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Where Human Rights Begin

Where Human Rights Begin

Wendy Chavkin
Ellen Chesler
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 330
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  • Book Info
    Where Human Rights Begin
    Book Description:

    More than a decade ago, three landmark world conferences placed the human rights of women on the international agenda. The first, in Vienna, officially extended the definition of human rights to include a woman's right to self-determination and equality. A year later, in Cairo, this concept was elaborated to deal explicitly with issues of sexuality and procreation. Subsequently, at a conference in Beijing, the international community committed to a wide range of practical interventions to advance women's sexual, social, political, and economic rights.Despite these accomplishments, we find ourselves at an ever more difficult juncture in the struggle to fully realize women's rights as human rights. Complications, such as terrorism and the "war" against it, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the incursion of religious fundamentalism into governments, and the U.S. government's retreat from the international agenda on sexual and reproductive rights have raised questions about the direction of policy implementations and have prevented straightforward progress.This timely collection brings together eight wide-reaching and provocative essays that examine the practical and theoretical issues of sexual and reproductive health policy and implementation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4118-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Mary Robinson

    A decade after the progress made at the Vienna, Cairo, and Beijing world conferences on human rights, population and development, and women, we find ourselves at a crucial juncture in the struggle to realize fully women’s rights as human rights. Although the movement to protect and promote human rights worldwide is vibrant and growing, we currently face some of the greatest threats to human rights in a generation, including terrorism and the “war” against it, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and related stigma and discrimination, and rising religious fundamentalism in many parts of the world.

    Those three landmark conferences played a major...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-34)
    Ellen Chesler

    Preparing to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Eleanor Roosevelt made her way to the organization’s imposing new headquarters on Manhattan’s East side. The occasion was a small, scarcely noticed ceremony to release a guide for community-based action on human rights. There, in the hope of rekindling interest in the landmark document that had been forged a decade earlier under her skillful leadership, Mrs. Roosevelt casually made the observation quoted above, from which we draw both the title and the inspiration for this book. She insisted upon the potential of universal human rights...

  6. Not Culture But Gender: Reconceptualizing Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting
    (pp. 35-64)
    Jessica Horn

    The International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo in 1994 marked a historic turning point in global understandings of health, development, and women’s rights. At its best, the Cairo Programme of Action forwarded a holistic vision of the connections between sexual and reproductive health and women’s economic autonomy, social and political equality, access to education, and freedom from violence. Beneath these analyses also lay an—albeit hesitant—discussion of the rights of women to control their sexuality and the relevance of this right to achieving health and social justice.

    In Egypt, the ICPD discussions ignited charged debate...

  7. Womenʹs Reproductive and Sexual Rights and the Offense of Zina in Muslim Laws in Nigeria
    (pp. 65-94)
    Ayesha M. Imam

    Amina Lawal was convicted of adultery in March 2002 and sentenced to stoning to death.¹ In the wake of a new Sharia penal code in Katsina state, religious right vigilantes instigated a case against her for having a child after divorce without remarrying. The alleged father swore that he had not had sexual relations with her and was released. These events occurred during a heated controversy in Nigeria about the nature and desirability of Sharia, rights in Muslim laws, constitutional rights, international human rights, and their relationship(s) to each other. Ms. Lawal’s case was immediately adopted by a coalition of...

  8. Uganda: HIV/AIDS and Reproductive Health
    (pp. 95-126)
    Lisa Ann Richey

    In one of the large conference rooms at the Kampala Sheraton I sat together with Ugandan Ministry of Health officials, most of the Ugandan Bureau of Statistics, representatives from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), international donor agencies, and service providers. We were gathered to hear findings from the Ugandan Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS) on indicators of population, health, and nutrition. After the usual official welcomes, the mission director from the organization that funded the survey reported findings that she termed “disturbing trends.” The most prominent of these was that, although the overall prevalence rate of modern contraception had increased, there had...

  9. Mapping the Contours: Reproductive Health and Rights and Sexual Health and Rights in India
    (pp. 127-153)
    Radhika Chandiramani

    This woman, like many others, cannot exert control over what is done to her body. She does not have the right to refuse to have sex. For her, as for many others, safety from infection is confounded by the need to ensure safety from accusations of infidelity as well as safety from physical violence. Sexuality, for her, is an area of compromise, resignation, and danger, and, ultimately, one that clearly marks out her lack of choices. This woman lives in India, a country in which she can use contraceptive and abortion services. In principle, she has some choice about the...

  10. The Politics of Abortion in Mexico: The Paradox of Doble Discurso
    (pp. 154-179)
    Adriana Ortiz-Ortega

    On July 31, 1999, in Mexicali, Baja California, just across the United States border, thirteen-year-old Paulina Ramírez Jacinto was stabbed, beaten, and raped in her older sister Janet’s home during the course of a burglary. Her assailant, a local cocaine addict with multiple prior arrests, was apprehended a month later, tried for the crime, and put back in jail. His accomplice, who also participated in the sexual assault and in taking precious cash savings that Janet’s husband had sent home from his job far away, was never caught.¹

    Paulina comes from a poor family. She and her mother had taken...

  11. Sexual-Reproductive Health and Rights: What about Men?
    (pp. 180-203)
    Benno de Keijzer

    What is the role of men in sexual and reproductive health and rights? The story above, told by a midwife during a Salud y Género training course in 1999, is just one of many possible examples in which men are confronted by situations that can become opportunities for change. This trucker was accidentally present at the birth of one of his many children. It was a moving experience for him in many senses, and it inspired his willingness to move toward accepting his wife’s desire (and right) to limit further childbearing.

    What helps some men change and learn to accept...

  12. Maximizing the Impact of Cairo on China
    (pp. 204-234)
    Edwin A. Winckler

    In the early 2000s, China is abuzz with local experiments at reforming its birth limitation program. By mitigating past abuses and improving future services, most of these reforms promise to significantly advance international principles of reproductive health and rights, at least as the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has adapted those principles to “Chinese circumstances.” Though short of international ideals of full reproductive freedom, the gradually deepening reforms of the 1990s and 2000s have been adapting birth limitation to the market-oriented and law-based society into which China has been evolving.¹

    A main model for experiments at this adaptation is Mudanjiang,...

  13. International Human Rights from the Ground Up: The Potential for Subnational, Human Rights-Based Reproductive Health Advocacy in the United States
    (pp. 235-269)
    Martha F. Davis

    The origins of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union (KWRU) could hardly be more local: The KWRU was started in 1990 by six welfare mothers struggling to establish a new playground in Philadelphia’s Kensington district (N. Davis 2000). Headed by Cheri Honkala, a thirtyish welfare mom with a flair for dramatic and confrontational tactics, the organization expanded both its membership and support by focusing on housing and community needs of low-income residents of North Philadelphia. Today, the KWRU headquarters distributes food and clothing and provides advocacy assistance, taking calls twenty-four hours a day from low-income people whose homes have been condemned,...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 270-290)
    Wendy Chavkin

    Where is a small place close to home today? Is it an office in India where women answer telephone queries from complaining customers in Indiana? A room where women watch Michael Jackson on TV in Peru? Where they answer a cell phone in rural Botswana? And what is home? Algeria or the suburbs of Paris? A council flat in London where a woman lives with her two children? Or an apartment in Stockholm where a Swedish man spends his “daddy months” of paid leave caring for his baby?

    Many forces destabilize the realities today’s adults knew as children: the globalization...

  15. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 291-294)
  16. Index
    (pp. 295-310)