Sophomore Seminars

Human Rights and Health

This seminar is an introduction to issues in human rights and health. We will begin with a history of human rights law pertaining to health, then explore the breadth of issues covered under these laws. We will have interactive guest lectures by experts on a range of topics that may include health status of refugees and internally displaced persons; child labor; trafficking in women and children; torture; poverty, the environment, and health; access to clean water; domestic violence and sexual assault; and international availability of pharmaceuticals. We will review international conventions on human rights as background for social and political changes that could improve the health of groups and individuals. You may have opportunities to observe at sites where human rights and health are daily issues. These opportunities may include observing a medical evaluation of a political asylum seeker who was tortured, attending immigration court to observe an asylum case, or attending family court to observe a domestic violence case. These experiences will require student initiative in scheduling and travel.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Ami Laws

Ami Laws

Ami Laws is an associate professor of medicine who has worked in the area of interpersonal violence and health for almost 20 years, including three years as medical director at Survivors International (SI) in San Francisco, a resource and treatment center for victims of torture. At SI, Professor Laws conducted forensic medical evaluations for hundreds of persons applying for political asylum on the basis of torture. She works with immigration attorneys on torture cases and frequently testifies in court as an expert witness. Professor Laws' 1997 survey of over 200 Sikh men and women in Punjab, India, who reported torture or other human rights violations by police during periods of unrest, was published in the journal Health and Human Rights. She conducts scholarly and clinical work on the medical problems of women who were sexually assaulted in childhood, and serves on the Santa Clara County Domestic Violence Council Professional Subcommittee. Professor Laws frequently lectures to health care professionals on domestic violence, sexual abuse, and their relation to chronic medical problems.