Focusing primarily on CEDAW (The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women), this article examines the role that international human rights law plays in the advancement of the protection of human rights of women. My general conclusion will be that international human rights law is one small, but not utterly insignificant, aspect of the success of the women’s movement, important more for its role in enabling the movement to grow and prosper than for what it does in and of itself. Indeed, I claim, human rights law lags well behind the women’s movement in some crucial ways. Nonetheless, it is worthwhile that documents like CEDAW exist, and not merely for their direct legal value (which can be questioned). Documents help people to network across national boundaries and to develop a sense of common purpose, a common language, a common set of demands, and a sense that progress is being made; all of which are incredibly important for a movement, especially an international one, and especially for members who feel isolated or relatively powerless. In a few cases, moreover, CEDAW has had a real, if limited, legal significance, when implemented by friendly jurists. I suggest that the influence of international human rights law ought to be assessed, often at least, in this broader way, looking at the role of documents in political and social movements.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 589-622
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.