Gender and Human Rights in the Commonwealth

Some Critical Issues for Action in the Decade 2005–2015

image of Gender and Human Rights in the Commonwealth
The purpose of this book is to contribute to current policymaking, programme planning and implementation on gender and human rights. It is intended for a wide audience of policymakers, magistrates, judges and lawyers, academics and civil society organisations grappling with these issues. It is also intended as a conceptual and policyoriented resource for those committed to implementing and supporting the Human Rights Goals of the new Commonwealth Plan of Action for Gender Equality 20052015.

The papers address a wide range of gender and human rights issues, including the convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), genderbased violence, culture and the law, indigenous peoples, trafficking and migration, land and property rights, diversity and a life cycle approach to gender and human rights. This book brings together the papers commissioned for a PanCommonwealth Expert Group Meeting on Gender and Human Rights which took place at the Commonwealth Secretariat, London February 2004. These papers, together with other key background papers, represent much of the analysis and experience from Commonwealth member countries that informed the development of the Human Rights section of the new Commonwealth Plan of Action for Gender Equality 20052015.



Culture, Gender and the Law

The issue of the relationship between gender equality and the claims of culture has been identified as an important factor to be considered in Commonwealth efforts to improve the status of women (Coomaraswamy, 2000, para» 22). The conflict between women's human rights and some practices embedded i n cultural traditions raises challenging questions. Does human rights discourse seek to impose universal values or culturally relative ones? A r e conflicts over human rights indicative of an irreconcilable 'clash of civilisations'? Do human rights instruments like the Convention on the Elimination of A l l Forms of Discrimination against Women reflect a Western/liberal/ Christian world-view that is inconsistent with Islamic/African/ Asian/Aboriginal values? How can the claims of international human rights law and the claims of culture be reconciled? This paper will seek to provide an overview of recent thinking o n the nature of this conflict and practical strategies for dealing with it. It provides no single criterion of analysis or plan of action. Rather, it argues for a complex, contextualised analysis to identify the role cultural claims play i n a particular political context and for a subtle and wide-ranging array of strategies for building a new consensus on the relationship between culture and gender equality.


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