It's tempting to imagine the progress of the human race as if it were a regular person going through life: Yeah, at first we might've had no idea what we were doing and later got into some stupid stuff like genocide and slavery, but by now we've cast aside the mistakes of our youth and slowly started to become a mature and enlightened species! Right?
The only problem with that comparison is it makes modern humans look like a bunch of man-children still having trouble letting go of their old toys, which unfortunately here is a metaphor for shameful human rights abuses that we've held on to way longer than anyone is comfortable admitting, like how ...
In the United States, we like to heap criticism on nations like Russia and Uganda for passing laws that stomp on the rights and dignity of homosexuals. Hell, here in the U.S., an increasing number of states have even legalized same-sex marriage, and we've now repealed the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell, don't gay" policy. Why, we can't even remember the bad old days when homosexual relations were still criminal acts in the U.S., when consenting adults were being arrested for the stuff they did to each other's genitals in the privacy of their own homes.
After all, that was way back in 2003.
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Ye olde 'Merica.
States have had anti-sodomy laws on the books for centuries, but around the 1970s, they started getting repealed one by one all across the country. Not in Texas, though, which together with 13 other states wanted to keep these antiquated provisions as a secret weapon to harass homosexuals. In the end, this wholly unnecessary obsession with double-wiener love came to a head in 2003 during the case of Lawrence v. Texas.
In 1998, police officers responding to reports of a discharged weapon entered the apartment of Houston resident John Geddes Lawrence, only to discover that the only weapons in sight were two male penises in close proximity to one another. Caught in the act of loving another man, which the good lord explicitly forbids, Lawrence and his lover, Tyron Garner, were arrested and fined for violating Texas' Homosexual Conduct law. And Texas would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those meddling Supreme Court judges.
US Supreme Court via University of Michigan
"Let's split up, gang!"
After fighting his way to the ultimate judiciary body in the country, Lawrence finally had his day, when the Supreme Court overwhelmingly decided that all Homosexual Conduct laws went against the Equal Protection Clause of the constitution, and struck them down. For the first time in history, gay people were legally allowed to be gay all across the United States, allowing thousands to finally come out the same year as the first Pirates of the Caribbean film.
The 1960s were tough for the raging douchebag community. With the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, all the things that they enjoyed (mainly institutionalized racism and bigotry) suddenly became illegal. The worst were probably the sexual harassment provisions of the act: Thanks to this new law, an employer could no longer punish an employee if they weren't willing to treat Hump Day as a job requirement. The Mad Men days were over!
"What is the world coming to when you can't get Biblically drunk before lunch?"
But horrible people in the United States rejoiced once more in October 2013 after Lihuan Wang, an intern for a TV broadcaster, received some devastating news from a New York district court. Despite having been denied consideration for a full-time job after rejecting her boss' disturbing sexual advances (like luring her to a hotel to grope and kiss her), she found out she had no legal grounds to sue because, as an unpaid intern, she wasn't actually an employee at the company.
In what sounds like a dark satire about worker exploitation, the judge ruled that nothing in the law or the Civil Rights Act actually stops a boss from going all Pepe Le Pew on a subordinate as long as they aren't "technically" their employee. And, funny thing, since most interns don't get a paycheck, then they aren't really part of the company, which basically means that in the corporate world unpaid interns have fewer rights than the office filing cabinet.
At least someone has to prove the cabinet isn't doing its job before they get rid of it.
Sadly, Wang's story wasn't an isolated case. In 1994, a nursing student named Bridget O'Connor sued after the physicians at the hospital where she interned kept informing her that they wanted to play doctor with her. But she, too, was denied on the grounds that she wasn't a full-time employee with benefits, so the other doctors were well within their rights to treat her like an employee "with benefits." A 2007 suit filed by an intern at a chiropractor's office suffered a similar fate in a Washington, D.C., court.
Currently, Oregon is the only state protecting unpaid interns from workplace abuses, meaning that 49 other states still allow you to grab a handful of intern buttock as long as you're also screwing them financially by not paying them.
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"But if you sexually harass anyone, we'll still shit-can your ass."
Seeing as we're currently not dying of an infected paper cut, we don't want to come down too hard on medicine. We're just saying that medicine used to be sort of a dick back in the day. Specifically, the year 1932, when the U.S. Public Health Service and researchers from the Tuskegee Institute gathered 399 black men with syphilis, and instead of curing them or even telling them they were sick, just sort of observed them to see what would happen ... for 40 years.
"No, guys, it's cool. I totally have black ... maids."
And while we wish we could tell you that the days of exploiting disadvantaged groups for medical testing are over, the only thing that's really changed since then is the venue: Modern pharmaceutical companies have taken the mantle of Tuskegee to test out all sorts of new medication across the poorest regions of China, Romania, India, and other areas where the people are unable to read a form or sign it with anything more than an "X." Those and other incredibly lax regulations not only allow giants like Pfizer, Bayer, and Merck to skip informed consent but also conduct tests for potentially fatal side effects of their medication on Alzheimer's patients and little kids.
Think we're exaggerating? Well, in 2008, up to 14 Argentinean infants died while taking an experimental vaccine by GlaxoSmithKline after their parents (some of whom were illiterate) were convinced by doctors to let their children participate. Many didn't even realize it was an experiment, and the local doctors who convinced them were paid $350 for every infant they got into the program. In New Delhi, nearly 50 babies have died after being pumped full of a Keith Richards Special of various drugs meant to treat anything from high blood pressure to neurological disorders.
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"And this one was just labeled with a question mark, so it'll be neat to see what it does!"
What's even more horrible, though, is that these shoddy and often lethal test results are frequently used to get a drug approved in the Western world, and not the country where the people served as guinea pigs. And if you're wondering how in the hell are these companies getting away with killing kids, it's because all official reports basically state that the deaths were a gigantic coincidence and blame them on "the kids being, like, really, really poor." And, as long as pharmaceutical test aren't performed on cute little bunny rabbits, nobody really gives a fuck.