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Welcome to Week 1

Welcome to Course 2 in which we examine the question of how well international human rights law serves marginalised groups of people.
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I hope you enjoyed Course One in which we examined the overarching big question, ‘What is International Human Rights Law?’. In the second of these three courses entitled, ‘How Well Does International Law served the Marginalised?’ We focus on women, the poor, refugees, and undocumented migrants. Each of these categories of human may be said to be marginalised in various ways. It may be unusual in the west these days to think of women being marginalised, however, discrimination against women is rife throughout the world, as most visibly seen through the lens of violence against women. To that extent, it is appropriate to group them together with the poor and other marginalised groups.
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We examine the strengths and weaknesses of international human rights law with respect to each of these groups, to begin to address the question of the usefulness of human rights law. This week you will examine instruments that address the issue of discrimination against women. This links back to last week where we looked at norms, institutions, and systems. We shall seek to address the big question, ‘How are universality claims challenged by the person of the woman?’ Let’s hear from two women from two different parts of the world to hear their experiences of discrimination. Hello, I am Josephine from Uganda and I am 13. I was born in a poor part of Kampala, a slum really. I have five brothers and sisters.
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I had more but they died of disease when they were small. My family is so poor they couldn’t afford for me to go to school for very long. I left when I was eleven, so I could start to earn some money to support my younger brothers and sisters. I have a lot of worries. I worry because when any of us gets ill, we cannot afford a doctor. I also worry about my younger sisters’ and brothers’ education. I think education is so important, but the pressure is on all of them to earn money too because there is so little to go around. I worry that my parents might marry me off soon too.
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My life is very hard, I don’t know what to do. Hello, I’m Francis from the UK. I live with my husband in a middle- class neighbourhood of London. We’ve been together for ten years and we have two children. I’m so ashamed of my situation. I was attacked by a stranger on the way home from work last winter, it was dark and a man approached me to ask for directions, he then grabbed me and forced me down a dark alley. I think I’m lucky I’ve gotten away from him alive, but when I reported it to the police, no one believed me.
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The police treated me like I was a problem, asking why I was wearing such provocative clothes, I just don’t understand it. I was dressed appropriately for work. Why did they lay the blame at my door? They never really bothered to investigate the crime. I have a responsible, professional job yet I’m treated like this. Come to think of it, I realise I’m a second class citizen at work too. I get paid only 70% of what my male colleagues get paid to do the same work. This is 21st century Europe, yet I’m treated like a second class citizen. So this week, think about the question of how effectively international human rights law addresses discrimination against women and the girl-child.
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Next week we will examine the human rights of the poor.

Welcome to Course 2 in which we examine the question of how well international human rights law serves marginalised groups of people.

This week our big question is, how are universality claims challenged by the person of the woman? To do this, we consider how well human rights law serves women. It may seem strange to think of women as marginalised, especially if you live in a modern Western democracy. However, as we shall see, women the world over face particular challenges on account of their gender. Specifically, millions of women face violence simply because they are women and many states fail to provide adequate protection or to equip a justice system capable of punishing their assailants.

In this video clip, you will be introduced to two women, Josephine from Uganda, and Francesca from Italy. Keep their experiences in mind as you progress through the week.

By the end of this week you should be able to:

  • identify why it is important for human law to address women’s rights as a specific category
  • identify international norms relating to women’s human rights
  • understand the significance of violence against women as a form of discrimination against women
  • identify violence against women as a barrier to other human rights
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How Well Does International Human Rights Law Serve Marginalised People?

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