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Until the early 1990s, most forms of violence directed against women were met with silence not only by governments but also by much of the human rights community. In the last fifteen years, however, the engagement of human rights activists in the problem of violence against women has risen exponentially. Why and how this change has occurred is an important piece of the history of the women's and human rights movements, with major implications for both. In the Fall 2003 issue of Human Rights Dialogue, activists, scholars, and practitioners discuss how women's rights activists are using human rights instruments to combat violence against women and, in turn, how the human rights movement is being enlarged and enriched by their approach. In particular, the magazine explores how women's advocates are challenging the public/private divide, the cultural and religious objections to granting women's rights, and the common blindness to linkages between violence against women and the deprivation of other rights, specifically economic and social rights.
Introduction: Violence Against Women
In the last fifteen years, the engagement of human rights activists in the problem of violence against women has increased exponentially. Why and how this change has occurred has major implications for the women’s and human rights movements.
Rights for All in the New South Africa
In an interview with Dialogue, Harper discusses how violence against women in South Africa has been justified under the banners of culture, religion, and the resistance movement—and how he is working to change that.
Domestic Violence and HIV Infection in Uganda
According to Lisa W. Karanja, women’s activists have documented the linkage between domestic violence and women’s vulnerability to HIV/AIDS—and they hold the Ugandan government responsible.
Battered Mothers vs. U.S. Family Courts
Carrie Cuthbert and her colleagues write that battered mothers facing a family court system that lacks accountability have found hope in the human rights framework. The hard part is getting the courts themselves to change.
Expanding the Definition of Torture
It is high time, Carin Benninger-Budel and Lucinda O’Hanlon argue, for the UN Committee against Torture to address violence against women in its work.
How the Seed Was Planted
Alda Facio explains how women in Latin America put the issue of violence against women on the map.
Combating FGM in Kenya's Refugee Camps
In her fight against female genital mutilation among refugees, June Munala finds that securing the involvement of everyone in the camp community is essential.
Law: A Powerful Force
Response to June Munala.
Rape and Gender Violence: From Impunity to Accountability in International Law
Thanks to the dedication of women's rights activists, Rhonda Copelon writes, the new International Criminal Court recognizes rape as a war crime.
Working within Nigeria's Sharia Courts
In the face of Nigeria’s expansion of religious laws, as Ayesha Imam explains in an interview with Dialogue, it is important to work within the court system to strengthen respect for women’s rights.
Small Victories, but the War Rages On
Uché U. Ewelukwa responds to Ayesha Imam.
Working within Sharia Takes You Only So Far
Albaqir A. Mukhtar responds to Ayesha Imam.
Impunity and Women's Rights in Ciudad Juárez
Lydia Alpízar explains how women’s organizations are responding to the systematic killings of women in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.
From Ciudad Juárez to the World
Charlotte Bunch responds to Lydia Alpízar.
In the Name of Honor
Women’s rights advocates in Turkey, Leylâ Pervizat writes, are combating the pervasive belief that so-called honor killings do not rise to the level of human rights abuses.
A Struggle on Two Fronts
Zehra F. Arat responds to Leylâ Pervizat.
Refusing to Go Away: Strategies of the Women's Rights Movement
LaShawn R. Jefferson describes how the women’s rights movement put violence against women on the international human rights agenda.
Women, Violence, and the Reinvolvement of the U.S. Military in the Philippines
The Visiting Forces Agreement, allowing U.S. military personnel access in 22 ports and bases, marked a return to the abuses that women’s rights activists had long struggled against, including the trafficking of Filipinas and their global devaluation as low-paid workers and servile brides.
Unexpected New Alliances for Addressing Military Involvement and Sexual Exploitation
Jennifer Butler responds to Jane Margold.
Beyond Name and Blame
Why do Cuthbert and her colleagues find that “doing human rights work in the United States presents formidable challenges”? Can it be as simple as American exceptionalism? What can it mean to use human rights to end violence against women?
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