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On Human Rights Day, Jennifer Allsopp interviews Professor Yakin Ertürk for openDemocracy, discussing the new vulnerabilities faced by women, including refugee women, and the new opportunities for remedy offered by the international human rights system

JA: Yakin, you were invited to Oxford to deliver the annual Barbara Harrell-Bond lecture at the Refugee Studies Centre. You stressed in your talk, and have repeatedly argued elsewhere, that violence against women is a human rights issue. Could you say something more about the relationship between violence against women and human rights?

YE: The 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the conventions that codified its principles were largely about the harm done by a State and state actors to people in public space. Given the gendered structures that exist within society, those in public space who were most likely to be targeted by the State were men. For this reason, human rights basically excluded much of women’s experiences. However, from its inception, the “founding mothers” engaged with the United Nations. The latter provided women with a platform to voice their common concerns and the former made significant contributions to engendering the UN language and institutions.


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