Human Rights are not a Pie: against the Antinomical Vision of ‘Women’s Rights’ versus ‘Trans Rights’

Dr. Francesca Romana Ammaturo is Senior Lecturer in Sociology and human rights at the University of Roehampton. Her expertise is in the field of LGBTQI issues and human rights, LGBTQI social movements, European human rights, and European Citizenship.  During the last few years, she has been contributing to the field of LGBTQI+ studies by writing on a range of issues, from homonationalist sexual citizenship in Europe to debates on “gestational surrogacy” in Italy, Pride Events, as well as children’s rights in relation to gender and sexuality. She has published several single-authored articles in international peer-reviewed journals, as well as authored the monograph titled “European Sexual Citizenship: Human Rights, Bodies, and Identities” for Palgrave in 2017. Currently, her research focuses on LGBTQI activism and human rights in Southern Europe.

In recent years, an interesting quote has become popular on social media: ‘equal rights for others does not mean fewer rights for you. It’s not pie’. Beyond its use in popular culture, this statement addresses a relevant question in the philosophy of rights. Namely, whether human rights are a finite resource to be fought for by competing groups who may have partial – or complete – disagreement over their values or needs. 

Human Rights and the Antinomy of Values

In his 1990 book ‘the Age of Rights’, the Italian philosopher Norberto Bobbio addressed the idea that the existence of what he calls the antinomical and heterogeneous character of values, leading to a situation in which concessions made to a specific group of individuals in terms of their human rights would correspond to an undeniable loss of rights for another corresponding group of individuals. In Bobbio’s own words: 

„(…) Final values are antinomical, and cannot all be accomplished universally at the same time. It is necessary for both parties to make concessions in order to achieve them, and the concessions required for this process of conciliation involve personal preferences, political choices and ideological orientations.“
Bobbio, Norberto. 1996. The Age of Rights. Cambridge: Polity Press, p. 5–6.

Under human rights law, this principle is often embodied in the existence of restrictions to some rights that cannot be exercised in an absolute manner. An example is Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) protecting freedom of expression. According to an antinomical vision of rights suggested by Bobbio, for instance, LGBTQI+ friendly speech would be irreconcilable with homo- or transphobic speech. The two are fundamentally rooted in alternate visions of reality: one in which the lives of LGBTQI+ persons are valued and cherished, and one in which they are denied, mocked or vilified.  Whilst this logic seems to make sense, defining in practice what ‘values’ are, is far from being straightforward. 

„Human Rights are not a Pie: against the Antinomical Vision of ‘Women’s Rights’ versus ‘Trans Rights’“ weiterlesen

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) in Times of COVID-19

Annika Orich is Assistant Professor of German at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her research centers on the intersection between science and art, debates on multiculturalism and migration, discourses on memory and identity, and questions about humor. Her book project on reproductive imaginations shows how reproductive processes in biology and the arts evoke similar anxieties in the German cultural realm. She has published on Germans’ changing attitudes toward their Nazi past and the function of comedy by immigrants in German identity debates, and her article “Archival Resistance: Reading the New Right” is forthcoming (German Politics and Society).

At the end of April 2020, the BioTexCom Center for Human Reproduction posted a four-minute video about babies in the Ukrainian companies’ care who were born via surrogacy and currently unable to be with their parents due to COVID-19 travel restrictions on its YouTube channel.[1] Sitting in a conference room while reading a prepared statement from a MacBook in his lap, BioTexCom’s lawyer addressed clients around the world who had abruptly been prevented from coming to Kiev to meet and pick up their children. Two seconds into the lawyer’s statement, the camera cuts to and pans across neatly arranged rows of swaddled newborns in hospital baby cots.[2]

The crying of these babies—which is used to drown out the voice of BioTexCom’s lawyer—ultimately alert viewers of the extent to which laws not only regulate the unification of families in times of COVID-19, but also facilitate the very existence of these children. In the Ukraine, commercial surrogacy for infertile heterosexual married couples is legal. In Germany, the Embryo Protection Act bans any form of surrogacy.

BioTexCom produced this video to assure parents of the well-being of their children, and to urge them to obtain travel exemptions. Yet the images of rows of babies waiting to meet their intended mothers and fathers for the first time caused a national and international debate on the ethics of surrogate motherhood and the (non-)regulation of the assisted reproductive technology (ART) market.[3]

„Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) in Times of COVID-19“ weiterlesen

‘I ought not be married as a coloured person’: Rassenmischehen and Categories of Difference in 1920s Southwest Africa

Lisa M. Todd is Associate Professor of History at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, Canada. She holds a PhD from the University of Toronto, an MA from Royal Holloway College, University of London, and a BA from the University of New Brunswick.  Todd’s first monograph, Sexual Treason in Germany during the First World War, appeared in 2017 with Palgrave-Macmillan. Her current project, “Racial Citizenship: Miscegenation, Scientific Authority, and the Creation of Intimate ‘Others’ in Modern Germany, 1880-1950,” examines the anthropological interest in “mixed race” sexual relationships, from the German colonial period, to the end of the Third Reich. 

Background: Post-Genocidal Mixed Marriage Regulations

In 1905, amidst the genocidal violence that accompanied the German-Herero and German-Nama Wars, colonial administrators in German Southwest Africa (SWA, present-day Namibia) introduced a ban on ‘civil marriages between whites and ‘natives.’ Two years later they nullified all so-called mixed marriages that had taken place before 1905. In 1908, a German Imperial Ordinance was published conferring on governors the power to make laws concerning the marriage of Indigenous peoples in Protectorates. In May 1912 the German Reichstag passed a controversial resolution ‘to ensure the validity of marriages between whites and natives in all German colonies’ and to determine the rights of illegitimate children, and in April 1914, the Governor of German Southwest Africa issued a decree allowing for the registration of marriages between Europeans and ‘natives’. The inconsistency of these legal decisions, over the course of only nine years, resulted in trauma to the families involved, but also an uneven implementation of the processes of sexual and racial segregation that accompanied the German occupation of Namibia.[1]

A lively historiography has developed around early twentieth century Rassenmischehen in the colonial sphere, as scholars seek to evaluate how the racialization of space compounded hierarchies of power in settler societies. Sexual ‘race-mixing,’ or miscegenation, presented obstacles to these power structures. White settlers increasingly saw biracial persons as cases in urgent need of categorization: would these people, with the ‘white blood in their veins’ be useful in future European domination, or did their ‘black blood’ mark them as future threats to white supremacy in occupied lands?  Uncertainty about the intersections of race, sexuality, and the law continued past German occupation, and were further complicated when South African authorities introduced their own anti-miscegenation legislation after 1919. The following example illustrates this point.

„‘I ought not be married as a coloured person’: Rassenmischehen and Categories of Difference in 1920s Southwest Africa“ weiterlesen

Walpurgisnacht 1983

© Rita Maier/Schwules Museum, Berlin

Petra Gall © Rita Maier/Schwules Museum, Berlin

Die Frauen* stürmen nach vorne, sie erobern sich die Straße, sie machen sich sichtbar im öffentlichen Raum. Sich an den Händen greifend, stützen und ziehen sie sich gleichermaßen. Vielleicht skandierten sie den damals auf Demonstrationen oft gerufenen Slogan: Wir sind Frauen, wir sind viele und wir haben die Schnauze voll.

Am 30.4.1983 fand in Westberlin die traditionelle Walpurgisnacht-Demo statt. Organisiert wurde sie unter anderem vom „Notruf für Beratung von vergewaltigten Frauen Berlin[1]. Eines der zentralen Themen der Lesben- und Frauenbewegung der 1970er und 80er Jahre war die Auseinandersetzung mit sexueller Gewalt und das Recht auf körperliche und sexuelle Selbstbestimmung. 

„Walpurgisnacht 1983“ weiterlesen

Ein Virus ist immer mehr als nur ein Virus

Gedanken zu HIV/AIDS und Covid-19 

Adrian Lehne für „Ruminationen

Die aktuelle Covid-19 Pandemie hat in kurzer Zeit einen radikalen Wandel im Leben fast aller Menschen verursacht. Kontaktreduktion, stay at home, Selbstisolation sind nun gefordert. Wie gesellschaftliches Zusammenleben geht, muss in vielen Bereichen neu ausgelotet und ausprobiert werden. Wie Gesellschaften funktionieren wird nun jeden Tag diskutiert. Viele Berichterstattungen und politischen Kommentare stellten Vergleiche und Bezugnahmen zu den großen Epidemien und Pandemien der letzten Jahrhunderte her, von der Pest bis zur Spanischen Grippe. In queeren Medien finden Vergleiche von Covid-19 und AIDS statt.[1]

„Ein Virus ist immer mehr als nur ein Virus“ weiterlesen

„[I]nfolge ihres Berufs pervers veranlagt“ – Weibliche Homosexualität in Oberösterreich 1918-1938

Elisabeth Greif ist Assoziierte Professorin am Institut für Legal Gender Studies, JKU Linz. Ihre Habilitation „Verkehrte Leidenschaft. Gleichgeschlechtliche Unzucht im Kontext von Strafrecht und Medizin“ setzt sich aus diskursanalytischer Perspektive mit der rechtshistorischen Entwicklung des Straftatbestandes der »Unzucht wider die Natur mit Personen desselben Geschlechts« (§ 129 I b StG) auseinander. Es wird untersucht, wie sich unterschiedliche Wissensbestände über Sexualität auf den juristischen Umgang mit dem Straftatbestand auswirkten, wie und von wem »Unzüchtiges« im juristischen Diskurs zur Sprache gebracht wurde und wie dies auf Vorstellungen des »Unzüchtigen«, des Geschlechtlichen und der Geschlechter einwirkte.

Die Arbeit ist mit Publikationsförderung durch den FWF im Jan Sramek Verlag in Print und open access erschienen.

Das österreichische Strafrecht pönalisierte – im Unterschied zu den meisten anderen europäischen Ländern im ausgehenden 19. und beginnenden 20. Jahrhundert – die „Unzucht wider die Natur mit Personen desselben Geschlechts“ nicht nur zwischen Männern, sondern auch zwischen Frauen.[1] Die gleichgeschlechtliche Unzucht stellte damit ein Sittlichkeitsdelikt dar, bei dem Frauen nicht als bloße „Opfer“, sondern [1]  autonom handelnde Subjekte in Betracht kamen. Im Verhältnis zur Unzucht zwischen Männern maßen der juristische wie auch der sexualwissenschaftliche Diskurs der Unzucht zwischen Frauen allerdings nur eine untergeordnete Bedeutung bei. Für die Interpretation des Tatbestandes der gleichgeschlechtlichen Unzucht und für die Frage, wem sexuelle Subjektivität überhaupt zugestanden wurde, spielte die Strafbarkeit der Unzucht zwischen Frauen jedoch eine wichtige Rolle.

„„[I]nfolge ihres Berufs pervers veranlagt“ – Weibliche Homosexualität in Oberösterreich 1918-1938“ weiterlesen

Call for Applications

GSA Seminar: Sexuality and Law in German-Speaking Europe

Martin Lücke, Veronika Springmann and Richard Wetzel are organizing this seminar as part of the series of “GSA seminars” at the 44th Annual Conference of the German Studies Association, in Washington DC, October 1-4, 2020.

Please feel invited to hand in your applications, in both, German or English until the 27th of January 2020. Any further informations are given in the pdf attached below.