Ethical issues

1 "SUPPORT REPEAL THE 8TH"

10th May 2018(434th Union Council)

Protected until 10th May 2020

Proposed By: Seagh Kehoe

Primary Officer: Education Officer

Why you are proposing the idea

Pregnant people in Ireland still do not have access to safe and legal abortion. Any individual who procures an abortion within the country risks a 14-year jail term - including the doctor(s) who perform the procedure or assists it. Everyday an approximated 12 people in Ireland will have an abortion – between 9- 10 will travel to the UK whilst 3 will risk a 14-year prison sentence by taking illegal abortion pills. People have already died in Ireland having been denied life-saving abortion procedures – including Savita Halappanavar. Thousands of people are unable to travel for abortion services due to family, legal status, financial situation, health or in abusive relationships. All of this is a result of the 8th amendment in our constitution, which states:

The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

As a result of this amendment, reproductive justice is denied.

In September 2017, the Irish Government announced a referendum to change the country’s laws on abortion. The government has confirmed this will be held on May 25th, 2018. On this day, the people of Ireland will vote to determine whether the 8th Amendment will be repealed.

There are currently 110 Irish citizens registered at the University of Nottingham.1 It is important that these students are supported and encouraged to inform themselves about this debate, to register to vote before May 8th, and to go home to vote on May 25th. The NUS has already expressed support and solidarity with the campaign to repeal the 8th amendment in the Republic of Ireland and have a listed a number of actions member unions can take to support this. I hope that our SU at UoN will work with us (East Midlands Together for Yes) on this. We need free, safe, legal and local abortion access in the Republic of Ireland now. 

What the motion is asking the Students' Union to be mandated to do

We are asking UoN SU to launch a Home to V8te campaign on campus to raise awareness and encourage students to register to vote by May 8th. We also ask UoN SU to set up a travel fund to assist students to get home to vote on May 25th. We also hope UoN SU will help fundraise for Alliance for Choice and the Abortion Support Network. We have an extensive information at hand to provide UoN SU with and are more than happy to work with and advise you on this campaign.

What evidence you have to back up your idea

The UN has ruled numerous times that Ireland’s abortion laws have subjected those women and other pregnant people to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.2 In 2017, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights published a report that singled our Ireland as an  as an example of a country with highly restrictive abortion laws which “can have a broad range of physical, psychological, financial and social impacts on women, with implications for their health and well-being.”3

Who supports your idea / who you have consulted with about it.

Our Head of State Leo Varadkar4 and Minister for Health, Simon Harris, is backing the repeal of the 8th amendment.5 The National Women’s Council of Ireland is campaigning for Yes. As of April 25th, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, which trains and accredits most Irish obstetricians, expressed its support for the repeal of the 8th amendment.6 Adoption Rights Alliance have endorsed a Yes vote. Disability organization Inclusion Ireland is advocating for a Yes vote.7 Our Union of Students in Ireland (USI) is endorsing a Yes vote, and the National Union of Students UK, the National Union of Students Scotland and the National Union of Students Wales are all standing in solidarity with this, too.8 We are also happy to add that Pro-Choice Nottingham also stands in solidarity with our East Midlands Together for Yes.

*East Midlands Together for Yes is made up of Irish citizens studying and working at universities in Nottingham. We are working to inform Irish citizens here in the East Midlands about the 8th amendment, its impact and why it is important to go home to vote Yes on May 25th.

2 "KOSHER FOOD"

29th January 2019(436th Union Council)

Protected until 29th January 2021

Proposed By: Zoe Mackenzie

Primary Officer: Liberation Officer

Second Officer: Community Officer

This Union Notes:

The UJS estimates that there are 1000+Jewish students at the University of Nottingham.

Many Jewish students have specific dietary requirements meaning they can only eat kosher food.

There is currently no kosher food available in halls for students.

Students’ Union retail venues do not stock kosher food.

This Union Believes:

Jewish students should have access to kosher food on campus.

This Union Resolves:

To stock kosher products in its retail venues.

To lobby the University to provide kosher food in halls.

3 "SUPPORT ABORTION LAW REFORM IN NORTHERN IRELAND"

Proposed By: Séagh Kehoe

28th March 2019 (437th Union Council)

Protected Until 28th March 2021

Primary Officer: Equal Opportunities & Welfare

Secondary Officer: Women*’s Officer

Why are you proposing this idea?

I am proposing this idea because I believe the University of Nottingham Students’ Union should play a role in changing and promoting greater awareness about abortion law in Northern Ireland, currently the only country in the United Kingdom where abortion is still illegal.

Northern Ireland has the harshest criminal penalty for abortion anywhere in Europe under laws dating back to the Offences against the Person Act 1861, passed at a time when women did not even yet have the vote. The maximum sentence is life. As a result, abortion is only permitted when there is a risk to the life of the pregnant person, or a serious risk to the pregnant person’s physical or mental health exists. In such an instance, abortion may be accessed through the NHS or a private clinic in Northern Ireland, but that is very rare.9

This law is outdated, ineffective, and inhumane. It does not stop abortion, but only makes it unsafe and more difficult to access. The majority of women and pregnant people seeking an abortion travel to other parts of the UK and now the Republic of Ireland, which overturned its ban on abortion in May 2018. Every week, an average of 28 women and other pregnant people travel abroad from Northern Ireland to access what should simply be considered basic healthcare.10 In 2017, the British government introduced a travel grant for low-income women making this journey,11 but people still need to travel and that is not good enough. Moreover, many are unable to travel for abortion services due to family, legal status, health or in abusive relationships. Abortion simply needs to be available in Northern Ireland.

Forcing anyone to continue their pregnancy against their will amounts to unjustified state-sanctioned violence. The law in Northern Ireland must change. Particularly given the absence of government in Stormont since January 2017, it is the UK’s responsibility to take urgent action by introducing abortion reform legislation without further delay. Your government must ensure that your laws are in line with the state’s international human rights obligations.

We must end the treatment of British and Irish women living in the North of Ireland as second-class citizens, who do not enjoy the same access to healthcare as their counterparts across the UK and the Republic of Ireland. We must all fight for free, safe, legal and local abortion access in Northern Ireland now.

What the motion is asking the Students' Union to be mandated to do?

Despite the severity of the problem and the fact that this is happening within the UK, many people in England (our students included) are not aware that such laws exist in Northern Ireland. If we are to pressure Westminster to act, we need greater public understanding and support for the decriminalisation of abortion.

Building on the campaign that UoN SU launched to support the repeal of the 8th amendment in the Republic of Ireland last year, it is now crucial that we extend the same support to our siblings in Northern Ireland.

This motion mandates our Women’s Officer(s) and President to launch a campaign to create a campaign to call for the decriminalisation of abortion throughout the UK, with particular attention to the inaccessibility of abortion in Northern Ireland. I call on the SU to support the Abortion Support Network (ASN) and other organisations providing financial, emotional and logistical support to individuals who cannot access abortion services in their local area. This support should include promoting fundraisers in aid of the Abortion Support Network and Alliance for Choice. And finally, for the SU to support the NUS-USI ‘Trust Us’ campaign for the decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland and actively engage with NUS-USI to ensure our solidarity is as effective as possible.

What evidence you have to back up your idea?

In 2015, the High Court in Belfast ruled that Northern Ireland’s law on abortion was not compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights - specifically as it lacks provision for cases of fatal foetal abnormality, or where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.12 In June 2018, the UK Supreme Court found the law to breach the European Convention on Human Rights.13 Moreover, in February 2018, officials from a UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women concluded from a confidential inquiry that “the situation in Northern Ireland constitutes violence against women that may amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.” They noted that the “denial of abortion and criminalisation of abortion amounts to discrimination against women because it is a denial of a service that only women need. And it puts women in horrific situations.”14

Who supports your idea / who you have consulted with about it?

Alongside support from your own Supreme Court and the UN, there have also been growing calls across Ireland and the UK for a change in the law, particularly after a referendum in the Republic of Ireland. A YouGov poll carried out in October 2018 found that 75 per cent of people in Northern Ireland want the abortion law to change, with 65 per cent agreeing that abortion should not be a crime. Moreover, in the absence of the Northern Ireland Assembly, 66 per cent of people thought that Westminster should legislate to reform the law.15 That same month, the NUS-USI also began their campaign Trust Us, which calls on Westminster to legislate for free, safe, legal and local abortion services in Northern Ireland immediately. They are campaigning for the decriminalisation of abortion in the North of Ireland and not the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act.16 Moreover, just last week, Amnesty International handed in a petition with over 62,000 names to the UK government calling for urgent action on Northern Ireland’s ban on abortion.17 We are also happy to add that Alliance for Choice, an activist organisation that campaigns for abortion rights in Northern Ireland, and the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign, a London-based group that campaigns for access to free, safe, legal abortion across the island of Ireland, both support our motion, as do the UoN Amnesty Society.

4 "STAND IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE UYGHUR PEOPLE AND CALL FOR THE ABOLISHMENT OF ‘RE-EDUCATION’ CAMPS IN CHINA"

Proposed By: Séagh Kehoe

28th March 2019 (437th Union Council)

Protected Until 28th March 2021

Primary Officer: Union Development Officer

Secondary Officer: All Officers

Why are you proposing this idea?

I am proposing this idea because I believe the University of Nottingham Students’ Union has an important role to play in promoting greater awareness among our student body about the mass detention of Uyghur people and other Muslim minorities in the northwest of China. We students also have a duty to call for the immediate cessation of these abuses and to hold our University to account for inviting and honouring those who support China’s unprecedented crackdown on the Uyghur people and other Muslim minorities.

The Uyghurs are Turkic-speaking Muslims from the Central Asian region. The largest population live in China’s autonomous Xinjiang region, in the country’s northwest. The Uyghurs are one of several persecuted Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.

Since 2001 Beijing has adopted the discourse of Global War on Terror to recast the Uyghur ethnic group as a terrorist collective. This has allowed Beijing to justify its transformation of Xinjiang into a surveillance state.18 These years have also seen a marked rise of Islamophobia across China.19

In the past year and a half, over 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been rounded up by Chinese police and detained against their will in large internment camps under the guise of combating religious “extremism”. Within these “re-education” camps, people have been subjected to arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture and other serious human rights violations. The camps essentially function as open-air prisons, where detainees are forced to undergo political indoctrination classes aimed at eroding their unique religious, cultural and ethnic identities.20

Uyghurs have long been the victims of pervasive discrimination, religious repression, and cultural suppression under Chinese rule. They are now accused of harbouring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas. People have been detained for the most benign manifestations of faith, such as wearing headscarves, growing “abnormal” beards and reading the Quran.21

The arbitrary detention of over one million people marks a dramatic increase in China’s oppression of the Uyghur population and the scale and gravity of this act amounts to a crime against humanity.

As students at the University of Nottingham, a university with a campus in China, we must use our position and influence to speak out against these injustices. We must ensure our student body is aware of what is happening and publically call for the immediate abolishment of these camps. We must also call on our University to stop inviting and honouring those who publicly support the draconian measures being taken by the Chinese state against Uyghur people and other Muslim minorities. Just last year, for example, the University chose to give an given an honorary degree to the Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming, a man who has repeatedly justified the use of ‘re-education’ camps as ‘lawful and effective preventive measures.’22 UoN’s Centre for Conflict Security & Terrorism have also previously invited Guo Yongliang, from the People's Armed Police Academy's Dept of Border Defence, as a visiting scholar. Guo is another outspoken supporter of the state’s ‘counter-terrorism’ measures and the use of ‘re-education’ camps.23 Inviting these defenders and supporters of state violence and state terror only serves to bolster and lend credibility to the Chinese state in their persecution of Uyghur and Muslim minority peoples. This requires urgent action.

What the motion is asking the Students' Union to be mandated to do?

This motion mandates the International Officer to launch a campaign to generate awareness across our university about what is happening in the northwest of China, to issue a statement of solidarity with the Uyghurs and other Muslim minority peoples, and to call for the immediate abolishment of the “transformation through education” detention system and release of all Uyghur and other detainees. It also asks the SU to stop UoN inviting those who actively support and defend the arbitrary detention of Uyghur and other Muslim minority people.

What evidence you have to back up your idea?

Scholars have used forensic analysis of government procurement documents and satellite imagery to reveal the scale and nature of China’s mass detention program.24 On this basis, some leading scholars have estimated that more than 10 per cent of the adult Uyghur population, or about one million people, are involuntarily detained without legal recourse in up to 1,200 camps.25

In October 2018, after more than a year of denying the existence of political “re-education camps” in northwest China, the Chinese authorities finally acknowledged their existence. They have since embarked on a publicity campaign to justify the camps to the international community as protecting the country from terrorism and providing ‘vocational training’ for Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.26

Reports from eyewitnesses describe malnourishment and severe psychological distress among the detainees. Some reports note that detainees have been forcibly given psychiatric drugs. In other cases, shoelaces and belts are confiscated, due to the prevalence of self-harm and suicide. Those who do not fully participate in political re-education are often subjected to beatings, solitary confinement, and forms of religious and psychological violation. There have been numerous reports of deaths in the centres, particularly among the elderly and infirm, but also of younger people who were in good health when they were taken. While there are frequent reports of more people entering the camps, there are very few reports of those being released.27

Some former detainees have also shared their stories. In November 2018, Uyghur woman and mother of three, Mihrigul Tursun, testified before the United States Congressional-Executive Commission on China about her harrowing experience over a series of three internments during which time she was tortured and suffered sleep deprivation and electrocution in a “tiger chair.”28 Amnesty had reports from other former detainees who said they were forced to attend political re-education lessons and sing political songs. Previous reports have said Muslims were forced to denounce Islam and swear loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party, in addition to being forced to eat pork and drink alcohol – acts forbidden by their religion.29

Who supports your idea / who you have consulted with about it?

China is facing mounting pressure from the international community to account for its policies against the Uyghur people and other Muslim minorities. In August 2018, a United Nations human rights panel said that it had received many credible reports that one million ethnic Uighurs in China are held in what resembles a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy.”30 Scholars at Risk, an international network of institutions and individuals whose mission it is to protect scholars and promote academic freedom, have repeatedly called for the release of all Uyghur and Muslim minority scholars arbitrarily detained in political indoctrination facilities.31Leading scholars in Chinese and Uyghur Studies have written numerous op-eds in leading media outlets condemning the ‘re-education’ camps,32 as well as broader instances of state oppression across Uyghur society.33 In November 2018, scholars from around the world signed on to a statement forcefully condemning the mass internment of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim minorities in the northwest of China (signatures now total 646 from 40 countries).34 That same month, l'Université libre de Bruxelles issued a statement in solidarity with detained Uyghur scholars, demanded their release, and called on other universities to break the silence.35 More recently, in March 2019, United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called on China to allow international monitors access to the region to verify reports of arbitrary detentions in the camps.36 Amnesty International have also voiced their concerns, arguing that mass ‘re-education’ camps are being run like “wartime concentration camps,”37 and have called on the UN to act to end the mass detention of Uyghur people and other Muslim minorities.38

5 "MODERN SLAVERY"

Proposed By: Amelia Watkins-Smith

7th November 2019 (439th Union Council)

Protected Until 7th November 2021

Primary Officer: Union Development Officer

Secondary Officer/s: Liberation Officer, Welfare & Wellbeing Officer

Union Council notes:

  • The Global Estimates of Modern Slavery reported 40.3 million victims of modern slavery in 2016 (International Labour Organisation and Walk Free Foundation, 2017 p.9)39.
  • Police intelligence suggests that modern slavery is prevalent in every local authority in Nottinghamshire.
  • The United Nations (2019 [2016])40 have established the goal to end modern slavery and human trafficking by 2030 per Sustainable Development Goal 8.7.
  • The British government implemented the Modern Slavery Act in 2015 and has established the first modern slavery government task force (Home Office, 2019) 41.
  • The Rights Lab - a University of Nottingham Beacon of Excellence - is the world-leading research platform to ending slavery and works closely with global policy-makers, NGOs, governments, businesses, and the United Nations (see University of Nottingham, 2019)42.
  • University of Nottingham students are engaged in the contemporary anti-slavery movement. Last year the Nottingham Reading Programme gifted every first-year student a contemporary slavery narrative that acted as a catalyst to a year-long programme of events that engaged over 2000 students, staff, and members of the public in the issue of modern slavery.

Union Council believes:

  • Modern slavery is a gross violation of a person’s human rights and creates harm in our global and local communities.
  • There is a social responsibility to engage with the growing anti-slavery movement and to ensure our Union is resilient to the issue.
  • The Union has a duty to protect its members, especially those who may be vulnerable, from labour exploitation as this may evolve into conditions of modern slavery which can cause extreme distress and harm to a students’ wellbeing and education.

Union Council resolves:

  • University of Nottingham Students’ Union shall be an anti-slavery institution.
  • The Union shall stand in solidarity with victims of modern slavery in the global struggle for emancipation.
  • The Union will launch an investigation to examine its supply chains for instances of modern slavery and will aim to address, and where appropriate eradicate, these instances.
  • The Union will consider how the issue of modern slavery can be included in ethical guidelines for suppliers.
  • The Union will commit to marking anti-slavery day (18th October) with an annual awareness-raising campaign, with awareness of Black History Month and relevant consultation.
  • The Union will ensure its staff are appropriately trained in signposting and support for vulnerable students specifically with regard to issues of modern slavery.
  • The Union shall work with the Rights Lab, where appropriate, to ensure that it is undertaking the above resolves in an expertly informed way.

6 "SUPPORT DECRIMINALISATION OF HOMOSEXUALITY IN THE COMMONWEALTH"

Proposed By: Ibtisam Ahmed

19th November 2020 (441st Union Council)

Protected Until 19th November 2022

Primary Officer: LGBT+ Officer, International Officer

Secondary Officer: Liberation Officer, BME Officer

This Union Notes:

  • The University of Nottingham has a large international student body and multiple campuses, including a campus that is based in a Commonwealth country (Malaysia).
  • The history of homosexuality being criminalised in the Commonwealth is linked with British history, making this relevant for an HE institution in the UK; specifically, that the majority of Commonwealth nations have criminalised homosexuality as a direct result of British colonial policy.43
  • The campaign to decriminalise homosexuality in the Commonwealth is an active campaign, nationally and internationally, and has been brought up in news articles as recently as March 2020.44
  • The campaign already has a history within the city of Nottingham, including being a focus of Nottinghamshire Pride in 2017.45
  • Kaleidoscope Trust46 and the Commonwealth Equality Network,47 the main bodies involved with the campaign, are keen to have visible support from a diverse range of bodies (including Students’ Unions) to bolster the campaign.48 The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Global LGBT+ Rights is keen to have constituents in the UK engage with these issues as well.
  • This campaign feeds directly into attempts to decolonise university campuses, which is a focus that the Union has acknowledged in several motions in the past. The Union also has a history of supporting rights-based and humanitarian motions.
  • The campaign has achieved success in creating cross-community solidarity, such as with refugee and asylum seeker support groups, and women’s rights groups.49
  • Following the 2016 Brexit vote and its impact on LGBT+ rights,50 the Government has stated that they want to strengthen links with the Commonwealth, including in education and rights; both are relevant areas for students in the university.
  • That LGBT+ students often discover and explore their identities at university, and there needs to be an understanding of various ways these identities are shaped and affected.
  • That there is a strong connection between a lack of understanding of these histories and campaigns, and the increase in racism and other forms of prejudice (such as ableism) in LGBT+ spaces.
  • That there needs to be a much deeper understanding of the interconnected nature of how specific support is needed for QTIPOC (queer, trans, intersex people of colour) students.

This Union Believes:

  • That the University of Nottingham Students’ Union and the University of Nottingham have a responsibility in helping vulnerable students from areas where homosexuality is forbidden, and punishable by law.
  • That this duty of care extends to fostering an environment where information is made available not just to the students affected by these laws, but students at the university more broadly.
  • That the Students’ Union should lobby the University of Nottingham to work with charitable organisations and official bodies to campaign for the decriminalisation of homosexuality across the Commonwealth.

This Union Resolves:

  • To work with the existing Officers and Networks to launch a campaign for both awareness of the existing campaigns to decriminalise homosexuality in the Commonwealth, and to actively create a UoNSU campaign for decriminalisation across the Commonwealth.
  • As well as this, to work collaboratively across Networks on these campaigns, noting that they intersect on several existing campaigns (such as the Decolonisation of the Curriculum).
  • For the Students’ Union to support, and to call on the University of Nottingham to support organisations like the Kaleidoscope Trust and Commonwealth Equality Network.
  • To create a safe space for students from affected jurisdictions in the Commonwealth who are discovering their identity at University, and to provide or signpost support for them.
  • To highlight the campaign to decriminalise homosexuality during relevant periods like Commonwealth Day, LGBT+ History Month and International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDaHoBiT).
  • To collaborate with national, ethnic and religious Students’ Union societies that represent students from the Commonwealth in order to create more platforms for engagement and learning on this issue.
  • To provide or signpost educational resources or support for all students in order to foster an environment that is consistent with collaborative learning and cross-community support.
  • To work towards collaborating with the Nottingham Trent University Students’ Union to build this campaign more broadly across the city and its international student population.

Who have you consulted on your policy?

The following groups have all expressed support and encouragement for this campaign, including verbal assurances of formal support from some groups (indicated below):

  • The current Liberation Officer, Sam Hawkins (formal support)
  • The 19/20 academic year BME Officers, Omolade Osinaike and Bridget Mohammed (formal support)
  • The 19/20 academic year International Officer, Denis Lelin
  • The 19/20 academic year SU President, James Pheasey (briefly, formal support)
  • The 19/20 academic year Equal Opportunities and Welfare Officer, Myles Smith-Thompson (briefly)
  • The NUS Disabled Students’ Officer as well as other members of the network, including UoN alumni (formal support)
  • Various members of the Kaleidoscope Trust campaigns team, including Alexander Leon and Jesse Sperling (formal support)
  • Liaison to the APPG on Global LGBT+ Rights, Anna Robinson (formal support)
  • LGBT+ Officers (or equivalents) at Students’ Unions at Nottingham Trent University, the University of Loughborough, and the University of Leicester
  • Various academics at the university, including support from the Centre for Research in Race and Rights (formal support)
  • Local LGBT+ activist groups, including QTIPOC Notts, Nottinghamshire Pride, and Notts Trans Hub (formal support)
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