Regarding Rights

Academic and activist perspectives on human rights

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Human Rights: Old and / or New?

By Roland Burke

La Trobe University, School of Historical & European Studies

The search for the origin(s) of human rights is a pursuit that has attracted much scholarship, historical, legal, philosophical, and anthropological.  In the past decade, finding human rights – and their precursors – has seen the emergence of some highly impressive histories.  It has also, more recently, seen the emergence of a sharp historiographical clash.

While Paul Gordon Lauren’s Evolution of International Human Rights (2003) and Lynn Hunt’s Inventing Human Rights (2007) cast their glance back centuries to ‘find’ human rights, Samuel Moyn (The Last Utopia, 2010) casts his gaze back to find not rights, but their absence.  Continue Reading →

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Looking Back on Feminist Approaches to International Law

Recently, the blog IntLawGrrls featured a month-long series on the 1991 AJIL article ‘Feminist Approaches to International Law’, by co-authors Hilary Charlesworth, Christine Chinkin, and Shelley Wright. Here Hilary, Christine and Shelley conclude the series by reflecting on their article and its impact. View the original article here, and the IntLawGrrls series here. We would like to thank the editors of IntLawGrrls for allowing us to post ‘Looking Back on Feminist Approaches to International Law’ on Regarding Rights .

We are so grateful to Jaya Ramji-Nogales for organizing this IntLawGrrls series, to Jaya and our colleagues Sari Kouvo, Aoife O’Donoghue, Fiona de Londras, Siobhán Mullally, Doris Buss, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, and Diane Marie Amann for their generous posts, and to the readers who commented on those posts. It has been heartening to read the responses to our article and to see different ways of understanding it.

Our article, ‘Feminist Approaches to International Law’, came to life in a haphazard way. Continue Reading →


Realism and Refugees

By Emma Larking*

Centre for International Governance and Justice, ANU

Refugee protest, Nauru Detention Centre. Image: Sydney Morning Herald

Refugee protest, Nauru Detention Centre. Image: Sydney Morning Herald

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen recently defended the warehousing of people on Nauru and Manus Island by saying the government has an ‘overriding moral and humanitarian obligation’ to stop asylum seekers drowning at sea.  ‘Stopping the boats’, and thereby the deaths of people at sea, is now said to be the Labor government’s primary policy goal in the refugee arena.  There is a very straightforward means of preventing the deaths of asylum seekers at sea without spending billions [1] to incarcerate them off-shore. Australia could abandon its current strategy of impounding or destroying asylum boats on arrival, and it could stop prosecuting boat crews. If it did so, the people who make arrangements for asylum seekers to travel by sea to Australia would be prepared to provide seaworthy craft, and enough people competent to crew them safely. Continue Reading →

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Report from the 52nd Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women

By Alice de Jonge

Monash University, Faculty of Business & Economics

In July 2012 I attended the 52nd Session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) as an American Society of International Law UN Observer. During the Session, periodic reports were presented to the Committee from eight member States: Guyana, Indonesia, Bulgaria and Jamaica during the first week of the Session, and Mexico, New Zealand, Bahamas and Samoa during the second week of the Session. This article deals with the four country sessions held during the second week of CEDAW’s 52nd session. Something that became obvious throughout each of these sessions was that human rights, in this case women’s rights particularly, often raise issues that are politically very sensitive. And this, in turn, means that the ability, and the willingness, of a government to push through reforms required to bring the state into compliance with international law CEDAW obligations can often be imperilled by domestic politics. Continue Reading →