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Gender, Alterity and Human Rights

Freedom in a Fishbowl

Ratna Kapur

Human rights are axiomatic with liberal freedom. Yet more rights for women, sexual and religious minorities, has had disempowering and exclusionary effects. Revisiting campaigns for same-sex marriage, violence against women, and Islamic veil bans, Gender, Alterity and Human Rights lays bare how human rights emerge as a project of containment and unfreedom rather than meaningful freedom. Kapur provocatively argues that the futurity of human rights rests in turning away from liberal freedom ­and towards non-liberal registers of freedom.
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Chapter 3: Freedom, women’s rights and the rise of the sexual security regime

Ratna Kapur


This chapter illustrates how women’s rights advocacy is moving further away from its promised goal of freedom in the context of human rights. Analysing the responses to the 2015 Cologne sexual assaults and the 2016 Delhi gang rape within specific domestic contexts, as well as antitrafficking and gender peace and security interventions in the international arena, the chapter traces how these have strengthened the security and sexual surveillance apparatus governing gender more generally, and Third World women quite specifically. This carceral turn exemplifies how and why women’s human rights advocacy has produced outcomes that have actually moved in the direction of unfreedom rather than freedom.

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