Violence Against Women as a Human Rights Violation

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When violence against women is described in international work it is seen as a human rights issue.  When violence against women is described in the United States it is typically framed as a “personal issue” to be addressed as a criminal matter.

I have heard Loretta Ross describe why we need to apply a human rights approach to our violence against women prevention work. (Click here to listen to a podcast.)

To create community and society level change, we must work beyond the individual framework that is pervasive in the United States.

In a new article in the journal Violence Against Women, Libal and Parekh explore issues about adopting a human rights framework for violence against women, as advocated by Evan Stark, in the United States.

A full citation and abstract from SafetyLit for this article appear after the jump.

Reframing Violence Against Women as a Human Rights Violation: Evan Stark’s Coercive Control.

Libal K, Parekh S. Violence Against Women 2009; ePublished October 15, 2009

Click here for a link to article on the journal’s website or the DOI

(Copyright © 2009, Sage Publications)

Evan Stark claims that partner-perpetrated physical abuse and other forms of violence against women ought to be understood as a human rights violation. The authors engage Stark’s rhetorically powerful political and analytical innovation by outlining one theoretical and one practical challenge to shifting the paradigm that researchers, advocates, and policy makers use to describe, explain, and remedy the harms of coercive control from misdemeanor assault to human rights violation. The theoretical challenge involves overcoming the public/private dichotomy that underpins liberal conceptions of human rights. The practical challenge involves using the human rights framework in the United States, given public indifference to human rights rhetoric or law, reluctance of U.S. policy makers to submit to scrutiny or justice-oriented processes under international law on issues of human rights and especially war crimes, and the consequent U.S. legacy of refusal to participate meaningfully in the international human rights process. The authors conclude that employing a human rights framework holds potential in the United States, but the paradigm shift Stark advocates will not materialize without widespread mobilization of interest in and understanding of human rights among domestic violence advocates and the society in general.

David Lee

David S. Lee, MPH, is the Director of Prevention Services at the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) where he provides training and technical assistance on prevention. David manages the national project Prevention Connection, an online community of violence against women prevention practitioners, funders, researchers and activists. For over 29 years David has worked in efforts to end domestic violence and sexual assault.

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