Lesbian and Gay Rights, Essay Example
Women and girls have been fighting for human rights and women’s rights for centuries. Unfortunately, women are still fighting for these rights today. Rao and Nussbaum make valid pleas against the violations women encounter on a daily basis in their articles. Women’s rights as well as the rights of lesbians, gays, and bisexuals are continuously being violated and more needs to be done on the part of the government to get rid of the bias and violations against all women, lesbians, gays, and bisexuals. The articles by Rao and Nussbaum explain the violations in which women and homosexuals are subject to as well as give specific details on how these violations can be combatted by the government. Human rights are just that. They are rights that are supposed to be given to all individuals no matter the sex or the sexual orientation. However, unfortunately, women and homosexuals are still being violated and still do not have the same rights as men and their other counterparts; the laws dictate human rights, but are still not being adhered to as they should be due to the fact that government and education on the rights of all humans are not clearly identified.
According to Martha C. Nussbaum (1996), gays, lesbians and bisexuals should have the right to be protected against violence, the right to have consensual adult sexual relations without criminal penalty, the right to be free from discrimination in housing, employment and education, the right to military service, the right to marriage and/or the legal and social benefits of marriage, and the right to retain custody of children and/or to adopt (pp. 579-591). Unfortunately, this is not happening in our country. “Twenty-four percent of gay men and ten percent of lesbians, in a recent survey, reported some form of criminal assault because of their sexual orientation during the past year” (Nussbaum, 1996, pp. 579-5880). Gays and lesbians are continuously fighting for their rights to be protected and are targeted more than any other group. Gays, lesbians, and bisexuals already have the right to be protected against physical assaults and violence; however, there is a significant amount of evidence that shows that this is not happening. “Even more common is the failure of police to come promptly to the aid of gays and lesbians who are being assaulted” (Nussbaum, 1996, p. 581). Just as heterosexuals, homosexuals should have the right to have consensual adult sexual relations with their partners. However, this is not the case at all. They are constantly being violated in this realm of human rights. Nussbaum (1996) states “in the US, five states still criminalize only same-sex sodomy, while eighteen statutes (including the Uniform Code of Military Justice) criminalize sodomy for all” (p. 582). In addition, gays, lesbians and bisexuals are suffering discrimination in the departments of housing and employment. Though many laws have been put into effect that do not allow companies and communities to discriminate based on sexual orientation, many still do. “Such referenda, by depriving gays and lesbians of the right to organize at the local level to secure the passage of laws that protect them, thereby deprive them of equality with respect to the fundamental right of political participation” (Nussbaum, 1996, p. 584). Also, the right to military service is another large problem for lesbians, gays and bisexuals. The military is making strides in allowing gays and lesbians to be in the military; however, there is still much discrimination against them. According to Nussbaum (1996), “the real issue that keeps coming up is that heterosexual males do not want to be forced to associate intimately with gay males, especially to be seen naked by them” (p.587). This is just one of the ways gays and lesbians are discriminated against in this area. Finally, the rights to marriage and custody or adoption are amongst the biggest violations of the rights of lesbians, gays and bisexuals. In respect to this, all that homosexuals want is to be able to declare their love for someone publicly and to be able to raise families. That is all they want and the states (government) are not allowing this to happen. There are many reasons in which marriage rights are important to homosexuals. Some of these include the following: favorable tax, inheritance and insurance status; immigration rights; custody rights; the right to collect unemployment benefits if one partner quits a job to move to be where his or her partner has found employment; the spousal privilege exception when giving testimony; the right to bring wrongful death action upon the negligent death of a spouse; the right to the privilege of next-of-kin in hospital visitations, and decisions about burial to just name a few (Nussbaum, 1996, p. 588). These are just minimal rights that heterosexual married couples have, but they are the most important and homosexuals should have the same rights. However, laws are still not being addressed to allow such marriage because of religion or political views or whatever else they may decide to conjure up. The point is that these are human rights. Homosexuals are humans just as heterosexuals and should be allowed to marry and raise children with the person that they love. Nussbaum (1996) helps indicate the true feelings of many homosexuals in relation to marriage when she says the following:
The basis of marriage is the US and Europe is generally taken to be a stated desire to live together in intimacy, love and partnership, and to support one another, materially and emotionally, in the conduct of daily life. Of course many people enter marriage unprepared, and many marriages fail; but the law cannot and should not undertake a stringent enquiry into the character and behavior of the parties before admitting them to the benefits of that status (p.589).
There are many reasons in which gays, lesbians, bisexuals and women are subjected to these human rights violations. These include religion, culture, history, and lack of education on the subjects of homosexuals and the roles of women in particular, as well as officers not following all of the laws. However, in order for these to be addressed many individuals within our society have to be educated on the idea of human rights. Nussbaum states that education is key. According to Nussbaum (1996), “one further educational issue remains: this is the right to have opportunities to learn about lesbian and gay people. This right is of special interest to lesbian and gay students, but it is also, importantly, a right of all students, all of whom are citizens and need to learn something about their fellow citizens, especially as potential voters in referenda such as the one in Colorado” (p.585). Rao (1996) states that many of the issues can be addressed by obtaining laws that protect women from the violence in the home as well as the power inside and outside of the home. Nussbaum (1996) sums this up quite nicely when she states:
As long as no laws protect gays against discrimination in other areas of life and guarantee their equal citizenship as long as their sex acts can be criminalized, as long as they are disparaged a second class citizen, we may expect the rights they do have to go on being underenforced, and violence against them to remain a common fact (pp.581-582).
If government, law officials, and others are not protecting these individuals the way they should be, it is clear that the violence will continue. However, if people within our society are not educated on homosexuals and homosexual activity, they will never understand a homosexuals point of view or how they live their lives. Law and education go hand in hand in determining how society is going to view homosexuals and women in general. Due to religious freedom, many believe that their children should not be subject to the education on homosexuality. However, as society is changing and children are growing up in a different time period, the study of homosexuality is not only wanted, but expected by some of the individuals throughout our society. The problem with this is due to the First Amendment. Teachers are likely to be penalized for speaking of this material in classrooms. But, what if the students want to learn about this stuff? What if they find it intriguing? What if they want to know more so that they can understand the homosexual’s point of view? This is what we all need to think about. If students are educated, the bias may just change and we could have a society where people understand and accept each other. Will this happen in our lifetimes? Nobody can really tell, but education (no matter what it is on) is the key to knowledge. If we aren’t taught something, we will never know about it. Both education and law have the opportunity to stop the discrimination, bias and violence and should be doing something about it.
Nussbaum (1996) and Rao (1996) both have very valid arguments. Each speaks about the specific human rights of minority individuals who are continuously trying to obtain the rights that they deserve. They each give the reader an idea of the importance of human rights in general and develop an idea of equality. The only way in which they truly diverge is on the basis of the minority in which they are speaking of. Nussbaum (1996) speaks directly about gays, lesbians and bisexuals whereas Rao (1996) speaks about women in general. They also diverge as they discuss ways in which to address the problems. Nussbaum (1996) believes that things can be addressed through education and working together. Rao (1996) believes that certain laws have to be put into place in order to eliminate discrimination in all forms. These are both convincing arguments as each is very important for both minorities. Education and the implementation of laws that would protect women and homosexuals would be of utmost importance so that each of these groups could finally live in a country that acknowledges that they are people, not just statistics.
When Rao refers to the “androcentric of the concept of human rights” she is referring to the idea that human rights are based on a masculine identity or masculine beliefs. It is important to note that the concept of human rights has been based on the ideas of man for so long because this is exactly what our society still tries to do. It is also important because Congress, the government and much of the companies in power of the US are engrossed with men who still believe these old ways. In order for women to make any progress in obtaining equal rights for themselves, many of them have to continue to run for office and to make a change. In reference to Nussbaum’s thesis, there are parallels. As we have seen within our society recently, there are many more gay and lesbian individuals running for office at both the state and federal levels. As long as these individuals can make a difference for the gay and lesbian community, human rights for these individuals could easily be achieved. However, these individuals have to be willing to do the work once in office.
It is necessary to adopt documents such as the 1979 Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women because the main laws are not specific enough. For example, Rao (1996) states “although several major instruments prohibit sex as a ground of discrimination within the general framework of equal treatment of men and women, the content of discrimination is not always clear” (p.255). These documents provide clear, concise information that does not allow companies to discriminate against women based on their sex. In reference to Nussbaum (1996), it is important to include new human rights laws that address the rights of gays and lesbians, and bisexual individuals so that these individuals are protected against violence, torment, and discrimination. The more laws we have in place, the easier it is to prosecute anyone who does not obey those laws.
In my opinion, Nussbaum and Rao have very valid points and very valid suggestions on eliminating the discrimination against women, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. They have given enough information to allow the reader to make a choice on what to believe. I think they give a lot of useful information that could educate many people within our society. Human rights are a very touchy topic for many individuals today, but I believe that everyone should be equal and should have the same rights. I believe that each person should be able to leave their homes without the fear of being discriminated against or tormented for who they are. Nussbaum and Rao both give information that helps me put things into perspective and allows me to understand that education on the subject matters is of utmost importance.
Nussbaum, M. C. (1996). The philosophy of human rights. In The liberation debate (pp. 575-595).
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