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The object of "Rights" : third world women and the production of global human rights discourse

  • Author(s): Hua, Julietta Y.
  • et al.

The US "women's rights as human rights" doctrine continues to represent campaigns for international women's rights through the stories and images of Asian, African, and Latin American women. As both the idea of global human rights, and the place of women within the context of international human rights discourse become more powerful in framing a U.S. national identity, it seems that only certain issues (located in Other places that are always assumed to be "behind") come to define the US women's human rights campaign. Even while human rights and feminist literatures recognize the fallacy of assuming a "western gaze" in evaluating Other people and places, the reality of the representation of women's human rights issues, asylum law, and US governmental aid for victims of violations continue to place Third World women in a double -bind, where she must argue her own backward-ness in order to garner aid. This dissertation asks, "Why and how do certain issues become synonymous with 'women's human rights' while others do not? What is the role of liberal feminist discourses in articulating what and who constitutes human rights? How and why do the women of 'Other' places become the central 'victims' of human rights violation?". This dissertation examines three case studies - the representation of Southeast Asian women victim to sex trafficking as hapless "victim," the signification of the woman/girl "victim" to China's One Child Per Couple policy as trapped by her "traditional" cultural conditions, and the casting of Muslim women "victim" to Islamic cultural laws as needing to be "saved" in order to protect the idea of a global democracy. The analysis engages with the politics of identity, particularly in terms of how the "logic of exclusion" works to inform the US feminist mobilization around the issues identified as women's human rights violations. Each case study outlines the ideological processes at work in defining who constitutes the "victim" of women's human rights violations - that is, the discursive effects that allow the US to imagine itself as having progressed beyond the problems of patriarchy and racism

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