5 Shocking Human Rights Abuses You Don't Expect to See Today
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 ...
The United States Didn't Decriminalize Homosexuality Until 2003
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 Hell, here in the U.S., an increasing number of states have even legalized same-sex marriage, and we've now repealed the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell, don't gay" policy.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.
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States have had anti-sodomy laws on the books for centuries, but around the 1970s, they started getting repealed one by one all across the country.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.
"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.
Sexually Harassing Unpaid Interns Is Still Legal in 49 U.S. States
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.
"But if you sexually harass anyone, we'll still shit-can your ass."
Pharmaceutical Companies Still Use Underprivileged Groups as Guinea Pigs
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.
"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.
Stealing Babies for Profit Continued in Spain Until the 1990s
When Spain exploded into a civil war in 1936, doctors and nuns who supported the Nationalist cause were inspired by its anti-Communist philosophy to save children from the blight of godless "red parents." This meant ripping babies from the arms of mothers deemed unfit due to their political beliefs, and handing them to more deserving individuals, like the kind of people who would gladly accept stolen babies.
"History will bear us out as indisputable protectors of children." -the Catholic Church, 1936
And the government was on their side -- after the fascists under General Francisco Franco came into power in the aftermath of the war, they aided the horrific child thievery with a 1941 law that allowed for changing the babies' last names so they could never be found by their biological parents. The practice continued for decades, until Franco's death in 1975, finally giving Spain a chance to end its sordid history of breaking up families due to misguided political fanaticism ... and instead start doing it for money.
After the fall of Franco's totalitarian regime, a number of nuns, priests, and doctors realized they really liked playing God by deciding which parents get which baby (if any), and so they decided to just keep doing it. Only now, they started asking up to $25,000 for someone else's kid. And why not? They'd been doing it for decades, and the government was doing precisely jack shit to stop them.
They were too busy with the "Campaign to Make Latin America Use Vosotros."
The baby trafficking had continued under the Daughters of Charity, a religious order which seriously needs to invest in a dictionary to look up the word "charity." Armed with their moral conviction that young and unwed mothers shouldn't be allowed to keep their babies, the nuns lurked in maternity wards and systematically kidnapped the new arrivals for the next 20 years, telling the mothers the infants had died. And they kept doing this right up until the 1990s, taking advantage of loopholes in the law that a cynical person might think were written to allow them to do just that.
And in case you thought that baby thievery was the kind of bizarre, outlandish crime that is common only in the world of Lifetime original movies, keep this in mind: Before it was uncovered, the Spanish baby-snatching program had reportedly taken as many as 300,000 kids away from their mothers. And it took more than half a century for anybody to give a shit.
To be fair, they had a lot of TV shows to catch up on.
Eugenics Simply Will Not Die
When you think about eugenics, you probably imagine a stereotypical mad scientist struggling to channel his potent racism into a marketable social policy, which is actually pretty damn awesome. No, not the racism part -- the part where we now think of selective human breeding as cliched, movie villain behavior, and not something that was still being performed in 1977 by a government organization actually called the Eugenics Board. And if you would like to continue thinking that, you'd better stop reading this right now.
Please enjoy this picture of a kitten in lieu of rational, clear-minded discourse.
The sad truth is that right up until the height of the disco era, America was lifeguarding their gene pool by forcefully sterilizing those people who were apparently holding back society from the second Renaissance. People like poor teenagers, epileptics, and young girls deemed to be having a little too much sex than was considered appropriate by the standards of old white men.
Before the 1970s, a total of 32 states had their own eugenics programs, with the Eugenics Board of North Carolina being the most aggressive of the bunch. When N.C. wasn't neutering sexed-up teenagers, their program was also using IQ tests to target those who were considered too slow to raise children. By some bizarre coincidence, the tests tended to put a lot of minorities on the testicle/ovary chopping block. And they were really just a formality -- all that was actually required to designate your genetic material for culling was a social worker's recommendation. From there, the Eugenics Board would work to gently coerce a signature from you or a family member, often not bothering to explain just what you were agreeing to.
"So, I get the first 12 CDs for a penny each ..."
The situation was much the same over in Oregon, which was the last American eugenics program to shut down ... in 1983, also known as the year Michael Jackson taught the world to moonwalk.
But surely it's just a case of crazy, conservative America being the odd man out, right? There's no way somewhere progressive like Europe would keep on using eugenics right up until the modern age! Well, yes, unless of course you're talking about Germany, where until 2011 transgendered people had to be sterilized in order to have their new gender status legally recognized, which was finally overturned in the case of: Human rights vs. We couldn't actually find anyone willing to defend a eugenics program in Germany.
"Probably some verdreckt Frenchman, amirite? Eh? Zis guy knows vhat I'm talking about. Heh." *cough*
Special thanks to Evan V. Symon for helping set up this article.
For more ways politicians completely misunderstand society, check out Everyday Life as Misunderstood by Politicians.
Related Reading: It's incredible the rights people still have to fight for, even the right to sell your own stuff. We're betting you don't know the mind-blowing origin story for the Miranda Rights. And if you find yourself defending gay people's right to marry this article might help.