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Human Rights of Women

National and International Perspectives

Edited by Rebecca J. Cook

Publication Year: 2011

Rebecca J. Cook and the contributors to this volume seek to analyze how international human rights law applies specifically to women in various cultures worldwide, and to develop strategies to promote equitable application of human rights law at the international, regional, and domestic levels. Their essays present a compelling mixture of reports and case studies from various regions in the world, combined with scholarly assessments of international law as these rights specifically apply to women.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights


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pp. v-viii

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pp. ix-xii

International human rights law is facing the challenge of being relevant and credible in improving the circumstances in which the vast majority of the world's women live their lives. The blight of many women's lives exposes the shortcomings that have beset international...

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pp. xiii-xiv

The genesis of this book lies in the collaboration of participants in the Consultation on Women's International Human Rights that was held at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, August 31-September 2, 1992. Each participant contributed significantly, some through authorship...

I. Introduction

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1. Women's International Human Rights Law: The Way Forward

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pp. 3-36

International human rights law has not yet been applied effectively to redress the disadvantages and injustices experienced by women by reason only of their being women. In this sense, respect for human rights fails to be "universal." The reasons for this general failure to enforce women's human rights are complex and vary from country to ...

II. Challenges

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2. To Bellow like a Cow: Women, Ethnicity, and the Discourse of Rights

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pp. 39-57

The appeals made by the myth of rights for the support of Americans are rooted in traditional values and closely associated with venerable institutions. The symbolic voice of the myth of rights can, moreover, be easily understood and readily adapted to political discourse. But just how compelling is it? How pervasive and widespread and uniform a grip do legal values have on the ...

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3. What are "Women's International Human Rights"?

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pp. 58-84

What does a category of women's international human rights mean and what are its implications? This chapter considers these questions, arguing that the development of women's international human rights has the potential to transform human rights law generally....

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4. State Responsibility Goes Private: A Feminist Critique of the Public/Private Distinction in International Human Rights Law

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pp. 85-115

Human rights discourse is a powerful tool within international law to condemn those state acts and omissions that infringe core and basic notions of civility and citizenship. "To assert that a particular social claim is a human right is to vest it emotionally and morally with an especially high order of legitimacy."1 Violence is an egregious form of...

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5. Intimate Terror: Understanding Domestic Violence as Torture

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pp. 116-152

The abuse of women by their male partners is among the most common and dangerous forms of gender-based violence.1 Its victims exceed those of the most brutal dictatorships. As a result of the global mobilization of women, and international attention to certain ongoing atrocities, both official and private violence against women have begun...

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6. Why Rethinking the Sovereign State is Important for Women's International Human Rights Law

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pp. 153-164

This chapter argues for a re-examination of the relationship between international law and women's international human rights law, more specifically, the relationship between the current conceptualization of state sovereignty in international law and the participation of women in the creation of women's international human rights law....

III. International and Regional Approaches

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7. State Responsibility Under International Human Rights Law to Change Religious and Customary Laws

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pp. 167-188

States are responsible for bringing their domestic law and practice into conformity with their obligations under international law to protect and promote human rights. This responsibility applies not only to laws enacted by formal legislative organs of the state but also to those attributed to religious and customary sources or sanction, regardless of...

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8. Toward More Effective Enforcement of Women's Human Rights Through the Use of International Human Rights Law and Procedures

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pp. 189-227

The proliferation of human rights standards at the international level in the last forty-five years has been a striking feature of the development of international law in that period. While there had previously been international concern with issues that we would now characterize as human rights issues, the volume and scope of international...

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9. State Accountability Under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

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pp. 228-256

The time has come to recognize that denials of individuals' rights on the ground only that they are women are human rights violations, and to require state practices that expose women to degradation, indignity, and oppression on account of their sex to be independently identified, condemned, compensated, and, preferably, prevented. The purpose of

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10. Toward a More Effective Guarantee of the Enjoyment of Human Rights by Women in the Inter-American System

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pp. 257-284

Before addressing the substance of my chapter, I think it useful to state my position on some points. First, I have consciously changed the title of my chapter and refrained from using the expression "women's rights." My starting point is that human rights are those rights that each and every human being has on the sole merit of being human;...

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11. Toward a More Effective Guarantee of Women's Rights in the African Human Rights System

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pp. 285-307

This chapter is intended to contribute modestly toward the effective protection of the rights of women under the African Charter of Human and Peoples' Rights 1981 (the African Charter).1 This Charter was adopted under the auspices of the Organization of African Unity in 1981, and came into force in 1986. It establishes human rights standards...

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12. African Women's Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights—Toward a Relevant Theory and Practice

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pp. 307-325

The assertion of rights presumes their existing or probable violation, and a desire to remedy or prevent violation. It has been argued that many of the standards embodied in human rights instruments today have been recognized by most societies at some point in...

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13. Domestic Violence as an International Human Rights Issue

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pp. 326-339

In this chapter I will discuss some of the methodological problems that the Human Rights Watch Women's Rights Project has encountered in addressing domestic violence against women. I have chosen to focus on domestic violence both because of the severity of the problem and because of the complexities of the legal and conceptual issues that arise...

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14. The Developing Approaches of the International Commission of Jurists to Women's Human Rights

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pp. 340-348

In recent years the international women's rights movement has been successful in addressing universal gender discrimination. It is due to this success that human rights groups have begun to address questions of the human rights of women. For instance, the International Commission ...

IV. National Approaches

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15. General Approaches to Domestic Application of Women's International Human Rights Law

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pp. 351-374

International standards in the field of human rights are numerous and their quantity continues to grow rapidly. But the eagerness of the international community to set standards masks a deep-seated reluctance to design adequate corresponding implementation schemes....

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16. Obstacles to Women's Rights in India

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pp. 375-396

While the Constitution of India adopted in November 1949 contains articles mandating equality and nondiscrimination on the grounds of sex, several laws that clearly violate these principles continue to exist, especially in the area of personal laws or family laws. Most of these laws, which contain provisions that are highly discriminatory against ...

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17. Challenges to the Application of International Women's Human Rights in the Sudan

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pp. 397-421

The struggle for women's rights in the Sudan started nearly fifty years ago. At that time, few women were educated and those who were lived mainly in the major cities. The Sudanese Women's Union fought fiercely for women's rights and promoted women's education. The Women's Union and other groups had a great impact on changing the ...

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18. The Impact of Structural Adjustment Programs on Women's International Human Rights: The Example of Ghana

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pp. 422-436

This paper is not an economic analysis of Economic Recovery Programs, neither does it seek to put forward any economic ideas. It is simply an attempt to put in the context of human rights the privations suffered by a section of one society as a result of programs fashioned by international financial institutions for the solution of the economic ...

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19. Canadian Approaches to Equality Rights and Gender Equity in the Courts

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pp. 437-462

[T]he history of trie struggle for human rights from the eighteenth century on has been the history of men struggling to assert their dignity and common humanity against an over-bearing state apparatus. The more recent struggle for women's rights has been a struggle to eliminate discrimination, to achieve a place for women in man's world, to develop a set of legislative reforms in order...

V. Guaranteeing Human Rights of Particular Significance to Women

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20. Equality in the Home: Women's Rights and Personal Laws in South Asia

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pp. 465-494

Every state in South Asia is bound by the norm of equality and nondiscrimination between men and women as defined by international human rights instruments. The norm of equality is also reflected in domestic law, in entrenched and justiciable provisions of national constitutions. In its domestic application, however, the norm is severely ...

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21. Using the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights to Secure Women's Access to Land in Africa

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pp. 495-514

Insofar as there exists a de jure or de facto significant difference 4n opportunities for access to land in any country, and that difference is based purely on whether one is a man or a woman, there is discrimination. Such discrimination violates international human rights law if it is ...

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22. Reproductive Rights as Human Rights: The Colombian Case

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pp. 515-531

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (the Women's Convention)2 is the major international treaty that protects the right of women to make their own decisions about their fertility and sexuality. Under the Women's Convention states are obligated to take all appropriate measures to eliminate all ...

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23. The Use of International Human Rights Norms to Combat Violence Against Women

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pp. 532-572

The variety of forms of violence against women is matched by an array of sources of international norms addressing that violence. However, none of these norms is sufficiently broad or focused to have more than a minimal impact in controlling or eradicating violence against women. The problem is illustrated by the existing text of the Convention on the ...

Appendix A. Chart of Ratifications of Selected Human Rights Instruments

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pp. 573-586

Appendix B. Model Communication Form

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pp. 587-590

Appendix C. Organizational Resources

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pp. 591-596

List of Contributors

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pp. 597-600

Table of Cases

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pp. 601-606


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pp. 607-634

E-ISBN-13: 9780812201666
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812215380

Page Count: 656
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights