The Contentious Politics of Women’s Human Rights: Religious and Cultural Challenges to Women’s Equality in the International Arena


Chappell, Louise. 2004. “The Contentious Politics of Women’s Human Rights: Religious and Cultural Challenges to Women’s Equality in the International Arena.” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, September 2-5.

Author: Louise Chappell


The focus of this paper is on the emergence of a transnational religious coalition primarily between Catholic and Islamic forces and its influence on the development of women's rights internationally. Through an analysis of the documents and commentaries of United Nations conferences at Cairo, Beijing, New York and Rome, the paper illustrates the various ways in which these forces have united to frame an alternative vision of women's rights to that proposed by feminists. The paper argues that the Vatican and a number of Islamic governments have used their religious standing to advance arguments that sit in direct contrast the rights agenda proposed by the transnational feminist movement. They have framed their discussion about gender and equality, sexuality and reproduction and women's place in the family in ways which commonly appropriate human rights discourse but for conservative, patriarchal ends. While not always capable of influencing the official outcomes of these conferences as it would wish, the coalition has nevertheless been able to stymie developments and keep feminists in a defensive rather than an expansive position in the relation to international women's rights.

Topics: Feminisms, Gender, Women, Gender Equality/Inequality, Religion, Rights, Women's Rights

Year: 2004

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