Rights and Wrongs: Gender Equality and Human Rights

In Málstofur by Elín Björk Jóhannsdóttir

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, this session takes an expansive approach to reflect upon the gender equality concept within the broader framework of human rights in contemporary culture. Although advances have been notable, issues of implementation and accountability have produced new challenges. Each panelist will explore how debates and activism on gender equality with regard to religion, energy poverty, sexual harassment, maternal and reproductive rights are playing out in contemporary culture and various academic disciplines around the world. Papers and presentations focus on the continent of Africa, India, Montenegro, Croatia, and Serbia, among others, providing a range of reference points across the globe to identify common platforms for further work on gender equality issues within the ambit of human rights.

Í tilefni 70 ára afmælis Mannréttindayfirlýsingar Sameinuðu þjóðanna, er víðtæku sjónarhorni beitt í málstofunni þar sem hugtakið kynjajafnrétti er skoðað í samhengi við hina víðari merkingu mannréttinda í menningu nútímans. Þó að merkja megi framfarir, þá hefur innleiðing og ábyrgð skapað nýjar áskoranir. Í framsögum eru birtingarmyndir í umræðu og aktívisma í þágu kynjajafnréttis skoðaðar í tengslum við trúarbrögð, orkufátækt, kynferðislega áreitni og réttindi til kyn- frjósemisheilbrigðis í menningu samtímans og innan ólíkra fræðagreina víða um heim. Framsögur beina sjónum m.a. að meginlandi Afríku, Indlandi, Svartfjallalandi, Króatíu og Serbíu, þar sem tengingar þvert á landfræðilega heimshluta birtast og greina má sameiginlegan grundvöll fyrir frekara starfi á sviði kynjajafnréttis innan mannréttindarammans.

Málstofan er skipulögð í samstarfi við Jafnréttisskóla Sameinuðu þjóðanna, UNU-GEST.

Pétur Waldorff stýrir umræðum og kynnir fyrirlesara á föstudag, en Eiríkur Smári Sigurðarson á laugardag.

Föstudagur 9. mars og laugardagur 10. mars

Stofu 201 í Lögbergi (föstudagur) og stofu 102 í Gimli (laugardagur)
Kl. 15.00-17.00 og 10.00-12.00

Erla Hlín Hjálmarsdóttir og Eiríkur Smári Sigurðarson

Fyrirlesarar og titlar erinda

9. mars kl. 15.00-17.00

Understanding is necessary for the promotion of non-discrimination. The person discriminated against needs hermeneutical resources and testimonial opportunities to express her experiences and be understood. She needs what Miranda Fricker has called “hermeneutical and testimonial justice” or, collectively, “epistemic justice”. This theory has recently been developed within the general theory of capabilities and Fricker has herself argued for “epistemic contribution” as a basic human capability to be promoted. Research in the humanities can, and often does, have a positive effect on epistemic justice and it can thus contribute to less discrimination, including gender equality. This type of social change is a prime example of positive impact of research. This paper, building on an analysis of cases of research in the humanities, attempts a redefinition of impact in the humanities in terms of epistemic contribution and other capabilities.

When the United Nations (UN) was established in San Francisco in 1945 there was a great pressure on the delegates of the founding conference to include, if not an international bill of rights, then definitely clear references to the need for international recognition and protection of human rights in the UN Charter. The UN Charter contains seven human rights references. However, rather than speaking of these rights as being undisputable or intrinsic in the human beings that have them the drafters of the Charter unpack the notion of human rights negatively and in terms of the principle of non-discrimination. Articles 2 and 7 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights can be interpreted as to be an elaboration of the UN Charter principle of non-discrimination. Building on the drafting history of the UN Declaration of Human Rights (1947–1948) this lecture gives insights into the many different modifications of the principle of non-discrimination, from the first draft to the final version of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

As the #MeToo movement spread around the world, a young woman uploaded a list of names of people who were accused of sexual harassment, available to the public. Reactions and responses to this act were swift and decisive, dividing men and women of all persuasions into those who supported the move and those who didn’t. The presentation will look at the many debates and voices surrounding this event in the light of notions of agency, victimhood, what constitutes personhood, and what this means for feminism in general, and the movement against sexual harassment in particular.

Law on benefits for mothers of three or more children, that at first glance seemed almost utopian, was passed in Montenegro Parliament in 2015. However, this political act was arguably a populist one, and directly conflicted with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Articles 1 and 2), and with the Constitution of Montenegro. The presentation highlights two key problems that followed. First, an institutionalized discrimination occurred. Fathers and mothers who have less than three children are not included, as are women who are not mothers, but the policy rests on the assumption that this policy will increase the birth rate, although women over 50 years of age have the right to apply for reimbursement. Secondly, the policy was financially unsustainable. At the beginning, the budget amounted to 15.5 million EUR, which eventually become 67.2 million EUR of annual spending. This turned into a political clash where mothers were used as a platform for political debates and protests against the government that still continue, although the Constitutional Court declared the law unconstitutional.

10. mars kl. 10.00-12.00

Today in Serbia religious women find themselves caught at the crossroads of two different perspectives on religion: one, the Western, secular, position introduced in the last two decades by the top-down approach characteristic of transitional processes in all post-socialist societies; and two, the retraditionalization brought about by the revival of the political role of the Orthodox Church in the nineties, that reintroduced patriarchal and retrograde views towards women’s roles in society. In the first part of presentation, I will analyze the extent to which these views have an influence on the everyday life of women. In the second part, I will show how the full execution of Article 18 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (freedom of religion) in Serbia would be in opposition to certain goals of gender equality. In order to overcome these problems and “make peace” between religion and gender equality, I argue that it is of the utmost importance not to fail to observe both the traditional ways in which Orthodox women organized themselves in fighting against religious restraints (usually ignored by the Church perspective), as well as the progressive characters of Orthodox religion (usually overlooked by the secular perspective).

Feminist activism in South East Europe has been on the decline in past years, due to the re-patriarchalization of the public discourse on women’s human rights. By using the case of the rise of feminist activism in Croatia in the past two years, I would like to demonstrate how activism plays a crucial role in preserving women’s human rights. The new feminist collectives in Croatia were formed as a response to the rising neoconservative influences in relation to women’s rights, particularly the right to abortion, that were initiated by the traditionalist family movements. In their work, the young feminists connect the struggle for preserving reproductive rights with the struggle for labour and social rights of women. As a response to neoconservative influences and growing neoliberalist policies, the young feminists organized protests, public performances and social media campaigns in order to raise awareness on gender equality in Croatian society. Their main focus, currently, is the preservation of women’s reproductive freedoms and the right to abortion that is being excessively challenged by the family movements, in a country that legalized abortion in 1978, while it was still part of Yugoslavia.

The concept of security within the system of collective security of the United Nations has undergone change during the last decades. It has evolved from a state-centered approach after the Second World War to one that focuses on the human being. This evolution of the concept is due global challenges that have occurred, such as environmental strains. After the end of the Cold War, the intensified discussions about human rights contributed to states beginning to focus on the human being rather than on the state in the context of security. The presentation will first compare the concepts of human security as developed by the United Nations Development Program, Canada and Japan, and analyze any differences between them. Secondly, the definition of the concept adopted by United Nations General Assembly in 2005 will be discussed. Lastly, the contextualization of global politics will be used to analyze the outcomes of the concept and to what extent it materializes in contemporary dialogue within the United Nations.

 This presentation focuses on a few cross-cutting international development themes in Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 17 SDGs include a goal specifically dedicated to affordable and clean energy (SDG 7), a goal dedicated to gender equality (SDG 5), and human rights are seen as an essential ingredient for the successful implementation of Agenda 2030 which is grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The paper looks into the history of Icelandic development in the 20th century and how issues such as access to sustainable energy, gender equality and human rights are clearly linked in the country’s short journey to become one of the most prosperous countries in the world, enjoying universal access to renewable and sustainable energy resources, a status as the most equal society in the world, with an excellent human rights reputation. We ponder the question how access to energy, equality and human rights are interlinked and key to Iceland’s current development status, and whether this scenario is unique to Iceland or perhaps, a universal rule for development in the world?

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