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Safeguarding human rights during the coronavirus response - new projects from Warwick Law

Sharifah Sekalala, Associate Professor in Warwick School of Law, will be taking on two significant projects aimed at ensuring that human rights don’t get eroded in the national and international response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Supported by funding from the University of Warwick’s ESRC Impact Acceleration Account, Dr Sekalala will lead a project scrutinising the emergency laws introduced in the UK and around the world in response to COVID-19. The project team will submit evidence to the UK Parliament’s Joint Select Committee on Human Rights, which has announced an inquiry into COVID-19 and human rights, and also write a global human rights impact assessment on global emergency laws for the World Health Organisation Bulletin which is read by public health officials, legal counsels and policy makers.

Dr Sekalala will also write a series of blog posts and briefings aimed at helping the general public understand the social and legal impact of the crisis.

One of the first of these has been published by the Warwick Interdisciplinary Research Centre for International Development (WICID). In the current post of the “Think Development” blog, Dr Sekalala explores the “serious and structural gendered inequities in healthcare” highlighted by both the coronavirus pandemic and the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

She argues: “We use the language of heroism to obscure; the very nature of the ‘hero’ identity requires that only a few people can be identified as such, and those that do meet the criteria require self-sacrifice in order to do so. In reality, both in the UK and globally, the group of people who provide care is much bigger. At the bottom are people who we have severely oppressed, and we owe it to these carers to move beyond the metaphors, and to examine and document the experiences of the categories of carers in the COVID-19 crisis if we are to remove the structural barriers to caring for them.”

Dr Sekalala is an expert on the relationship between law, global health, and human rights. In 2019 she served as the only lawyer on the Nuffield Council on Bioethics working group on global health emergencies, advising on the ethics of medical research during pandemics.

The working group’s report was published in January 2020 just as the first reports of a new virus in Wuhan were emerging. She is now focused on COVID-19 and the potential for people’s human rights to be unintentionally or inadvertently breached as a result of the international response to the pandemic.

10 June 2020

 

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