Violence as sex discrimination

13 Nov 2008 14:24:00.000

PA 289/08

An article challenging international attitudes to violence against women has earned an academic at The University of Nottingham a major international prize.

Alice Edwards, a lecturer in Law and Ph.D candidate at The Australian National University, has won the Audre Rapoport Prize for Scholarship in the Human Rights of Women for 2008, for her article which looks at why the UN has no explicit prohibition outlawing violence against women.

The work began when Ms. Edwards - who has worked in some of the world's most troubled countries like Rwanda and Boznia-Hertzogovenia - was with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, where the absence of sex or gender within the definition of a refugee, proved to be a major stumbling block to the protection of women refugees.

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"In the UN Refugee Convention there's no specific mention of sex and gender as a means of claiming refugee status," Ms. Edwards explained. "This is a striking omission when we know that women experience refugeehood differently to men.

 "Meanwhile, even though sex discrimination is recognised under international law, there is no explicit prohibition outlawing violence against women in any of the UN human rights treaties."

Given this omission, Ms. Edwards looks at how the UN human rights treaty bodies have been trying to use existing provisions in order to recognise violence against women as an issue of international concern. Some have argued that the issue of violence against women should be subsumed within the definition of sex discrimination or other international norms, but Ms. Edwards disagrees: "While this has been a pragmatic solution to a gap in the law, in reality it's a real strain and a stretch to do this, and I find that women are still treated unequally under international law because they have to satisfy additional criteria and usually that criteria has been created with the experiences of men rather than women in mind. So in many ways women are distorting their experiences so that they can receive international recognition for harms done."

The winning article - Violence against Women as Sex Discrimination: Judging the Jurisprudence of the UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies - will be published in the January 2009 edition of the Texas Journal of Women and the Law.

The Audre Rapoport Prize is awarded by the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Centre for Human Rights and Justice at the University of Texas School of Law. The Prize was selected by a distinguished panel of judges in a two-round process, and included professors Helena Alviar (Professor, Universidad de Los Andes, Bogotá), Cecilia Medina (President, Inter-American Court of Human Rights), and Karen Engle (Director, Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice).

The prize honours the work of Audre Rapoport who dedicated her life to the advancement of women in the United States. The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Centre aims to build a multidisciplinary community engaged in the study and practice of human rights that promotes the economic and political enfranchisement of marginalized individuals and groups both locally and globally.

- Ends -

Notes to editors: A full podcast interview with Ms. Edwards is available to listen to:[3].mp3

For the full range of University of Nottingham Podcasts visit:

The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.

It provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's "only truly global university", it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation - School of Pharmacy) and was named "˜Entrepreneurial University of the Year' at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.

Its students are much in demand from 'blue-chip' employers. Winners of Students in Free Enterprise for four years in succession, and current holder of UK Graduate of the Year, they are accomplished artists, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators and fundraisers. Nottingham graduates consistently excel in business, the media, the arts and sport. Undergraduate and postgraduate degree completion rates are amongst the highest in the United Kingdom.

Story credits

More information is available from Alice Edwards , on +44 (0)115 846 6126,

Andrew Burden

Andrew Burden - Digital Communications Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 846 8313 Location: University Park

Additional resources

Listen to the podcast here

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