We invite you to read, enjoy, and learn from the research papers and essays that Elon students have submitted to the 2013 Human Rights and Social Justice Writing Contest.
If you are an Elon student, we encourage you to join the conversation by submitting your own entry.
Female genital mutilation, a long-standing health concern, is the practice of removing, either partially or totally, women’s genitalia. Included in female genital mutilation (FGM) are all procedures that intentionally cause harm to female genital organs for non-medical purposes (World Health Organization, 2013). FGM is an important health issue because, besides its cultural purpose, its lone effect is to cause the body harm and detriment; there are no known health benefits to this practice (WHO, 2013). Read More
In his seminal work The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. DuBois argued that the quintessential and defining element of being black in the United States was being seen as a problem, a very existence that required management and control. DuBois introduced a groundbreaking metaphor to illustrate this: double-consciousness or simply, the veil. Read More
There are many tangible benefits of the legalization of same-sex marriage over the prohibition of it. Many arguments against the authorization of same-sex or gay marriage are supported by religious beliefs or personal preferences, but the effects of its legalization are far more beneficial to the United States as a whole. For instance, there are many monetary benefits from the legalization of same-sex marriage through the various federal benefits couples would receive to the upswing of the entire federal economy. Read More
David Batstone, in his book Not for Sale, says, “Twenty-seven million slaves exist in our world today” (1). Several months ago, I would have felt such statistics were overwhelmingly exaggerated or even falsified, some trick by organizations to get funding from sympathetic Americans who did not know any better. However, since reading Little Princes, by Conor Grennan, my eyes have been opened to the atrocities of trafficking around the world. Read More
have been passionate about issues of social justice since a young age and have grown up in a family that values service to others. I chose to major in sociology because I wanted to understand the meaning of being an individual in society, but most importantly, because I believed that through this understanding, I could create change. Yet, the further I got into sociology, the more I discovered the complex systemic structures obstructing our ability as a society to reach this change. Read More
Refugees pose a unique problem in the international human rights regime. Refugees are people who cross international borders to flee human rights abuses and conflict, most commonly resulting from issues of persecution, deprivation of homes or livelihoods, or war. The very definition of a refugee is the result of a human rights violation. When their own government is unable or unwilling to protect them, they are forced to seek protection in the international community through a neighboring country. Read More
In 1862, during the heat of the Civil War, Congress voted to support higher education throughout the United States by passing the Morrill Act. This legislation donated federal land and money to the states, with the provision that each state created a college using these resources (“Transcript of Morrill Act”). Southern states had previously viewed this legislation as a threat to their economic system, so the legislation was not passed until after secession occurred and the Southern politicians left the United States Congress (Brown). Read More
Many people believe that they do not have a moral duty to invest in their neighbors’ lives. On the contrary, I will argue that it is humanity’s obligation to genuinely invest themselves in their neighbors’ lives, but not to the extent that it harms the helper’s mental and/or physical stability. Three key points fall into place when accomplishing this task: A person needs to refrain from using others to benefit himself, must treat his neighbors’ emotions as his own, and must reject the Utilitarian stance of helping as many people as possible as too extreme. In my following argument, I will support and explain these three claims. Read More
n a recent poll, 33 percent of U.S. citizens said our country should no longer lend aid to other countries and should instead focus on domestic issues. As a student participating in Project Pericles at Elon University, my mission directly contradicts this 33 percent. As a Periclean, I have committed to lending my privilege, opportunity, time and money to Honduras, our country of focus, as my peers and I partner with Honduran citizens within the country over the next three years. Read More
The United States prides itself on equality and justice, and maybe at one point, the country had been innovatively reaching equality (compared to the historical viewpoints of other countries- Nazi Germany’s reign, for example). Capitalism and power not only define the current US economy, but unfortunately that economy has taken such a role on the US stage, that the equality of life has been gagged and bound by the systemic oppression. Who can have a voice when there is no whistle-blower left in the power play? Read More
The Walt Disney Company is well-known the world over for its magical “once upon a times” and wholesome “happily ever afters.” Stories like Cinderella, Snow White, and The Little Mermaid all feature captivating tales of beautiful young women who are pure of heart seeking adventure and true love. Disney paints the picture of a strong sense of faith and love, which act as guiding forces that provide access to a lifetime of happiness. Read More
Selwa Saleeby was doing homework in the living room of her Beirut apartment on July 14, 2006. She descended from a long line of Lebanese Christians who always supported democracy and supported Israel’s right to exist. However, as she began performing high school algebra, her apartment began to shake. Selwa heard planes flying above her building. Then, a bomb struck outside of her first floor window, spreading glass and smoke in her apartment. Read More
Debate over the actual rights of humans undoubtedly exists; however, a majority of social injustice comes from refusing to recognize certain groups of people as fully human, rather than refusing to recognize rights as rights. This paper will first look at the denial of human rights to minority populations, with a focus on individuals who have disabilities. Subsequently, this paper will explore what it means to be human, the significance of human recognition, and the contribution of language to the dehumanization of individuals with disabilities or of other marginalized groups. Read More
Early this month, world icon Nelson Mandela passed away after a lifetime of accomplishment. The 95 year-old activist, philanthropist, and former president of South Africa was renowned for his wisdom and transcendence. “To be free,” he once said, “is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." His words were a striking metaphor for most people, but for him it applied to the letter. Read More
Emile Durkheim thought, like a biological organism, society can be healthy or sick. We must be the doctors to fix our society, just as a physician helps to fix our bodies (Ashley 88, 2005).This is a huge topic which leaves me with many places to start. At first I really was not sure where I should start. I think where all of this should start is with humanity. Read More
There is a small door at the top of the stairs. The small door at the top of the stairs is a mystery; the door remains closed. On one particularly sunny afternoon I climb the stairs passing the small door to continue onto the open roof-top. Stop! The door is cracked open. I quickly peer inside and at first glance it appears to be a closet. I look again, and there are a few pairs of clothes, some torn up books, and a tiny lumpy, mattress behind the door. Behind the small door at the top of the stairs is a shadow; it is the sleeping quarters of a shadow named Gita. Read More
The establishment of sociology as a discipline is still relatively novel; Ashley and Orenstein (2005) contend that it achieved maturity only in the last hundred years. The history of sociology, which arose in correlation with the rise of the modern era, is thus inseparable with the rise of social justice issues. With the upsurge of industrialized technology, flourishing bureaucracy, and increasing governmental regulation also came a growing realization and concern for social and political inequalities, including: women’s rights, labor unions, and the growing distinction between blue-collar and white-collar workers. Read More
For a piece of legislation like the DREAM Act to work effectively, it would have to provide multiple paths to citizenship while making sure these paths are easily accessible to immigrants. A support structure would have to be proposed that helps the immigrants integrate, become proficient in English, and overcome the social, administrative, and cultural barriers that may get in their way. At the same time, it would have to provide measures for swaying public opinion in favor of educated, skilled immigrants and away from the ideas that immigrants steal valuable jobs and leech from the government. Read More
The United States today is facing high levels of health problems including obesity, heart disease and diabetes. There are many factors that contribute to these problems, one of which is lack of access to healthy food. These health problems are found across the United States, however some areas are struggling more than others to find their way to healthy food and that is associated with these health problems. These food inequalities are especially prevalent in lower socioeconomic communities and ethnic and racial minority communities including Detroit, Michigan. The lack of affordable healthy foods in such communities is an issue of social justice. Read More
Closing my eyes, I readily envision the radiant smile belonging to an orphaned eleven-year-old Tanzanian girl whom I have sponsored for over a year. She briefly mentions a nearby gold mine in one her first correspondences describing her Chunya district village. I imagine a bustling community teeming with excitement at the prospect of increased revenue. However, reality paints an entirely different picture as the discovery of gold in these poverty-stricken villages carries an extremely dangerous price tag. Read More
"To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity." -Nelson Mandela
Human rights and social justice are unique in their intransitive, inalienable, and indivisible qualities. The idea of human rights, entering our lives from the 18th century onwards, has gained a worldwide recognition through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948 following the conclusion of WWII. This political framework provides the idea of human rights such a justification that it constitutes a significant part of our decisions, thoughts, and actions (Altun). Read More
When I hear the words “social justice”, I used to think of protestors, PETA, or people who stand on the medians in streets with signs that say, “honk to impeach Obama!”. However, after taking a class on social stratification at my old college, as well as learning about classical sociological theory, I feel like I have a better grasp on social justice as well as sociology. Read More
After four years of studying sociology, I have been exposed to the horrific, socially constructed injustices that seemingly inevitably result from human social organization. The horrific transgressions committed as a result of the deluded us-vs-them mentality , such as the 1994 Rwandan genocide of the Tutsi people in which entire villages were systematically herded into their churches and slaughtered (Tutu, 2010). Where does the kindness that is supposedly a basic element of our humanity exist in such a situation? How can there be any hope for a future? Why do we need to hope? Read More
If you are reading this essay, that means that one way or another, you have access to it. You are probably part of the 20% of people who live on more than ten dollars a day (Shah, “Poverty Facts and Stats”). If this is so, then 80% are not. On paper these may seem like percent’s and numbers, which they are. But unfortunately, there’s more to it than that. Read More
Since the end of the Cold War much of the international community has adopted more liberal foreign policies that incorporate a collective responsibility to respond to international crises. Because the United Nations struggle to effectively implement and coordinate multinational humanitarian missions individual nations have sometimes filled the void and deployed their own interventions in foreign land. On June 22, 1994 the United Nations authorized France to “take all necessary means” to protect civilians and ensure humanitarian aid in Rwanda, two months into the genocide that was devastating the country. Read More
The term “eugenics,” implying a way of scientifically determining a person’s worth in terms of physical characteristics, is often associated with Hitler and the Third Reich during World War II. It generally brings up dark memories of the past evils of humankind, reminding people of a period of terror, injustice, judgment, and hopelessness. What many individuals fail to realize, however, is that the United States had its own eugenics movement fairly recently, beginning about a century ago and remaining within the realm of public support for decades after its birth. Read More
The world today has reached its peak of economic interdependence and globalization. In this paper, I’ve used the definition of globalization as the “implementation of neoliberal economic policy reforms (deregulation and privatization policies) by governments and an increase in the worldwide flow of goods, services, labor, and capital” (Goodhart 183). Read More
Little Princes, while inspirational in many ways, is ultimately a problematic book because of the ways in which it reinforces stereotypes about American ignorance of global affairs. Conor Grennan addresses his own ignorance about global issues, particularly as it relates to his experiences in Nepal, but even his acknowledgements do not go far enough. Scholars in the social sciences, such as Martin W. Lewis and Michael Schudson, have noted that this ignorance is both a perceived problem and a real one, especially for Americans. Read More
One of the most important choices you can make in life is raising a healthy child. A healthy diet is one way of achieving this! Nutrition for children is extremely important because it affects their growth, mentally and physically. It is also important for preventing obesity and diseases that accompany it, such as diabetes. Obesity is becoming more prevalent among children in the world. Read More
My submission consist of a legal brief that I wrote on behalf of one of Elon Law's clients at the Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic. The brief was written in support of the client's application for asylum. The client's name and identifying details have been redacted to preserve his anonymity, but the facts of his case and legal theory for relief are true. Read More
Is it just for universities to accept some students based on their ethnicity, skin color or background and not on merit alone? When considering whether affirmative action is just or unjust one must consider why it is being done. Are less deserving students being admitted because of previous offenses to their ethnicity or race, or is it because the university is trying to create a more diverse learning community? Read More
The chocolate that we know and love, from brands like Hershey’s or Nestle, is not as innocent as we may think. These large companies look to areas in West Africa as a source for their cocoa beans, which are harvested by young children. These young children are treated like slaves and their human rights violated daily. Read More
Thirty-three years ago, President Jimmy Carter signed, on behalf of the United States, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Drafted in the late 1970s to “address long-standing and pervasive inequities against women worldwide,” CEDAW is one of several human rights treaties created by the United Nations after World War II and specifically “sets out a comprehensive definition of discrimination, as well as a framework for improving women’s lives and measuring nations’ progress toward” the treaty’s stated goals (Wakefield 2010, 22). On the surface, the United States champions human rights throughout the world, but in practice the United States remains one of only nine states worldwide to have not ratified CEDAW. Read More
Over the past decade, the United States has endured reading a number of heart-breaking news reports on gun violence in schools, universities, barbershops, movie theaters, shopping malls, workplaces, and airports. Gun violence is a criminal act that takes far too many lives each year; it leaves families, as well as friends, communities, and fellow Americans devastated at the loss of innocent lives. Read More
In the country of South Africa, HIV/AIDS is one of the deadliest viruses a individual could come into contact with. It’s sweeping the nation and leaving a trail of mass destruction behind. The difference between HIV/AIDS and other diseases is that there is no cure, but instead a plethora of preventative drugs one can take in order to control the spread. However, a large proportion of South Africa’s population is living at the poverty level, making it nearly impossible for the majority of patients to afford the care they’ll need for the rest of their lives. Read More
In the world there are many problems that deserve attention but one that stands out is discrimination. Discrimination comes in many shapes and sizes and can affect all citizens at one time or another. The people that I am going to talk about who get discriminated against physically and mentally are those that come from Mexico to the U.S. Read More
Coming from a Chinese background, but being raised in America, I have realized that child rearing practices differ between these two countries. Scholarly sources have made conclusions of child rearing practices in these two countries, but there may be more knowledge unknown about this topic. Therefore my research question is: What are Chinese child rearing practices in comparison to American child rearing practices? Read More
El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America although densely populated and boiling with hostility. Emerging from a destructive twelve-year civil war between 1980 and 1992 that killed over 75,000 individuals, the country has observed a significant decline in poverty levels (Global Youth Connect 2008). However, El Salvador is still struggling to recover. Read More
I’m writing to you, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), not to bring attention to what you are already well aware of concerning the daily impact of humans’ harmful CO2 and fossil fuel emissions, but rather one of the most serious side-effects: glacial melting and its consequences on local populations’ resources. Read More
Since the Ba’ath party gained control of the Iraqi political system in the 1970s, the women of Iraq have been denied liberties supposedly granted to them in their constitution. The women possessed more liberties during the 1950s when General Abdel Karim Qassim led the country, but political unrest led to the restriction of these liberties. The Iran-Iraq War during the late 1980s created even more difficulty for women. Read More
Immigration into the United Kingdom over the last fifty years or so, especially into its major cities, has caused the country to undergo a remarkable transformation from a rather homogeneous society into one that is home to people from many different world cultures. With such a complex and multi-cultural society, it is understandable that there are going to be issues that prove divisive. One such issue is the niqab worn by some Muslim women. The niqab is a face veil that covers the nose and mouth and is typically accompanied by clothing that covers the whole body, excluding the hands and feet, and a headscarf. Read More
Religion has always sought to take a stance on either side of a social issue, especially in the condemnation or acceptance of certain behaviors. Society changes and is changed by religious viewpoints, and has many times overthrown outdated or inhumane practices or beliefs once accepted by a religious institution. In the early days of Christianity, practices such as polygamy and slavery were accepted, while shellfish and round haircuts were condemned in Leviticus’ purity codes. Most modern American Christians are not polygamist slaveholders who boycott lobster, nor do most denominations of Christianity uphold such behavior. Social context constantly changes, as do the issues a religion and society face and are inevitably divided upon. Change, however, does not come without a fight; many religious wars have been fought with words and weapons alike. Read More
It is commonly agreed upon that conflict drives literature. Literature relies on conflict to remain interesting and engaging to readers, and very few kinds of literary conflict cause as much of a reaction in readers as romantic conflict. Romantic conflict can range from same-sex couples in a homophobic world to couples whose families keep them apart. In the Southern novels God’s Little Acre, Absalom, Absalom!, and Strange Fruit, the romantic conflict stems from interracial relationships. While these relationships are not the primary conflicts of their respective novels, they do play large roles in the plots. The interracial couples depicted in these novels are forced to hide or deny their relationships, or their families and friends are ashamed of them. Read More
When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt assumed office in 1933, the United States was in the depths of the Great Depression. The Tennessee Valley Authority, commonly known as the TVA, was established the same year by Congress as part of the New Deal Program. In his request for the establishment of the TVA, Roosevelt stated, “It [TVA] should be charged with the broadest duty of planning for the proper use, conservation, and development of the natural resources of the Tennessee River drainage basin and its adjoining territory for the general social and economic welfare of the Nation” (Roosevelt). The TVA was charged with bringing industry, economy, and livelihood to the struggling South; to do so, it would work independently of Congress and in tandem with local agencies in the Valley. Read More
One of the most prevalent health issues affecting the world today is suicide. In particular, suicide acts as a leading cause of death for teenagers and adolescents around the world. The World Health Organization estimates that every forty seconds, someone commits suicide (WHO). Global data show that suicide acts as the second highest cause of death in adolescents aged 15 through 19, behind road traffic accidents. Furthermore, these data have shown that suicide is the most common cause of death for females aged 15 through 19 and the third most common cause of death for males aged 15 through 19. Read more.
Although the unequal treatment of African Americans has become less prevalent, its consequences still have major implications on current society. The behaviors that our history of apartheid has instilled in both black and white Americans, although sometimes driven by subconscious attitudes, still affect the way in which people interact. For example, trust, a vital aspect of healthy relationships, is often weak between individuals of different races. One institution that has been greatly impacted by this lack of trust is that of medicine. Read more.
While some health issues, such as malaria and access to clean water, are more prevalent in certain parts of the world than they are in others, women’s health issues exist globally. Sexual violence against women, for example, is undeniably present in almost all parts of the world. Crossing geographic, political, social, racial, cultural, and economic divides, sexual violence is one of the greatest global issues in women’s health today, and can lead to a variety of serious consequences. Read more.
A 13-year-old girl is walking in her own village with her sister and is gang raped by three men and then set on fire when she says she is going to report them. A 23-year-old woman riding a bus home from a movie is violently raped by six men, including the bus driver, and thrown into the streets to die. These two women illustrate the severity of injustice in India as a result of rape. Read more.
If someone were to offer you a chance to stay at a “prayer camp,” what would you say? What would you think of? Maybe a bible study summer camp or a group retreat to worship together. If either of those were things that would interest you maybe a prayer camp would be something you might like, right? Wrong. Many people haven’t heard of prayer camps and have no idea what goes on there. I can tell you one thing—it isn’t somewhere that you want to be. Read more.
Americans have long been fascinated with the imagery and lore of Native Americans. From early historians to Mark Twain to Hollywood, Native Americans have been viewed as savages, aggressors, monotonal in voice, and drunks. Native Americans have had a strong influence on America’s birthplace including environmental issues to the diet and foods we eat. It was not until the arrival of the European settlers that Native Americans faced the deterioration of their civilization and culture. Read more.
Every four years, the international community comes together to participate in the Olympic Games. But far more than simply sporting games and friendly competition, this event represents the pinnacle of international cooperation and cultural respect. The Olympics are a time when political differences are meant to be temporarily put aside, and cultural differences are not only embraced, but celebrated in forming one great global community. Because of this underlying sense of peace, nonpartisanship, and international cooperation, many people, including state and non-state actors, feel the games present a unique opportunity to raise awareness regarding current human rights issues. Therefore it is often perceived that the Olympics have not only created a new space for human rights dialogue, but also have served as a vehicle for human rights reform and advancement. The Beijing Games of 2008 presented such an occasion as international attention turned to China, and cast an unforgiving spotlight on its laundry list of human rights violations. Read more.
Cybercrime is a global issue plaguing the world. The dictionary defines cybercrime as “crime conducted via the Internet or some other computer network”(Merriam-Webster). The definition remains very broad because the word “cyber” is defined as “relating to the culture of computers, information technology, and virtual reality.” Due to the growing number of people gaining access to the internet, rapid development of technology, and the globalization of the world, more of the world population is becoming susceptible to involvement in cybercrime – whether it be as a victim or a criminal. Read more.
Colombia, a worldwide provider of cannabis, coca, and opium poppy, is currently a world leader in cocaine production and export, and is the source of almost all American cocaine (World Bank). However, in spite of this thriving drug economy, 34.1% of the population lives below the poverty line and 10.3% of the population is unemployed (World Bank). Along with poverty, unemployment, and instability, homicide is a leading cause of death in Colombia because of problems associated with cocaine trafficking and wars between cartels (Garcia 2003). Read more.
More than a decade after the September 11 attacks, hundreds of human rights violations associated with black sites and extraordinary rendition have been largely ignored. In 2013, the human rights organization Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) reported that the United States, with the assistance of as many as fifty-four foreign governments, participated in these various operations. Most of the victims of the human rights violations associated with these operations have been denied justice, particularly in courts of the United States. Other states, however, have begun to take action to remedy these human rights violations. Read More.
"Diamonds are forever, it is often said, but lives are not. We must spare people the ordeal of war, mutilations and death for the sake of conflict diamonds.” This quote by the Chairman of the Sierra Leone panel of experts attempts to articulate the gravity of the atrocities surrounding conflict diamonds, “rough diamonds used by rebel movements to finance wars aimed against legitimate governments.” As of 2003, around 3.7 million innocent people had lost their lives to the war over conflict diamonds, a number that would rise to over four million people just three years later... In 2003, with a push from the United Nations (UN), various nations around the world adopted the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (“KP”). The KP safeguards against rough diamonds being imported or exported without a special certificate certifying that the diamonds are conflict free. Read More.
Female genital mutilation (FGM), also referred to as female genital cutting (FGC) has been a long practiced tradition in many third world countries, particularly in Africa. But as of late, this practice has been spreading to richer, more civilized countries like the United States through the large immigrant groups that currently reside in those countries. The US has been slowly taking steps to eradicate this inhumane practice. This practice must be forced to an end, especially in first world countries. Average citizens can play their part in the eradication of FGM by being educated about the dangers of the practice, by supporting laws that would specifically make FGM illegal by showing lawmakers that it is an important issue to the population, and by reporting any known incidents. Read more.
In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ophelia represents the stereotypical innocent female “victim” who allows societal male influences to affect her immensely. Although Ophelia seems like a powerless female, through this character the play expresses a feminist perspective. Her plight demonstrates the troubles women face when surrounded by controlling males. Shakespeare’s Hamlet, exhibiting a feminist approach, chronicles an oppressed Ophelia in a male dominated society as she slips into madness and ultimately takes her own life. Read more.