WILPF member Dorothy Rupert cares passionately about human rights, health care, families and public schools. Rupert was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives in 1987, followed by eight years in the state Senate before term-limits ended her legislative role in 2001. Before entering electoral politics she was a high school teacher and counselor. Always embracing young people, the course Rupert teaches at the University of Colorado, Boulder, "Civic Engagement: Using Democracy as a Tool for Social Change," is open to both high school and university students. Rupert was one of the 1,000 Women for Peace nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.
Q: What are the most important human rights issues in the U. S.?
A: As a legislator I always worked on two issues, abolishing the death penalty and ending corporal punishment in schools. How are we ever going to address violence if the state allows violence against human beings? The most pressing issue is violence against each other, to the environment and to other peoples in the world, without a critical look as citizens, and the press going along with it, not awakening us to what is really going on. One of the worst examples besides war and initiating war, is the way we are treating prisoners in 30-40 installations around the world and in our prison system at home. We cannot live together and belong to each other as long as we know that things like this go on. The cultivation of fear must be confronted.
Q: What can be done in state legislatures to advance human rights?
A: Introduce legislation looking at how CEDAW would apply as state law. Require analysis and a statement with every piece of legislation of what the human rights impact will be. People say the process would be expensive. How much does not knowing what we're doing cost? Reform the prison system to stop the flow of money spent on the degradation and loss of humanity for us all. Human rights awareness can help frame political choices as moral issues, which trump pocketbook issues with voters every time.
Q: How did you, as a Colorado legislator, relate to human rights?
A: I introduced a bill mandating that a Child Impact Statement accompany every piece of legislation presented. Another, to shed light on state budget decisions, would have required data...