Journal of Global Ethics 5 (1):57 – 71 (2009)
AbstractRecent decades of women's rights advocacy have produced numerous regional and international agreements for protecting women's security, including a UN convention that affirms the state's responsibility to protect key gender-specific rights, with no exceptions on the basis of culture or religion. At the same time, however, the focus on universal women's rights has enabled influential feminists in the United States to view women's rights in opposition to culture, and most often in opposition to other people's cultures. Not surprisingly, then, feminists across the global South have criticized the universal-women's-rights agenda. This article reviews representative critical responses to universal-women's-rights advocacy. The author argues that, taken collectively, these critical responses do not reject the possibility of cross-cultural feminist advocacy but they do suggest the need for feminists in the United States and Europe to focus less on transferring rights across the obstacles of culture and more on how they can revise and expand their own understanding of women's rights in response to the struggles of other women, many of whom view women's rights as organic to their own cultures and as connected to broader social struggles
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