Relational Rights Masquerading as Individual Rights
Posted: 6 Feb 2012
Date Written: 2008
This article seeks to fill a void in rights theory that permitted Western policy-makers to support the Iraqi and Afghan constitutions despite the risk they posed to women’s rights. Women’s advocacy efforts focused on the danger of discrimination from constitutional protection of religious law, which policymakers stated would be countered by the constitutions’ progressive human rights provisions. The concept of discrimination failed to capture the true depth of harm, which is that religious law may exclude women from the protection of some or all of those human rights provisions. This article proposes expanding the theory of relational rights to simply and clearly explain the process that could render constitutionally protected individual rights meaningless to women in these countries. While the impetus for this article was the drafting of the Iraq and Afghan constitutions, this concept applies beyond these examples to any situation in which a country cedes authority over law or law enforcement to unaccountable non-governmental actors and is not limited to the adoption of religious law.
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