booth.
“It’s important for any university to have a Human Rights Day where we raise awareness generally and to bring all of the human rights issues together,” Rider said. “In a classroom, you’re going to get one issue or another, but here they all come together in the same place.”
This year’s theme, “convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women,” featured a range of informational workshops and booths.
A planning committee selected the topic for the event, as it does each year, in conjunction with the United Nations list of human rights.
Ruth Fairbanks, a lecturer of interdisciplinary programs, said it was important for the university to host events such as Human Rights Days because it brings worldwide issues closer to home.
“Americans have a sense of place that isn’t always a global perspective,” Fairbanks said. “I think it’s natural to believe that what you experience and see must be very much like it is in the rest of the world.”
Fairbanks and Rider showcased students’ class projects.
“Students created posters that reflect their understanding of where women have been historically in the United States and, to some extent, where we still need to go in order for there to be true equality,” Rider said.
For Fairbanks’ class, students explored gender assignment by redecorating popular children’s toys.
They randomly drew playthings tied to certain genders from a box.
Students then had only two days to switch the role associated with it.
In one instance, students converted a Jasmine doll from the Disney film “Aladdin” to a “Jasman” doll, complete with tattoos and a shaving kit.
Other examples included an apron-clad Mr. Clean doll and a “Jane Deer” farmer.
In conjunction with the booths, session workshops were also held throughout the day.
Sharon Langlotz, assistant director of the victims services division for the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, gave a status report on violence against women in the state along with groundbreaking approaches used to tackle the problem.
Langlotz said that while national statistics point to a downturn in domestic violence, those numbers may not be accurate.
“The Bureau of Justice Statistics had this astounding report that came out a month or two ago that said interpersonal violence has declined 64 percent since 1994,” she said. “We should be celebrating, but why are our domestic violence shelters and rape crisis nurses saying ‘wow, we’re seeing as many [people] if not more than before’?”
The reason behind this drop, Langlotz said could be due to unreported cases or law enforcement agencies dismissing the incidents.
“In some of the major cities, the rape statistics plummeted. In fact, I think it was the city of Baltimore went down to almost zero,” she said. “What happened is they changed their paperwork and their definition of rape to where people just weren’t recording it. They might put ‘battery’ or ‘assault’ and it wasn’t being counted.”
Regardless of the statistics’ accuracy, Langlotz said the Federal Bureau of Investigations still rates rape as the second most common violent crime next to murder.
She also said stalking is “something [the nation] has become really aware of in the last five years.” Evolving cyber technology, cell phones and global positioning systems have changed the way men track women down.
“Shelters used to immediately take away the woman’s cellphone and put it, locked, in the office, thinking that would protect her,” Langlotz said. “But guess what? If it’s got GPS enabled on it, he knows right where she is.”
Women’s rights groups are making huge strides in amending the approach toward sexual assault and domestic violence, making shelters safer and empowering females, Langlotz said. But, she continued, students should still educate themselves on state policies and plans of action because it could directly affect their future.
“You have a lot of reason to worry about it because you’re going to grow up and go into the workforce … and that lady that’s sitting next to you [has a] husband [who’s] stalking her and he’s got a whole gun arsenal at home,” she said, adding that Indiana doesn’t have a plan when it comes to workplace violence.
Langlotz said women shouldn’t be the only attendees during panel discussions—the treatment of women affects men and children too.
“We’re the mother of nations,” Langlotz said. “So it’s really important to talk about women because anytime you support a woman, you’re also supporting a man and a son … When women thrive, communities thrive.”