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The International Struggle for New Human Rights

Edited by Clifford Bob

Publication Year: 2010

In recent years, aggrieved groups around the world have routinely portrayed themselves as victims of human rights abuses. Physically and mentally disabled people, indigenous peoples, AIDS patients, and many others have chosen to protect and promote their interests by advancing new human rights norms before the United Nations and other international bodies. Often, these claims have met strong resistance from governments and corporations. More surprisingly, even apparent allies, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other nongovernmental organizations, have voiced misgivings, arguing that rights "proliferation" will weaken efforts to protect their traditional concerns: civil and political rights.

Why are certain global problems recognized as human rights issues while others are not? How do local activists transform long-standing problems into universal rights claims? When and why do human rights groups, governments, and international organizations endorse new rights? The International Struggle for New Human Rights is the first book to address these issues.

Focusing on activists who advance new rights, the book introduces a framework for understanding critical strategies and conflicts involved in the struggle to persuade the human rights movement to move beyond traditional problems and embrace pressing new ones.

Essays in the volume consider rights activism by such groups as the South Asian Dalits, sexual minorities, and children of wartime rape victims, while others explore new issues such as health rights, economic rights, and the right to water. Examining both the successes and failures of such campaigns, The International Struggle for New Human Rights will be a key resource not only for scholars but also for those on the front lines of human rights work.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights


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1. Introduction: Fighting for New Rights

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pp. 1-13

Why does the international human rights movement recognize certain issues, but not others, as rights violations? How do some aggrieved groups transform their troubles into internationally acknowledged human rights concerns, whereas other groups fail when they attempt todo so? Asking these questions has practical implications for victims of...

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2. Orphaned Again? Children Born of Wartime Rape as a Non-Issue for the Human Rights Movement

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pp. 14-29

In November 2005, representatives of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) country offices and a variety of independent experts met at UNICEF Headquarters in New York to discuss and assess the protection needs of children born as a result of wartime rape in conflict zones. Such children, it was clear to humanitarian practitioners, were at...

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3. “Dalit Rights Are Human Rights”: Untouchables, NGOs, and the Indian State

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pp. 30-51

This chapter explores recent mobilization by groups representing India’s Dalits (Untouchables) aimed at transforming age-old caste-based discrimination into an international human rights issue.1 Until the late 1990s, the daily violence, exclusion, and humiliation suffered by millions of Dalits were not treated as human rights issues by UN organs...

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4. Applying the Gatekeeper Model of Human Rights Activism: The U.S.-Based Movement for LGBT Rights

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pp. 52-67

In recent years, many groups representing people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) have framed their grievances as international human rights claims. In so doing, many of these advocates have fought to add their cause to the human rights movement and to place a new right to sexuality on the international agenda. This chapter...

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5. From Resistance to Receptivity: Transforming the HIV/AIDS Crisis into a Human Rights Issue

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pp. 68-82

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) estimates that 33 million people worldwide are HIV-positive.1 The AIDS epidemic presents one of the greatest challenges to public health systems around the world, straining national budgets and medical expertise worldwide. Not only is AIDS incurable, but it also disproportionately...

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6. Disability Rights and the Human Rights Mainstream: Reluctant Gate-Crashers?

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pp. 83-92

In the 1970s, international human rights monitors loudly condemned the Soviet Union’s internment of political dissidents in “psychiatric hospitals.” Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as Helsinki Watch and Amnesty International (AI), along with local activists such as Andrei Sakharov and Yuri Orlov, publicized the horrors of these detentions:...

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7. New Rights for Private Wrongs: Female Genital Mutilation and Global Framing Dialogues

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pp. 93-107

International human rights conventions and foundational documents do not mention a number of long-standing cultural practices that affect organizations have not typically included these issues in their international campaigns. In the past generation, however, a transnational coalition politicized a number of these traditional practices, including...

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8. Economic Rights and Extreme Poverty: Moving toward Subsistence

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pp. 108-129

Economic and social rights have long been part of the human rights movement. Indeed, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) gives them equal status with civil and political rights.1 In practice, however, for most of the period since the UDHR’s adoption by the UN General Assembly in 1948, economic and social rights have held a secondary...

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9. Local Claims, International Standards, and the Human Right to Water

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pp. 130-140

In recent years, conflicts over water have become increasingly common around the world. In many of these disputes, the “right to water” has been a central claim. In Cochabamba, Bolivia, activists invoked water rights in 2000 to oppose privatization of municipal water services, becoming a global cause célèbre. In India since the late 1990s, farmers...


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pp. 141-177

List of Contributors

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pp. 179-181


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pp. 183-194


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pp. 195

E-ISBN-13: 9780812201345
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812221299

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights