Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Sarah Joseph and Adam McBeth
Chapter 8: Gender and International Human Rights Law: The Intersectionality Agenda
Anastasia Vakulenko* 1 Introduction The Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995, was a true turning point for feminism. It was then that the concerted feminist effort to challenge the historic male bias of international human rights law finally led to formal recognition, giving birth to the global human rights strategy of gender mainstreaming. The importance of this strategy, which essentially means incorporating a gender perspective into all human rights action,1 was subsequently restated in numerous UN resolutions,2 as well as in the work of the UN General Assembly and Security Council.3 At least nominally, gender was accepted by the mainstream. Productive feminist engagement with international human rights law did not stop there, however. Since then, feminism has consistently targeted the very category of gender as it provides the basis for gender mainstreaming policies. It has done so by bringing the idea of intersectionality to the fore of its engagement with international human rights discourse. Intersectionality is about exploring how gender interacts with ‘multiple social forces, such as * The author thanks the anonymous reviewer for her helpful comments and the editors for their wonderful editorial support. 1 The United Nations (‘UN’) Economic and Social Council (‘ECOSOC’) defines gender mainstreaming as ‘the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies and programmes, in all areas and at all levels, and as a strategy for making women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the...
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