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Civil Rights of Hunger Strikers 
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Post Civil Rights of Hunger Strikers
I recently watched Iron Jawed Angels, a retelling of Alice Paul's and Lucy Burns's suffrage efforts, starring Hilary Swank and Frances O'Connor. One of the most poignant scenes in the film is the forced feeding some of the incarcerated women were subjected to, while on hunger strike. Do you think it violates civil rights to force feed people who choose not to eat as an act of political and/or ideological dissidence? A particularly contemporary issue, when considering accounts of forced feeding at Guantanamo Bay.

[I know I could (should?) have placed this in Current Events, but I have a reason for sticking it in Arts/Entertainment



Fri Oct 26, 2007 1:09 am
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I think just about any answer to that question should be conditioned by our responses to another question: Is it a violation of a person's rights to be force fed when they choose not to eat for wholly personal reasons? In other words, does political motivation change the degree to which forcing a person to eat is justified?



Fri Oct 26, 2007 3:44 am
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Mad wrote:
Is it a violation of a person's rights to be force fed when they choose not to eat for wholly personal reasons?


Yes, of course. I was thinking of hunger strikes in the context of political resistance. However, I didn't mean to limit it to that context. I know some fathers endure hunger strikes to resist court-ordered, custody removal of their children, which could be considered more personal than political in many ways.

What I would prefer not to do, however, is mire this discussion into talk of the fasting associated with anorexia nervosa, and general body image issues and/or disorders.



Fri Oct 26, 2007 11:10 am
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No, I wouldn't want to blur the line between hunger as a deliberate, responsible action and hunger as the result of a nervous or neurotic condition. All I meant to say was that, if it's wrong to force a person to eat in a non-political situation, then I don't see any particular reason to suppose that the mere addition of politics to the situation makes it any less wrong. And since, barring intervention in a circumstance of psychological crisis, I don't think it's okay to force feed people who are deliberately starving themselves for personal reasons, I suppose my answer would have to be that it's no more proper to do so when their hunger strike is politically motivated.

The next question that occurs to me would be, how effective would hunger strikes be if there wasn't an oppressive force demonstrating its injustice by force feeding the strikers? I doubt it would altogether destroy the effectiveness of the tactic, but I do think hunger strikes become more potent as statements of helplessness when the opposing institution opposes them by force.



Fri Oct 26, 2007 2:23 pm
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Mad wrote:
...how effective would hunger strikes be if there wasn't an oppressive force demonstrating its injustice by force feeding the strikers?


I dunno, corpses on the state's hands wouldn't be good either. I think it is a pretty powerful statement,all on its own, when people are willing to die in such a deliberate, painstaking way for their cause, whatever it may be. And, though forced feeding makes for a dramatic demonstration between oppressor and oppressed, funerals have a pageantry of their own.



Fri Oct 26, 2007 6:19 pm
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irishrose wrote:
Mad wrote:
...how effective would hunger strikes be if there wasn't an oppressive force demonstrating its injustice by force feeding the strikers?


I dunno, corpses on the state's hands wouldn't be good either. I think it is a pretty powerful statement,all on its own, when people are willing to die in such a deliberate, painstaking way for their cause, whatever it may be. And, though forced feeding makes for a dramatic demonstration between oppressor and oppressed, funerals have a pageantry of their own.


I agree force-feeding people for any reason is a violation of their civil rights as a general proposition. I'm sure I could think of an example in which that might not be the case, but it would be a rare exception to the rule.

As to the efficacy of hunger strikes in the absence of such efforts, I think Gandhi gave a pretty good demonstration that hunger strikes could be used to good effect, even without the threat of force feeding by the state. I also seem to recall some folks in the civil rights movement of the 1960s using hunger strikes as a way to exert political pressure, even though they weren't themselves incarcerated and were in no danger of force feeding. However, I can't recall the names of the people involved, and I may be misremembering the circumstances.

George


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Sat Oct 27, 2007 1:04 pm
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If one isn't incarcerated, is there really no danger of force feeding? Say a group of people started a hunger strike in solidarity with the hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay, would the state let them die in protest? Or would there be efforts at declaring guardianship



Tue Oct 30, 2007 5:09 pm
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