All Human Rights are Equal, Someone Tell the State Department


The State Department has recently set up a “Commission on Inalienable Rights” that worries reproductive rights advocates, LGBTQ+ advocates, and human rights advocates. Amanda Klasing, acting Co-Director of the Women’s Rights Division with the Human Rights Watch, and Tarah Demant, Director of the Gender, Sexuality, and Identity program with Amnesty International USA sit down to talk with us about why we should be worried about the State Department’s new commission.

Human rights are part of an international, legal framework. Human rights are inalienable, meaning that they cannot be taken away from you. Human rights were agreed upon by UN member states that were followed up by binding treaties signed by multiple countries. It cannot be up to one presidential administration to decide what constitutes human rights. Once the human rights of already marginalized communities and groups (women, ethnic and religious minorities, LGBTQ+ communities, indigenous folks, and more) are nullified, they become even more vulnerable to violence, repression, and being silenced.

The “Commission on Inalienable Rights” is a State Department commission that is set to re-examine human rights standards in a “get-back-to-basics” lens. This commission will likely make changes to major human rights documents by chipping away at fundamental human rights definitions and framework. This is a parallel structure outside of pre-existing human rights-based structure within the State Department, and it will not have the same oversight. Those that have been appointed to the commission are those who have negative track records on issues like LGBTQ+ marriage, reproductive health, and torture. Already since the announcement of the commission, several Congresspeople and Senators have attempted to implement anti-human rights language into legislation, including terms like “natural rights,” rather than “human rights.”

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