Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
We, the international solidarity network Women Living Under Muslim Laws, the Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies, the Violence is Not Our Culture International Campaign and the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition, and the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights are writing to express our appreciation for your support and leadership in hosting the upcoming panel at the UN Human Rights Council on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.
Women's rights and the regulation of gender and sex norms in the Arab world have long been put under the spotlight by local and international activists in addition to local and international politicians and NGOs. This year, the ongoing uprisings in the Arab world have brought into focus some dominant ways that sexual and bodily rights are framed, gendered, and politicized. These can be grouped under three loose themes, each of which deserves further study: One is the equation of gender with women and/or sexual and gender minorities. Two is the fear of Islamists.
I started working on what became this book more than ten years ago, because I felt there was so much confusion in the way that large sections of the trade union movement and the Left responded to globalisation. They took a straightforward anti-globalisation position which, by default, reinforced a nationalist reaction against globalisation. This went against all my Marxist internationalist instincts. Also, having been involved in trade union research for decades, it was obvious to me that many of the evils attributed to globalisation, such as subcontracting and the shifting of production, had been rampant for years or decades prior to it. Most disturbing of all, much of the anti-globalisation rhetoric was indistinguishable from the rhetoric of the extreme Right. (I have given examples of this in my book.)
Acid sprayed on two Afghani school girls on their way to school, a 15 year old Pakistani girl found dead, killed by her brother, a son killing his mother for a suspected affair in Uttar Pradesh, these are just a few of the ‘honour killings’ reported by Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) in 2011. ‘Violence is Not Our Culture’ campaign coordinated by Women Living Under Muslim Laws seeks to put an end to violence perpetrated in the name of religion and culture in Muslim countries. With the support of the MDG3 Fund WLUML strengthens women’s individual and collective struggles for equality and their rights, in Muslim contexts where women’s lives are shaped, conditioned or governed by laws and customs said to be derived from Islam. The MDG3 Fund is supporting their work specifically in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal and Sudan.
It began with thousands of people in the Middle East rising up to demand an end to repressive government and a say in their futures.
That spirit of transformation continued throughout the year. The world welcomed the new country of South Sudan, the culmination of a years-long peace process. A global network of activists sprang into action to thwart a policy that threatened Afghan women. The United Nations launched a new agency dedicated to guaranteeing women’s human rights worldwide.
"Recently we have witnessed the active participation of women in public protests in many parts of the world which reflect their strong desire to promote societal change, including in respect of the rule of law and human rights generally, and women's human rights in particular. Moments of political transition provide a unique opportunity to ensure that women participate equally in public life and that their rights in legal and social systems, including the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence in law and in practice are addressed.
The WRRC Programmme helped support the participation of VNC partners to the fourth WLUML Feminist Leadership Institute in Senegal in 2009, which was a two-week long training institute which brought together WHRDs from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and diasporas with sessions on media, human rights, rights within Islam, sexuality, and advocacy in Muslim contexts.
In 2010 Shabakeh had their project, Equal Despite Difference under the WRRC Programme. The project brought together a network of Iranian lesbians in Germany and other parts of Europe to form a network and online space. Their focus is on human-rights, free-speech and anti-VAW.
On the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we might consider whether the idea of human rights with their firm assertions, their belief in the ‘rule of law,’ and their globalised vision remain relevant in the world. The idea that there are absolute standards has come under attack from both the left and the right. The philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre , author of 'After Virtue', said, Natural rights and self evident truths proclaimed in the American declaration of independence are tantamount to belief in witches and unicorns. While from the left, in ‘Human Rights and Empire’, Costas Douzinashas called human rights the political philosophy of cosmopolitanism and argued that human rights now codify and ‘constitutionalise ‘ the normative sources of Empire.
Women’s groups such as Women in Black have long led the way in challenging the mindsets and structures of patriarchal power and militarism, but men must recognise that they have the primary responsibility to make the changes, says Rebecca Johnson