Yakin Ertürk interview on women's rights, human rights, and the United Nations

Yakin Ertürk interview on women's rights, human rights, and the United Nations

Resource Type
Topical Interview
Publication Year
English (US)




Part of a series of interviews recorded at WLP International with WLP partners following transnational partners meeting, September 2015 (for use in Human Rights webinar).

This interview is with Yakın Ertürk, former UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against women. She discusses understanding of women’s oppression and gender hierarchies as something aware of as life proceeds, that being raised as an independent woman does not guarantee feminist consciousness. Describes own consciousness as student at time of First UN Conference on Women, Mexico, 1975. Discusses transformation of United Nations by women pushing their agenda, mutually dynamic relationship with women’s movement, describing trajectory with timeline, observing that initially private lives of women, rape and domestic abuse overlooked. Refers to CEDAW and adjustments made with persistence of movement and lobbying. Describes women’s visibility at UN World Conference on Human Rights, Vienna, Austria, 1993. Describes United Nations Human Rights council adopting Special Rapporteur on Violence against women role, 1994, position held by Ertürk 2003-2009. Gives detailed description mechanism, role and responsibility. Discusses importance of mechanism, advocating more use by women’s organizations, mobilization of victims to raise voice, reports providing advocacy tool for confronting governments on accountability. Refers to case of domestic violence in 1990s Hungary. Discusses silence as perpetrator, engagement leading to legal reform, many countries now with laws against domestic violence or provisions within criminal codes. Discusses tendency of protection and victimization perspective, calling for shift to empowerment approach, unless individuals empowered and autonomous, no practicable options. Discusses ongoing debate among feminist scholars of human rights as synonymous with civil and political rights, but not exercised without economic rights. Refers to Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Discusses private sphere of women as outside of public and political concern, research and scholarly understanding achieved but implementation of change lagging behind. Discusses successes of last two decades leading to backlash from right wing groups. Discusses human rights discourse undermined by security agenda and rise of political religion. Discusses educated women’s tendency for self-blame, incidence of repercussions if speak out. Discusses risks of individual resistance vs empowerment of collective action. 

Refers to Women’s Learning Partnership (WLP), by joining forces can make stories normative so can advance in implementation of strategies for human rights. Discusses far-reaching benefits of sharing of experiences and successful non-hierarchical learning by diverse women represented in partnership.


Runtime: 00:26:31