Expanding Women’s Human Rights: The Role of National Rights and Trans-National Actors In Developing Inter-State Responsibility for Gender Persecution


Alfredson, Lisa. 2005. “Expanding Women’s Human Rights: The Role of National Rights and Trans-National Actors In Developing Inter-State Responsibility for Gender Persecution.” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, DC, September 1-4.

Author: Lisa Alfredson


Much of the human rights literature has focused on the fundamental problem of how to compel sovereign states to nationalize international rights, neglecting the converse process by which national rights are internationalized and the scope and interpretation of human rights expanded. Drawing on a case study where the latter occurred, this article explores political processes involved in compelling the state to expand traditional human rights by aligning human rights practice with progressive national rights and values. I analyze previously unstudied policy campaigns credited with compelling the adoption of Canada’s pioneering policy Guidelines for Women Refugees Fearing Gender Related Persecution in 1993, which internationalized Canada’s national ethic on violence against women and institutionalized the then nascent idea of “women’s rights as human rights.” Findings illuminate the crucial interplay between national and human rights for the development of the latter. This speaks against the increasingly held view that international rights are necessarily morally superior to and/or undermining national values and state sovereignty. Rather, the case studied reminds us of the significance of national rights and values in democratic societies as offering crucial political space for non-citizens to expand and thus access international human rights. It also illuminates the emerging importance of non-citizens in host countries as transnational actors who may negotiate both national and international rights and values, for the expansion of the latter.

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Refugees, Gender, Women, Rights, Human Rights, Women's Rights

Year: 2005

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