Hearing Afghan Women's Voices: Feminist Theory's Re-Conceptualization of Women's Human Rights

39 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2018

See all articles by Shefali Milczarek-Desai

Shefali Milczarek-Desai

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law

Date Written: December 14, 2018

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Milczarek-Desai, Shefali, Hearing Afghan Women's Voices: Feminist Theory's Re-Conceptualization of Women's Human Rights (December 14, 2018). 16 Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law 805 (1999), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3301533

Shefali Milczarek-Desai (Contact Author)

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 210176
Tucson, AZ 85721-0176
United States

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