Working remote is certainly a challenge. Add in a seven-hour time difference, a global pandemic, a trip to the emergency room, and subsequent surgery and you have a constant uphill battle.
My internship hit the ground running. After the initial week of introductions and learning the mission of the organization, the other interns and myself were thrown headfirst into research assignments. Each week we work with a new thematic area within the organization. The thematic lead sends us a briefing document on the research issues they wish to address and then we are given a schedule of dates and timelines for submissions. We are responsible for submitting an initial outline of our research, a first draft, and then a final draft of our research memorandums. We are also responsible for biweekly internal reports on the intricacies of our assignments wherein we describe exactly how we conducted research.
For my first assignment, I worked with the Violence Against Women (VAW) thematic area. This assignment focused on the necessities for mandatory minimum sentencings in crimes against women. The first assignment was difficult both because I had never truly conducted international research and because the law was not on our side. ISLA, working on an appeal, needed a memo that supports mandated minimum sentencings. However, most international law is currently moving away from this practice, in favor of a hybrid system of judicial discretion and judicial guidelines. The purported reasoning for such a change is to ensure proportionality in sentencings and allow for leniency where mitigating circumstances exist. I, however, had to argue that minimum sentencings are necessary in cases of violence against women and provide circumstances wherein mitigated factors would be appropriate.
However, in the midst of my first research assignment, I suffered extreme stomach pains. I was in severe pain for three days before my mother finally forced me to go to the ER. I was rushed to triage, underwent a cat scan, and was finally diagnosed with a ruptured appendix. I was told I needed emergent surgery to prevent sepsis in my body. Surgery is scary under any circumstances, but in the context of COVID-19, I was terrified. Due to the growing number of cases in my hometown, patients were not able to have visitors other than one hour a day during the permitted time. Thus, I would be undergoing surgery and recovery all on my own. I count my blessing though because luckily my mom was able to be there throughout the ER visit, a luxury which was not afforded to other patients the week prior to my surgery or the week after my surgery. If I had to undergo surgery at least it happened when the hospitals had relaxed some of the requirements. Due to the nature of my ruptured appendix, I ended up being incapacitated for a full week. Three days deathly ill and three days recovering in the hospital. Even when I came home I couldn’t get straight back to work because sitting up straight would cause incision pain and I suffered from extreme fatigue. Luckily, however, I communicated with my internship coordinators and they were very kind in granting me extensions. I ended up pushing all of my deadlines out a week and rushing to complete them in accordance with my new deadlines—once I felt healed enough to start working again.
I finished my first research assignment finding mandatory sentencings appropriate in cases of violence against women due to the severe nature of the crime and the frequency of judicial and cultural biases in sentencings of sexual perpetrators. I was then given my second assignment, working for the Women’s Social and Economic Resources (WSER) theme. This assignment focused on the issue of locus standi, or standing in the courts, as a deterrence to the accessibility of justice. On this assignment, I found the research was much easier as I had learned my favorite sources and how to better conduct international research through my first assignment. For that assignment, I focused on the evolution of locus standi and how it has evolved to give greater leniency in cases of human rights and the public interest. I further evaluated the doctrine as a hindrance to justice and gave a recommendation to the court regarding how to handle standing objections. Both of these assignments will be used by the thematic leads in developing strategic litigation for their individual cases. I feel grateful to be contributing to the advancement of women’s human rights, even remotely.
I am now working on my third assignment and will likely complete two more before the end of my internship. While, this summer has been one filled with challenges it has also opened my eyes to my own capabilities—a strong work ethic and the ability to overcome. I am thankful for this opportunity and have found my legal writing abilities have vastly improved. Writing twenty paged memos in a day will definitely do that! Furthermore, while working remotely was not my ideal plan, I am grateful to have been in the comfort of my own home and around family during my health issues! I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and maybe this was my reason.
Grateful to be feeling much better and enjoying the views of my hometown from above!