- Women’s Rights as Human Rights
- Domestic Violence
- Culture and Religion
- Economic and Social Factors
Women's Rights as Human Rights
Respect, protect, fulfill – Women’s human rights: State responsibility for abuses by "non-state actors" (Amnesty International, September 2000)
This Amnesty International report addresses the disconnect between the rhetoric and the reality of human rights for women, arguing that the narrow scope of human rights law is partly to blame. The report includes sections on human rights law and its applicability to women; state responsibility under human rights law; accountability for nonstate actors; and the necessary steps for achieving women’s human rights.
“Transforming Human Rights from a Feminist Perspective,” by Charlotte Bunch in J. Peters and A. Wolper, eds., Women’s Human Rights, Human Rights: International Feminist Perspectives (Routledge, 1995)
Bunch postulates that women's rights have often been left out of the human rights discourse because of the so-called public/private distinction, patriarchal structures in society, and the lesser importance given to social and economic rights—which are particularly important for women—within the traditional human rights framework.
“Violence against Women as a Violation of Human Rights,” by Jane Roberts Chapman, Social Justice 17.2
Chapman discusses the importance of drawing violence against women out of the private sphere so that it can be placed on the human rights agenda. She explores three aspects of efforts to combat violence against women: empowerment at the grassroots level, legal reforms, and an interdisciplinary approach to the issue.
"Feminist Approaches to International Law," by Hilary Charlesworth, Christine Chinkin, and Shelley Wright, in American Journal of International Law 85 (1991)
This essay argues that the lack of representation of women in national and international decision-making results in a male-dominated approach to law. It stresses the need for a feminist discourse on international law.
"State Responsibility Goes Private: A Feminist Critique of the Public/Private Distinction in International Human Rights Law," by Celina Romany in Rebecca Cook, ed., Human Rights of Women: National and International Perspectives (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994).
Romany calls for the reconstruction of state responsibility by bringing “private” human rights offenses to the forefront of the “public” agenda. She also discusses the need for a shift in the conceptual framework of civil and political human rights to incorporate the issue of violence against women. The Role of Men and Boys in Achieving Gender Equality (Report by the UN Division for the Advancement of Women, issued 12 January 2004) [PDF: 204 KB, 52 pages]
This report summarizes the findings of a group of experts who met in Brazil in October 2003 to discuss the role of boys and men in achieving gender equality. They discussed a wide range of issues including the role of men and boys in promoting gender equality in work and family life, as well as their involvement in domestic violence and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Also considered were the roles played by men and boys in the public sector, private sector, and civil society.
"Intimate Terror: Understanding Domestic Violence as Torture," by Rhonda Copelon in Rebecca Cook, ed., Human Rights of Women: National and International Perspectives (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994)
Copelon marshalls psychological and conceptual evidence to stress the link between torture and domestic violence. The linkage has yet to be recognized at the state or international level, she argues, which effectively keeps the issue off the official policy agenda as it continues to be shrouded in silence. Copelon underlines the need for rethinking official instruments such as the ICCPR, the UN Torture Convention, and the Inter-American Torture Convention, to address the issue of domestic violence.
"Perceptions of the Legitimacy of Women’s Human Rights in South Africa," by Christopher Harper (Carnegie Council Fellowship Final Paper, presented June 2002) [PDF: 167 KB, 38 pages]
Harper examines the legitimacy of women’s human rights in relation to apartheid, culture, youth, government, and religion, focusing on his experience of working at the Masimanyane Womne's Support Center in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. For Harper, the key to ending discrimination and violence against women lies in encouraging collaboration among women’s groups, men, and the South African government.
Domestic Violence Against Women and Girls, Innocenti Digest No. 6 (UNICEF: Italy, June 2000) [PDF: 296 KB, 30 pages]
Focusing specifically on domestic violence, this UNICEF report offers a detailed look at the magnitude of the problem worldwide, including its causes and consequences. It provides an excellent list of links to online resources on domestic violence.
Culture and Religion
SPECIAL REPORT: "Female Circumcision: Rite of Passage or Violation of Rights?" by Frances A. Althaus in International Family Planning Perspectives 23.3 (September 1997)
Althaus considers the issue of female circumcision from various angles: its health risks, its socioeconomic effects, and its relationship to issues of cultural relativism, international and national law, and women's human rights.
Female Genital Mutilation: A Human Rights Information Pack (Amnesty International, 1998)
This guide offers an excellent primer on the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM). It addresses FGM in the context of women’s human rights, cultural identity, religion, and the international community.
“Facing Death for Adultery, Nigerian Woman is Acquitted," by Somini Sengupta, New York Times (26 September 2003)
Sengupta addresses the controversy surrounding Amina Lawal, a Nigerian woman accused of adultery, whose sentencing to death by stoning was overturned -- including the case's implications for human rights, ethnic violence, and the treatment of women in countries governed by Sharia, or Muslim, law.
Acceptance Speech for the John Humphrey Freedom Award, by Ayesha Imam (Montreal, 9 December 2002)
Imam outlines the steps that the Nigerian organization BAOBAB has taken in order to develop women's rights human rights in customary, secular, and religious law. Among other things, she discusses the implications of the recent extension of Sharia law in Nigeria as well as the controversies surrounding the Amina Lawal case.
Broken bodies, shattered minds: Torture and ill-treatment of women (Amnesty International, 6 March 2001)
Issued as part of its worldwide campaign against torture, this report addresses the many types of torture that women face in both public and private spheres. It contains four major sections: 1) torture of women in the home and the community; 2) failure of the state to ensure women's right to freedom from torture; 3) torture by state agents and armed groups; and 4) recommendations.
Gender-Based Violence and HIV/AIDS in South Africa: A Literature Review, by Ulrike Kistner (CADRE/Department of Health: South Africa, January 2003) [PDF: 837 KB, 76 pages]
Issued by South Africa's Centre for AIDS Development, Research and Evaluation (CADRE), this report addresses the relationship between gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS. In addition to its case study of South Africa, the report provides a comprehensive overview of the complex issues surrounding the linkage between violence against women and HIV/AIDS.
Violence Against Women: The Hidden Health Burden, by Lori L. Heise with Jacqueline Pitanguy and Adrienne Germain, World Bank Discussion Paper No. 225 (July 1994) [PDF: 6.24 MB, 86 pages]
Drawing on the experiences of developing countries, the paper focuses on the health consequences of gender-based violence as well as its broader impact on development.
Just Die Quietly: Domestic Violence and Women’s Vulnerability to HIV in Uganda, Human Rights Watch Report 15.15 (August 2003)
This report addresses the linkage between domestic violence and HIV contraction in Uganda. It includes an overview of Uganda’s historical, legal and political background, the relationship between domestic violence and HIV/AIDS, the state’s response to the problem, and Uganda’s legal obligations.
Economic and Social Factors
Mexico: Intolerable Killings: Ten years of abductions and murders in Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua (Amnesty International, August 2003)
The report investigates ten years (1993-2003) of killings and abductions of women in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, noting that many of the victims worked in maquiladoras or in the informal economy, and have little power in society. The report points to the failure of local and national authorities to take proper action in investigating the systematic crimes against women. The Web version contains updated information on developments since the release of the report.
"Murder in Juárez," interview with Alma Guillermoprieto by Amy Davidson, The New Yorker (Online Only, posted 9/22/03)
New Yorker journalist and Latin America specialist Alma Guillermoprieto discusses her research of the murders in Ciudad Juárez. The combination of youth and poverty not only makes women vulnerable to violence, she argues, but also leads to women's marginalization by local and national authorities. The motivation for these murders is based on rage against women, and therefore the crimes must be treated as human rights offenses, she argues.
The Situation of the Rights of Women in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico: The Right to Be Free from Violence and Discrimination (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 2002)
This report offers a detailed look at the violence against women occurring in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. It provides general background, an overview of the laws and systems in place to protect women’s rights, and some commentary on the obligations of the Mexican government.