In this first report to the Human Rights Council, the independent expert in the field of cultural rights, Farida Shaheed, develops preliminary views on the conceptual and legal framework of her mandate.

Des gens du monde entier, parmi lesquels des militants bien connus des droits humains, des intellectuels et des groupes citoyens, ont soutenu une pétition mondiale exigeant d’Amnistie Internationale que l’organisation donne des éclaircissements publics et rende des comptes. Communiqué de presse: Protestation mondiale pour faire entendre raison à Amnistie Internationale

People from across the world, including key human rights activists, public intellectuals and citizens groups have supported a global petition demanding public clarification and accountability from Amnesty International. Press Release: World Wide Outcry To Make Amnesty International See Reason and Make Amends.

The bliss of an egalitarian and just relationship between spouses cannot be achieved through a sheet of paper. But Cassandra Balchin writes that in Muslim contexts efforts to take a fresh look at marriage contracts is certainly a step towards this goal: Many have heard about Afghanistan’s Shia Personal Status Law which last year looked like granting husbands total obedience from their wives, in effect even permitting marital rape. Yet few have heard about the bold new Muslim marriage contract endorsed by the country’s Supreme Court. A contract that means Afghanistan’s women can demand far more than the right not to have to give their husbands sex.

History behind International Women's Day: The event originated in 1908 when women garment makers in New York demonstrated to demand better working conditions. Then in 1910 an international conference of women resolved that each year a day should be set aside to press for women's demands. Since then International Women's Day has been celebrated around the world each year on 8 March. From its inception, International Women's Day has stood for equality between women and men. The United Nations Charter, signed in 1945, was the first international agreement to affirm the principle of equality between women and men.

The Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, together with the other UN independent experts mentioned herewith, call today for a new vision of women’s rights informed by the lessons learnt from the 15 year review of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. Today International Women’s Day, has a special meaning while governments, civil societies, and UN agencies are gathered in New York at the Commission on the Status of Women to assess the progress made since the Beijing Platform for Action was adopted in 1995 at the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.

A longstanding proposal for the creation of a special U.N. agency for women – officially called a “gender entity” – is apparently moving at the sluggish pace of a paralytic snail. The proposal – originally conceived by a high-level panel of U.N. experts back in 2006 – has remained a theoretical exercise for so long that a coalition of women activists is spoofing it in a fake electronic newspaper being circulated at a U.N meeting on gender empowerment here.


Over sixty years ago, countries adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” That fundamental right has echoed for decades in conferences, treaties, and declarations. In 1995, in the Platform for Action adopted in Beijing, 189 governments agreed that laws that discriminate against women undermine equality, and pledged to “revoke any remaining laws that discriminate on the basis of sex.” Yet inequality, even in its most overt form, has not been vanquished. While discrimination against women persists around the world in many forms, laws that explicitly discriminate against women demonstrate State backing of discrimination, and symbolize governments’ clear disrespect for the fundamental right to equality for women and official endorsement of women as people of lesser worth.

Born in Iran and now based in London, Ziba Mir Hosseini, an anthropologist by training, is one of the most well-known scholars of Islamic Feminism. She is the author of numerous books on the subject, including Marriage on Trial: A Study of Family Law in Iran and Morrocco (l.B.Tauris, 1993) and Islam and Gender, the Religious Debate in Contemporary Islam (Princeton, 1999). She is presently associated with the Centre for Islamic and Middle Eastern Law at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. In this interview with Yoginder Sikand she talks about the origins and prospects of Islamic feminism as an emancipatory project for Muslim women and as a new, contextually-relevant way of understanding Islam.

The aim of the Women Reclaiming and Re-defining Cultures (WRRC) Program, a joint initiative of the international solidarity network Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) and the Institute for Women’s Empowerment (IWE), is to enable women to repossess and reconstruct cultural resources (including within ‘religion’ and ‘tradition’); to claim rights, empowering women vis-à-vis those who use cultural/religious discourse to deny women’s rights. 

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