Hearing Afghan Women's Voices: Feminist Theory's Re-Conceptualization of Women's Human Rights
39 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2018
Date Written: December 14, 2018
When a fundamentalist Islamic organization called the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan in 1996, the Western world (and especially the Western media) immediately denounced the Taliban's policies concerning Afghan women. The Taliban, decrying Western interference, quickly defended themselves by insisting that their treatment of women stems from cultural and religious traditions. This tug-of-war continues today because both the West and the Taliban rely on simplistic definitions of women's human rights and culture in constructing their arguments. Thus, the issue of Afghan women's human rights is entangled in a web between those who insist upon the existence of universal human rights standards and those who declare that human rights are contingent upon the particular culture of a given society. This Note utilizes feminist theory and practice to create an alternative to the either/or discourse put forth by the proponents of universalism and relativism. It then applies this alternative to an Afghan woman's asylum claim in order to enable an asylum decision informed by both universalism and relativism, and to produce an outcome that is not limited by either.
Although this Note began as a hypothetical question, there is more at stake here than a theoretical exercise. On November 5, 1998, two years after the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, an Afghan woman in Tucson, Arizona, applied for asylum in the United States because she feared persecution on account of her gender if she were to return to her homeland. Therefore, this is a real controversy, with real implications, for a real woman.
Keywords: women's human rights, universal human rights, feminist theory, universalism, relativism
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