[Demanding Accountability (the Global Campaign & Vienna Tribunal for Human Rights)]

By Bunch, Charlotte; Reilly, Niamh et al. | Resources for Feminist Research, Spring/Summer 1996 | Go to article overview

[Demanding Accountability (the Global Campaign & Vienna Tribunal for Human Rights)]


Bunch, Charlotte, Reilly, Niamh, Cebotarev, Ea, Resources for Feminist Research


Demanding Accountability (The Global Campaign and Vienna Tribunal for Human Rights)

Charlotte Bunch and Niamh Reilly New Jersey, USA: The Center for Women's Global Leadership, Rutgers/New York: UNDP/UNIFEM, 1994; 169 pp.

Reviewed by E.A. Cebotarev Department of Sociology and Anthropology Collaborative International Development Studies University of Guelph Guelph, Ontario

Demanding Accountability is both exhilarating and deeply saddening at the same time. It is exhilarating because it documents the enormous and successful effort of international feminism "at work," of its ability to bridge continents and cultural, racial, class and ethnic differences, and lead women to unite in effective action. It is saddening because the issues that bring women together across the world are not happy ones, but anchored in pain, violence and abuse and in the denial to women of what is seen as basic "Human Rights." Thus, this book testifies to the legal and the de facto exclusion of women around the world from the status of "full humanity."

The book describes feminist activities that led to the inclusion of discussions of women's rights at the 1993 UN Vienna World Conference on Human Rights, where, for the first time in over 40 years of United Nations' dealing with these issues, women's rights have been considered. The book also presents hope - filled outcomes of this event and ends with a reference section of useful documentation for women's rights/feminist activists.

The book consists of four parts. In the first the authors describe the intense activities that lead to the organization of the "Global Campaign for Women's Human Rights," a huge regional and international effort consisting of hearings, meetings, conferences and preparation of documents by women. It demonstrated the unfair gender implications of conventionally accepted notions of Human Rights and how they obscure or turn the violations of women's rights invisible. An outgrowth of this Campaign was the organization of an NGO "Global Tribunal on Women's Human Rights" held parallel to the World Conferences in Vienna, where testimonies and hearings were held and issues and recommendations discussed.

The second part of the book focussing on women's demands for accountability, reprints vivid excerpts from the actual testimonies of 33 women form different parts of the world presented at the Tribunal. The testimonies focussed on the following five themes: Human Rights Abuse in the Family, War Crimes Against Women, Violation of Bodily Integrity, Socio - Economic Violation of Women's Rights, and Political Persecution and Discrimination. The hearings on each topic were presided by well known "judges," all international personalities from different continents, who comment on the testimony of the women. The last chapter in this part presents final summary statements of the five judges, relating the issues in their hearings to relevant inter - national laws and UN agreements.

The reading of this section is depressing but instructive. The testimonies indicate that there is no country or region of the world, either "developed" or "developing," where women's human rights are not violated and women are not exposed to inordinate and cruel suffering for no other reason than being women. It also indicates that women's rights are not seen as truly "human rights," as men's rights are, and that this topic is not of great interest to men: there were hardly any men present at the Tribunal. …

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