Equality: It's All in the Family Panel (video)
Mahnaz Afkhami introduces WLP’s new global initiative, Family Law Reform to Challenge Gender Based Violence, and new documentary film, Equality, It’s All in the Family during the Equality, It’s All in the Family event at Johns Hopkins SAIS. She notes that people have come to realize that a lot happens because people have their minds formed culturally and socially from the beginning of life, which begins in the family; a top-down structure and cultural conditioning takes place there.
Following a screening of the film is a panel discussion. Ann Mayer moderates.
Karima Bennoune begins with Algerian and US contexts, discussing her father as POW during the Algerian struggle for independence with France. She frames her comments around the question, how can international human rights law help women? She notes that non-discrimination is one of the only substantive human rights guaranteed in the UN Charter itself! There should be no exceptions for family or “culture.” Yet she notes that family can be a primary site of discrimination and violence, and a product and upholder of patriarchy. Cultural rights should not be about protecting a static notion of culture – human constructs are constantly subject to reinterpretation, and women have equal rights to take part in this reinterpretation. She discusses a current report to the UN General Assembly on the impact of fundamentalism on the violation of women’s rights, and believes that reform of family law is necessary to achieve equality in all realms.
Yakin Ertürk notes a late realization that Violence against Women needs to be incorporated into the fight for human rights. She discusses the universal nature of Violence against Women: in 70 countries, violence against women is part of our culture. All of these countries are not the same, but all claim VAW as theirs. It is a shared patriarchal culture. She notes that Brazil gave women voting rights in the 1980s, Turkey in 1936, Switzerland in 1944, and that patriarchy comes in many shapes and colors. Repressive and regressive regimes and trends target both men and women, and we need to join forces.
Joy Ngwakwe discusses family law from a Nigerian perspective. The Nigerian situation is unique in that the country is divided into South and North. The South has a criminal code and the customary code at the state and local levels. Customary code systems are headed by people who are not lawyers by training. They are custodians of the cultures of the community and they are sanctioned by the state. The North has the penal code derived from the culture and religion of people of the region. Both the Southern and Northern regions manifest violence against women and demonstrate need for family law reform.
Jacqueline Pitanguy notes that WLP’s film deals with universal issues, which is daunting, yet it provides opportunity for strategizing globally, and brings together partners from different cultures. She asks, how can we organize, strategize and change, even if we know that progress is not assured or unilateral? There is patriarchy all over the world in religious and secular states. In secular states, change may be easier, but there are still large barriers. She notes that one of the most important agendas of the women’s movement in Brazil was family law. For activists, nothing is assured. Laws are historical constructions and can be changed; they depend on the social forces at play in the political arena in a given country or arena at a time, and also in the international arena with CEDAW, UN Conferences, etc.
The panel discussion is followed by a Q&A with the audience.
Mahnaz Afkhami gives closing remarks.