The UN, Minority Rights and Gender Equality: Setting Limits to Collective Claims
International Journal on Minority and Group Rights, Vol. 21, pp. 263-283, 2007
21 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2010
Date Written: February 22, 2007
Defining the limits of minority rights poses a significant challenge to human rights norms. At the heart of current debates on multicultural citizenship is a concern to recognise the distinct cultural identifies of minority communities through legal mechanisms that allow for group-differentiated citizenship. Such differentiation, however, may bring with it the possibility of increasing segregation, the potential not for solidarity or cohesion but rather for fragmentation and conflict. This so-called ‘balkanisation’ effect can have particularly damaging consequences for women within minority communities, cut off from supports and networks within majority or minority communities. In recent years, the politicisation of multicultural politics and the increasing moral panic surrounding identity politics have fuelled public concerns that group-differentiated citizenship, given legal effect through protections of minority rights, threatens the bonds of community necessary for social cohesion. In turn, cultural symbols or signifiers of group difference, such as distinct dress codes or separate systems of religious based personal law, have become markers both of difference and resistance. This article explores the CEDAW Committee's response to cultural claims, in the context of the reservations dialogue and argues that it provides a useful model through which to explore the possibility of more just multicultural arrangements in states.
Keywords: CEDAW, Women's Human Rights, Reservations, Multiculturalism, Group Rights, Cultural Relativism
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