Confronting Global Gender Justice: Women’s Lives, Human Rights

This review originally appeared in Elevate Difference

Confronting Global Gender Justice provides the reader a refreshing survey, albeit difficult to digest at times, of current issues and debates within the context of women’s rights as human rights. The chapters reflect the lived experiences of women and not just theory masked behind empty words.

Confronting Global Gender Justice is divided into five thematic parts: “Complicating the discourses of victimhood”; “Interrogating practices of representation”; “Mobilizing strategies of engagement”; “Crossing legal landscape”; and “Confronting global gender justice.” With a total of eighteen chapters, each chapter is authored by a different woman or man and thus each has its own tone of voice.

The first part examines the power of myth in the woman-as-victim and looks at the gender dynamics of war crimes. Laura Sjoberg identifies narratives of “the mother, the monster and the whore” used to understand the motivations for women involved in genocidal crimes. The limited agency within violence is also covered, as well as human trafficking and a comparison of how the practice of prostitution and sexuality is viewed through the context of religion.

Using a photographic essay, the poetics of memory, and a discussion of digital storytelling, Part II, “Interrogating practices of representation,” illustrates some ways to process and draw attention to women’s rights as human rights. By looking at human rights through the lens of literature and poetry, author Ricardo F. Vivancos Perez discusses the “vocabulary of human rights” as no longer purely defined in the legal domain. Playing with concepts of production, these chapters widen the discourse of what form the dialogue on human rights may take.

Part III, “Mobilizing strategies of engagement,” combines articles written by people of diverse power locations, from activists and NGO workers in the field to academics. In light of recent events in Tunisia and Egypt, the chapter on “Algerian women in movement” was particularly intriguing due to the interrelatedness of domestic politics and power for women. Part IV, “Crossing legal landscapes,” is comprised of five chapters that range in subject from the plight of women and children with disabilities to the institutionalization of domestic violence in the U.S.

The final chapter is an interview with activist Kum-kum Bhavnani (scholar, activist, filmmaker) that serves not to bring the discussions to a close, but to open them up for further reflection. The volume succeeds in creating a dialogue between theorists and activists. Questions of women’s rights are interrelated with questions of human rights. With its reaffirmation of the feminist commitment to the partnership of theory and practice, I only hope this volume snowballs into more dialogue and action.