Human Rights Syllabi: Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley
Spring 2002 - Ternopil
International violence against women happens in different contexts
and cultures world-wide, and second; that the international study of these problems
reveals the complicity and systematic toleration of violence against women by
governments all over the world. International collaboration on addressing violence
against women is crucial in building effective, wide-ranging responses that
can strengthen women's rights wherever they may live. From girls seeking educational
opportunities from the recently overthrown Taliban, to female infants snuffed
out pre-natally, to girls whose genitals are mutilated, to women forced into
survival sex that kills them, women and girls are subject globally to an intolerable
amount of debilitating violence. The goal of this course is to increase awareness
of these issues, and to formulate collaborative thinking on solutions. How do
we answer claims that acts that constitute violence against women have cultural
significance and sanction in other societies? How is the international women's
rights movement different from the global human rights movement? What role does
international law play in securing rights for women across borders? Does the
current construct of international law do enough for women's rights internationally?
How can groups work better transitionally, transculturally, to eliminate violence
against women? Representative issues of some of the most pressing and vivid
examples of violence against women will be discussed. After reviewing the issues
presented and choosing one, or one not listed here prepare a short report describing
the issue and recommendations for addressing the problem.
How much of a role do politics and economics play in shaping women's opportunities and entrenching violence against women ? How should we consider more generalized problems of political or economic disenfranchisement disenfranchisement of women in the context of fighting violence against women?
The Universality of the Human Rights of Women. How should we evaluate what constitutes "violence" against women as distinguished from norms accepted in the culture in which they occur? What if anything we should do to affect change in cultures not our own? The Taliban justified their violence against women on cultural/ religious grounds. Cultural relativism involves the problem of evaluating acts that constitute violence in one culture that may be accepted and practiced in another cultural and not regarded as violence. Movements to resist forms of cultural imperialism exist around the issue of international human rights. Is there a global consensus on human rights?
Arati Rao considers the application of cultural relativist standards on the international women's rights movement. She argues that cultural relativism is too often a political expedient, used by old guard leaders to perpetuate a status quo that condones oppression of women.
"Can we have an international discussion of human rights in a world of cultural difference? In United Nations debates, governmental declarations, newspaper editorials, and classrooms, the din of exhortation to greater sensitivity towards differences between cultural groups within countries (and to increased respect for societies elsewhere) has reached unprecedented levels . And yet, even those who recognize the importance of cultural sensitivity feel that recognition challenged, and even trampled, by an intuitive sense of horror and outrage in the face of human suffering.
"The argument from 'culture' is employed to serve a variety of interests. In international politics, the old insensitive and self-congratulatory voices have risen to a bullying shout today, overriding all who do not subscribe to an unchanged formulation of the established liberalism based vision, with its emphasis on individualism and civil and political rights . At the same time, extreme and wide-ranging human rights violations by both governments and extra-constitutional groups have continued to be defended, and even justified, on the grounds of cultural difference. At the 1993 Vienna conference, for instance, countries as culturally dissimilar as China, Syria, and Malaysia relied on notions of cultural integrity in their criticism of various aspects of human rights doctrine . "Some [cultural relativist] defenses are long-lived and repeatedly deployed. For example, when Kenyatta [Kenyan leader] writes that 'it is unintelligent to discuss the emotional attitudes of either side of [female genital mutilation in Kenya], or to take violent sides in the question, without understanding the reasons why the educated, intelligent Gikuyu still cling to this custom' he seems to be making no more than a call for a sensitive and fair hearing. But when he defends the practice on the grounds that it is 'important to note that the moral code of the tribe is bound up with this custom and that it symbolizes the unification of the whole tribal organization,' we are compelled to question the politics of such a claim, particularly when it is made by a male national leader on behalf of the social group most directly affected by the practice: women. Much-vaunted government reforms often are in reality little more than rhetorical flourishes, toothless legislation, and weak policy measures.
"Cultural sensitivity in the international area is important; it is equally important to retain our awareness of intracommunity gender oppression and, in so doing, fully articulate the painful coexistence of multiple oppressions. For too long, gender has been subsumed by the call to nationalist self-assertion; for too long, gender equality has been asked to take a position secondary to other struggles; for too long women have been required to choose between compartmentalized struggles for freedom. Feminist theory continues to unravel the inextricably connected oppressions of race, class, gender, sexuality, colonial experience, and the like, showing that (false) hierarchies of seemingly separable oppressions can only generate suspect and incomplete political strategies for attaining freedom and equality. That women often accept such misleading analyses of their predicament is insufficient reason to write off the possibility of uniting amidst their very real differences.
"[T]he notion of culture favored by international actors must be unmasked for what it is: a falsely rigid, a historical, selectively chosen set of self-justificatory texts and practices whose patent partiality raises the question of exactly whose interests are being served and who comes out on top. We need to problematize all of culture, not just the perceived 'bad' aspects. When we limit our inquiry to egregious violations, we limit our capacity to ameliorate human pain to just that instance of a 'bad cultural practice.' Without questioning the political uses of culture, without asking whose culture this is and who its primary beneficiaries are, without placing the very notion of culture in historical context and investigating the status of the interpreter, we cannot fully understand the ease with which women become instrumentalized in larger battles of political, economic, military and discursive competition in the international area.
As you consider the issues raised in this week's module, ask yourself whether you feel comfortable imposing your cultural values on members of another country or culture. As Rao cautions, ask yourself also who the cultural defenders are. Are there certain acts or traditions we can comfortably condemn despite cultural relativist blinders?
[The Politics of Gender and Culture in the International
Human Rights Discourse,
Arati Rao in Women's Rights, Human Rights: International Feminist Perspectives,
Julie Peters and Andrea Wolper, Eds., 1995.]
A Reservation to the Women's Convention and Objections to that Reservation
"In earlier times the relationship between international human rights law and women's issues was not a happy one. International law was, after all, state-centered and individualistic in content. Its thrust was basically toward male subjects with only passing reference to women's inequality. It was most important, however, that international law reinforced the division between the public world and private life. By insulating vital aspects of private life such as the family from scrutiny, it ensured that community and private life were not subject to international standards. International human rights law assumed a public sphere where the state and the international system could intervene and a private sphere where state intervention and international scrutiny were prohibited. It was assumed that privacy was a neutral realm of human experience, and that there was no power hierarchy within the private space of the family that affected state interests. As critics have argued, the absence of legal intervention to protect women in the community and in the home devalued women and kept intact the traditional male-dominated hierarchy of the family.
"A revolution has taken place in the last decade. Women's rights have been catapulted onto human rights agenda with a speed and determination that has rarely been matched in international law."
[Radhika Coomaraswamy, Reinventing International
Law: Women's Rights as Human Rights in the International Community,
Harvard Law School Human Rights Program, 1997.]
For optional reading, you may read the full article on the web at http://www.law.harvard.edu/programs/HRP/Publications/radhika.html
The last decade has seen women's human rights, especially the issue of violence against women, emerging as a very important issue on the international agenda. Radhika Coomaraswamy, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women states:
"Traditional human rights scholars and activists claim that this breath of scope in the women's human rights movement will destroy human rights and its meaning in the world today. An angry human rights activist once told me, "Now human rights is the kitchen sink." Others such as myself argue that the women's question enriches [the] human rights [dialogue] and is an important part of the flexibility and adaptability of human rights paradigm to meet new challenges."
[Reinventing International Law: Women's Rights as Human Rights in the International Community, Radhika Coomaraswamy, Harvard Law School Human Rights Program, 1997. (For the full article, see http://www.law.harvard.edu/programs/HRP/Publications/radhika.html )]
For a long time, the structure of international human rights laws ignored the specific concerns of women. Women's issues were considered to be private matters better dealt with within the home or community. By drawing a line between the public and private sphere, and by acknowledging only one as worthy of international concern, international human rights marginalized women's issues and created a division that exists till today. Are women's rights the same as human rights? If they are different, does this deny women the freedom and equality guaranteed in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
" [I]t is, for the most part, women who suffer from torture and ill-treatment within the home. In some states this intimate violence is not a criminal act; rather, it is perceived as an acceptable form of social control within the family. Rape within marriage is still not recognized as a criminal act across the globe. Dowry deaths, although punishable under the law, do not attract the serious attention of law enforcement agencies. Even in those states where intimate violence against women is criminalized, evidence abounds of widespread failure by law enforcement agencies to prosecute offenders, thereby demonstrating and shaping societal attitudes around the issue. In many states, shelters have had their funding cut back or withdrawn altogether, leaving vulnerable women no means of escaping their abusers. The overall picture is, at best neglect, and at worst complicity on the part of the state [End Page 370] and the international community for approaching intimate violence not as a political and a human rights issue, but as a private matter--a social or a cultural practice, sporadic and individualistic in nature.
[Realizing Human Rights for Women, Ursula A O'Hare, Human Rights Quarterly, 21.2 (1999)]
Many attribute this problem to the fact that, until recently, the only voices heard at the global level were the voices of men. The exclusion of women from the public world resulted in the development of laws reflecting only the concerns and experiences of men. How different is the situation today? Is it the case that women's voices, when heard in the international arena, are heard only at venues studying and debating women's issues and not within the "mainstream" human rights debate? Ursula A O'Hare in Realizing Human Rights for Women, believes so, arguing that women's issues are "ghettoized" within the United Nations system, as international bodies dealing with women's issues have "limited resources and weaker enforcement procedures than mainstream human rights bodies."
As you read about the human rights violations inflicted against women around the globe in this module, think about how different things would be if the boundaries and substance of international human rights were established by women instead.
For Legal Texts, please click here for conventions and declarations on women's human rights: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/un/iinstrum.htm
Hilary Charlesworth, What are "Women's International Human Rights"? in Human Rights of Women: National and International Perspectives 58-84, Philadelphia: U of Penn Press,1994
Rebecca Cook, Women's International Human Rights Law: The Way Forward in Human Rights of Women: National and International Perspectives 3-36, Philadelphia: U of Penn Press, 1994
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
Arvonne Fraser, Becoming Human: The Origins and Development of Women's Human Rights, Human Rights Quarterly 21: 853-906 (1999), p. 885-904
The Principles of Interpretation in Rebecca Cook, Reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Virginia J. of Int'l Law 30: 643- 716, 660-663 (1990)
Legal Recognition of the Human Rights Abuses of Women in Rebecca Cook, State Responsibility for Violations of Women's Rights, Harvard Human Rights J. 7: 125-175 (1994), p. 130-137
Hilary Charlesworth, Feminist Methods in International Law, American J. of Int'l Law 93: 379-394 (1999), p. 379-385
Hilary Charlesworth, Feminist Methods in International Law, American J. of Int'l Law 93: 379-394 (1999), p. 385-394,
Kelly Askin, Women and International Humanitarian Law, Women's Human Rights: A Reference Guide, (Kelly Askin & Dorean Koenig eds.) 41-87, Transnational Publishers, New York, 1999
Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, 17 July 1998, A/conf.183/9
Prosecutor v. Akayesu (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda), Judgment of September 2, 1998, Case No ICTR-96-4-T (excerpts)
Prosecutor v. Furundzija (International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia) Judgment of December 10, 1998. Case No. IT-95-17/1-T-10 (excerpts)
Andrew Byrnes and Jane Cannor's, Enforcing the Human Rights of Women: A Complaints Procedure for the Women's Convention? Brooklyn J. of Int'l Law XXI: 679-783 (1996), 707-32
Rebecca Cook, State Responsibility for Violations of Women's Rights, 147-152 (issues); 172-174 (limitations)
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
Dinah Shelton, Remedies in International Human Rights Law, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1999 Theories of Remedies: 38-56 Remedies in National Law: 57-80 Non-Monetary Remedies: 292- 306
Rebecca Cook, State Responsibility for Violations of Women's Rights, 169-171
"Womens Economic Agenda in the 21st Century" is written by Maria Riley, Director of the Global Womens Project at the Center of Concern. The paper explores why the womens movement is shifting from advocacy that is solely targeting the UN towards an increased focus on international institutions such as the WB, the IMF and the WTO.
Some of the questions that are addressed include:
Violence against Women
Lois Chiang - International Trafficking in Women
Women, and Health
Keynote speech on "The
Global Perspective: Outcomes of Beijing+5 Gender Equality, Development and Peace"
by Angela E.V. King, Assistant Secretary-General Special Adviser on Gender Issues
and Advancement of Women at Panel Discussion on "Progress for Women in
the New Millennium: the Way Forward"
(UNITED NATIONS, New York, 4 December 2000) http://www.un.org/womenwatch/confer/
A recent Geneva session on the condition of women worldwide concluded, "The absence of a holistic approach to health and health care for women and girls based on womens right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health throughout the life-cycle has constrained progress."
See Report of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole of the Twenty-Third Special Session of the General Assembly, Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the Twenty-First Century, U.N. GAOR, 23d Sess., 10, U.N. Doc. A/S-23/10/Rev.1
http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/follow-up/as2310rev1.pdf (2000) [hereinafter Women 2000].
The General Assembly, 56th session Introductory Statement by Ms. Angela E.V. King, Assistant Secretary-general, Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women - 17 October 2001
The Geneva conferees concluded that a significant obstacle to the realization of womens right to health has been the lack of a comprehensive approach to womens health that pays sufficient "attention to the role of social and economic determinants of health." Id. http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/hivsummary.htm
Audrey R. Chapman, Conceptualizing the Right to Health: A Violations Approach, 65 Tenn. L. Rev. 389, 40708 (1998).
The economic "disempowerment" of women in African countries is not only tragic, it is also very ironic, considering that these women labor all day long to feed their families.
See Press Release GA/SHC/3367, United Nations, Improved Status of Women Necessary
to Sustain Economic Growth, Third Committee Told, as Debate Continues on Womens
Issues, http://www.un.org (Oct. 28, 1996) (using search terms "African
women" and "economic empowerment"). For example, Miss Illo, representing
Niger, notes that although African women in rural areas work an average of seventeen
hours per day, there exists a "statistical invisibility which fail[s] to
recognize the true value of womens work in these areas." Id.
Chapman, supra, at 40708
See also Allyn L. Taylor, Womens Health at a Crossroad: Global Responses
to HIV/AIDS, 4 Health Matrix 297, 314 (1994);
Paul Farmer Ed., Women, Poverty and AIDS, Common Courage Press
Baker v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration)  2 S.C.R. 817, pp1-4 (holding), paras 2-10, 63-77
Baker v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) , Factum of the Charter Committee on Poverty Issues, http://www.web.net/ccpi/baker/factum.htrr, 2000
Karen Knop, Here and There: International Law in Domestic Courts, NYU J. of Int'l Law & Politics 32: 501-535 (2000)
P. N. Bhagwati, Creating a Judicial Culture to Promote Enforcement of Women's Human Rights in Andrew Byrnes, Jane Connors & Lum Byk eds., Advancing the Human Rights of Women: Using International Human Rights Standards in Domestic Litigation, 20-26, London: Commonwealth Secretariat, 1997
Bora Laskin Law Library, University of Toronto, Women's Human Rights Resources: http://www.law.utoronto.ca/Diana
Marylin Raisch, International Women's Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Guide IV of Selective Source Guides to Research in International Law, August, 2000
Ch. 10-14 of Cook, Women's International Human Rights Law: Human Rights Committee, General Comment 18 on Nondiscrimination
Discrimination with Respect to Nationality
The Attorney General v. Unity Dow , review 14-15 of Cook, Women's International Human Rights Law: The Way Forward
Committee on Feminism and International Law, International Law Association, Women's Equality and Nationality in International Law, Final Report, 2000, London: International Law Association, 44pp, read only 4-44
Discrimination with Respect to Social Rights
Review 71-73 of Charlesworth, What are "Women's International Human Rights"?
Broeks v. the Netherlands, review 23-24 of Cook, Women's International Human Rights Law: The Way Forward
International Human Rights Law: Case Notes and Comments, Vanderbilt J. of Trans'l Law 23: 779-818 (1990), 786
Broeks v. the Netherlands, CCPR/C/29/D/172/1984
Intersections of Different Forms of Discrimination: Race, Ethnicity and Gender Nov. 2, 2000, return outlines with comments
Yilmaz-Dogan v. The Netherlands, The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, International Human Rights Law: Case Notes and Comments, Vanderbilt J. of Trans'l Law 23: 779-818 (1990), 789-790
23-24 of Cook, Women's International Human Rights Law: Lisa A. Crooms, Indivisible Rights and Intersectional Identities or, "What Do Women's Rights Have to Do with the Race Convention?" Howard Law J. 40: 619-640 (1997)
See also, Adrian Wing ed. Global Critical Race Feminism: An International Reader (on reserve)
See appendix A for paper topics
See appendix B for references to information on international violence against women [~56k pdf.]*
See appendix C for selected Readings [~44k pdf.]*
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go to Adobe Acrobat's website to download it now.
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