Arati Rao. “The Politics of Gender and Culture in International Human Rights Discourse”. Politics of Gender and Culture in International Human Rights.
Arati Rao, who was born and studied in India, received her Ph.D. in Political Science at Columbia University and is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College.'The Politics of Gender and Culture in International Human Rights Discourse" Permission to reprint granted by Taylor and Francis"
While the topic of human rights has never been free from politics (in either its formulation of deployment), the cautionary call from “culture” has intensified in recent years. In her article, Arati Rao explores the question of can there be an international discussion of human rights in a world of cultural difference? She examines the concept of human rights, regarding difference and culture.
Rhonda Copelon. “Gender Crimes as War Crimes: Integrating Crimes Against Women Into International Criminal Law”. McGill Law Journal 2000.
Rhonda Copelon’s background was in human rights law. She was a vice president at the Center for Constitutional Rights and a professor at the City University of New York School of Law at Queens College. Permission to reprint granted by McGill University.
In her article she identifies the major goals and achievements in the area of recognizing women as full subjects of human rights and eliminating impunity for gender crimes, highlighting the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The article aims to recognize the imperative that sexual violence be identified as a gender crime outside of already recognized forms of violence, such as torture and genocide.
Uma Narayan. “Essence of Culture and a Sense of History: A Feminist Critique of Cultural Essentialism”. Hypatia 13, 2 (1998): 86-106.
Uma Narayan received her B.A. in Philosophy from Bombay University and her M.A. in Philosophy from Poona University, India. She received her Ph.D. from Rutgers University in 1990,and is currently a Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and chair of Philosophy at Vassar College. Permission to reprint granted by John Wiley and Sons.
Drawing parallels between gender essentialism and cultural essentialism, Uma Narayan points to some common features of essentialist pictures of culture. She argues that cultural essentialism is detrimental to feminist agendas and suggest strategies for its avoidance. Contending that some forms of cultural relativism buy into essentialist notions of culture, Narayan ultimately argues that postcolonial feminists need to be cautious about essentialist contrasts between “Western” and “Third World” cultures.
Janet Rifkin. “Toward a Theory of Law and Patriarchy”. Harvard Women’s Law Journal 83 (1980).
Janet Rifkin is Professor of Legal Studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She is also now Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Permission to reprint granted by the author.
The nature and meaning of patriarchal social order and of patriarchal culture has recently become the subject of intense scholarly questioning. Law is powerful as both a symbol and vehicle of male authority. Janet Rifkin’s article examines the cultural and anthropological origins of patriarchy, and aims to develop the relationship between law and patriarchy.
Celestine I. Nyamu. “How Should Human Rights and Development Respond to Cultural Legitimization of Gender Hierarchy in Developing Countries”. Harvard International Law Journal 41 2 (2000).
Celestine Nyamu is a Kenyan lawyer with a background in legal anthropology. She is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Nairobi School of Law, and a former Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies. Permission to reprint granted by the Harvard International Law Journal and author.
Human rights and development are the two fields of international law that have addressed gender and culture in developing countries. However, human rights and development have made minimal contributions to building a dialogue balancing the goals of gender inequality and cultural identity. In Celestine Nyamu’s article, the specific issue of gender hierarchy in property relations will be used to evaluate and critique the approaches of these two fields.
Rebecca J. Cook. “State Responsibility for Violations of Women’s Human Rights”. Harvard Human Rights Journal 125 (1994).
Rebecca J. Cook is the faculty chair in the International Human Rights department at the University of Toronto and is also the co-director of the International Programme on Reproductive and Sexual Health Law at the University of Toronto. Permission to reprint granted by the Harvard Human Rights Journal.
Denials of human rights that individuals suffer because they are women have become increasingly evident in international experience. Women around the globe suffer subordination and indignities. This suffering tends to go unseen, in part, because masculine frames of reference can blind society to women’s experience. In this article, Rebecca J. Cook explores how developments in the international law of state responsibility can be applied to ensure more effective protection of women’s human rights.
Sally Engle Merry. “Rights Talk and the Experience of Law: Implementing Women’s Human Rights to Protection from Violence”. Human Rights Quarterly 25, 2 (2003): 343-381.
Sally Engle Merry is Professor of Anthropology at Wellesley College and co-director of the Peace and justice Studies Program. Her work in the anthropology of law focuses on law and culture, law and colonialism, and the legal construction of race. Permission to reprint granted by Johns Hopkins University Press.
How does a person come to understand his or her problems in terms of rights? This is a critical problem for the battered women’s movement as well as for other human rights movements that rely on rights awareness to encourage victims to seek help from the law. Sally Engle Merry’s empirical study shows how victims of violence against women come to take on rights consciousness.
Arvonne S. Fraser. “Becoming Human: The Origins and Development of Women’s Human Rights”. Human Rights Quarterly 21, 4 (1999): 853-906.
Arvonne S. Fraser has been coordinator of the Office of Women in Development at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), a U.S. representative to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, and a member of the U.S. delegations to the first two UN World COnferences on Women and the 1993 UN World Conference on Human Rights. Permission to reprint granted by Johns Hopkins University.
Arvonne S. Fraser’s article will trace the evolution of thought and activism over the centuries aimed at defining women’s human rights and implementing the idea that women and men are equal members of society. The author aims to stimulate historians and human rights activist to delve more deeply into the history of women’s human rights throughout the world and further develop this neglected half of history.
The articles for this volume explore the broad theme of women and law. A closer look, however, reveals a series of articles, a photo essay, and several short videos that grapple with the meaning and practice of international women’s rights advocacy. Activism on behalf of women, it turns out, is not so simple. While women around the world experience patriarchy, violence, and discrimination, these articles show us that those experiences are varied and uneven. Each of the authors in this volume examines the contradictions and controversies surrounding the operations of law and advocacy on behalf of women. As they do, the authors reveal the complexities of advocacy toward the advancement of women’s status in diverse societies.
From analyses that take into account the patriarchy embedded in law to critiques of colonial and neo-colonialism, the authors unravel the pitfalls and hazards of domestic and international advocacy that does not take local context into account. Political, social, economic, and cultural circumstances need to be accounted for in the examination of women’s issues. Solutions for advancing women’s status must be tailored to the particularities of women’s lives, while advocacy needs to include local and vested partners. The series of articles in this volume suggest ways of understanding the complex socio-legal problems women face, while offering important avenues for addressing them.
This month's content provider and advisory board member, Arzoo Osanloo Ph.D. Her prior experience as an immigration and asylum/refugee attorney along with her PhD in Cultural Anthropology from Stanford University, allows her to have a holistic and important perspective into the relationship between culture and rights.