Human Rights

June 6, 2007

The following are excerpts from the 2006 Hate Incidents Report from the Bloomington Human Rights Commission.

  • In July 2005, we received a report that someone had scratched a vehicle and keyed the word "fag" on the car door.

  • In July 2005, we received a report from BPD that someone had used lipstick to write "father/son" and "fag" on the front door of a residence.

  • In September 2005, we received a report from an individual that someone had painted anti-gay language at a Greek house, saying that members of the organization "lick ass holes" and that "faggots rush it."

May 9, 2007

Are hate crimes legislation and protections really necessary, or are they just another tiresome demand born of the homosexual agenda (whatever that is!)? Is torturing and beating someone, possibly to death, simply because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender more significant than the same crime committed in a personal conflict, family feud or a burglary gone wrong?

We believe it is, because intent as a motivating factor in behavior matters, and the rehabilitation (oops punishment) should fit the crime. While we find it ironic that there has to be a debate about protecting a group of citizens, it's even more ironic that there are those who dismiss attacks upon individuals based upon gender identity or relational commitments as just another crime.

Hate crimes, or those crimes committed against a certain group or individual because of race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, philosophy or sexual or gender identity are real and on the increase.

April 11, 2007

We frequently hear reference made to “queer culture” and wonder if there really is such an entity as a separate culture? Is there in fact a neat, tidy little box that all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer people fit into?

It is our contention that there is not such a convenient little box and that the “queer community" consists of individuals reflective of our larger culture, with the only common denominator being an attraction to individuals of the same sex or even both sexes.

(But then that is in itself a restrictive definition and perhaps misrepresentative when one considers the sometimes complex fluidity of gender. However, we will leave that aspect to a different discussion).

March 28, 2007

With its friendly atmosphere and great food, the Bloomington Bagel Company (BBC) is a good place for anyone in Bloomington to get together and catch up with friends.

And that’s just what a group of local gays and lesbians do one Friday night each month.

Daniel Coleman, the program coordinator of IU Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) office at IU, said the BBC’s owner not only allows her place of business to be a gathering place for the monthly social hour, she provides free food and drink to anyone who comes.

March 11, 2007

Oolitic wasn't where they'd planned to go. But in the summer of 1980, geologist Unni Rowell was fairly new to Bloomington. With her two daughters in town for a visit, she thought an excursion to see the impressive limestone quarries in Lawrence County would be fun.

So they drove toward Bedford on a Sunday morning, saw the exit to Oolitic and decided spontaneously to check out the active quarry there.

Downtown Oolitic was nearly deserted, except for a friendly young man who approached to ask if he could help. Learning of their interest, he gave the three fair-haired, fair-skinned women an impromptu, well-informed tour and historical overview of the quarry.

"As we got ready to leave," Unni recalls, "I said, 'Oolitic looks like a very nice town.' The young man pulled himself up, poised and proud, and said, 'Do you know why it's a nice town? There ain't no niggers here.'"

March 11, 2007

OUT in Bloomingon

A few weeks ago an article crossed our desktop that referenced the term 'negrophobia' (negro = black, phobia = fear, hence fear of blacks) in the context of a discussion about the roots of racism.

Now this was a term that we hadn't thought about since Sociology 101 in college years ago but nevertheless reminded us of the study of how propaganda based upon economic self interest can create an atmosphere of racism and discrimination through fear.

Although it may seem silly and irrelevant in this day and age to think that someone would fear another based upon skin color, the fact is that such fears do still exist and are serious impediments to intercultural and intracultural harmony on both national and international levels.

A phobia created around or directed toward a group of individuals not only prevents them from fully participating in their society, but because they are singled out as 'inferior" or "unworthy," group members internalize society's definition and eventually believe themselves to be unworthy and inferior.

March 11, 2007

Human Rights Watch

(New York, March 7, 2007) — Girls the world over confront an alarming array of threats to their safety, including physical and sexual violence in their schools, places of work and in detention facilities, said Human Rights Watch today, in advance of International Women's Day on March 8. Governments have largely failed to implement key measures preventing and responding to these abuses.

Human Rights Watch recently released three background papers summarizing research on violence against girls: "Violence against Schoolgirls;" "Violence against Child Domestic Workers;" and "Violence against Girls in Conflict with the Law." These reports are based on Human Rights Watch investigations in 15 countries, including: Afghanistan; Brazil; the Democratic Republic of Congo; Egypt; El Salvador; Guatemala; Indonesia; Iraq; Malaysia; Morocco; Papua New Guinea; South Africa; Togo; the United States; and Zambia.

"Girls are at risk of violence on the streets, in schools, at home, where they work, and in government institutions," said Jo Becker, advocacy director for Human Rights Watch's children's rights division. "In far too many cases, girls are betrayed by the very individuals who are supposed to protect them — guardians, teachers, employers and the police."

February 25, 2007

After four suicides and multiple self-mutilations occurred at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility within a two-year span, the ACLU of Indiana filed a complaint in February 2005 challenging the constitutionality of housing mentally ill inmates in long-term solitary confinement units.

The Secure Housing Units (SHU) are used to house prisoners in disciplinary or administrative segregation for prolonged periods. Prisoners in SHU are forced into solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, allowed only an hour for showers and recreation, if weather permits.

Contact with the outside world is kept to a minimum. And personal items allowed in cells, such as photographs, letters, and reading materials, are limited.

"It's a steel box," said Rev. Bill Breeden of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington and an eight-year volunteer at the Wabash prison. "Those cells are inhumane."

February 11, 2007

Talking about your personal life to a room full of strangers is no easy task, but Jim and Karla Buchanan are prepared to do it. In fact, they're going to take the challenge one step further. They're going to talk about living with a mental illness.

As the speakers for the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) "In Our Own Voice" program on Feb. 19, on the IU campus, Jim and Karla will talk about their personal experiences dealing with mental health disorders.

The program, open to anyone in the IU and Bloomington community, will also include a short video segment and a question and answer section for each topic addressed, which will range from their discussion of "dark days" to medication and treatment.

"It's a chance for people to get a new perspective," said Karla, who works for NAMI as the coordinator for the "In Our Own Voice" presentations.

January 14, 2007

Human Rights Watch

According to a new Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report, about half of the jail and prison population in the United States—1,254,800 men and women—has a mental health problem. The figure is staggering, but not surprising.

It testifies to the persistent failure of the state and federal governments to stem the tide of the mentally ill swept into the criminal justice system. It also testifies to public ignorance—or is it deliberate indifference?—to the tragedy of putting the mentally ill behind bars.

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