For your viewing we have an interview with Akila Radhakrishnan who works at the Global Justice Center. An organization that uses legal interventions to ensure that the rights of women are protected. There is also a video of Helen Stacy who teaches at the law school at Stanford, commenting upon human rights and the structure of human rights at the United Nations. I'm very happy to welcome Akila Radhakrishnan to our course today. Akila is with the Global Justice Center, which is based in New York, an organization that works on human rights issues. It may seem a little strange to start a course on International Women's Health with a discussion of human rights. But in this course, we want to introduce a lens of human rights at the very beginning of the course. Many people who are interested in empowering women, supporting women's education, and health, and that sort of thing are interested in it because such efforts increase and improve society's economies, and obviously, benefit women. But our approach in this class has much more to do with justice and human rights for women. Women being human beings having a right to health. And so we begin the class talking a little bit about this human rights lens. So Akila, I'm delighted to have you here. Thank you for coming. We'd love to hear your thoughts about the general question of using human rights as a lens, particularly in connection with women's health, and then a little bit about the work of the Global Justice Center and your work in particular. >> I think what's really important is that the development of the human rights framework has really helped to propel women's rights to a different level. I think oftentimes, when you talk about women's rights, people don't take it seriously. They don't understand it as something that's entitled to a human being And I think that framing it as the right to health, the right to bodily integrity, the right to be free from torture, are things that people can understand. Giving it a gender lens and saying that this is what it means for women, helps people to raise the profile of the issue and to take serious action. I think your book very carefully documents how not, I think, adequately responding to women's needs and understanding what they are, how it seriously harms society. I think we can see it with things like maternal mortality, which, the cause of maternal mortality can almost entirely be preventable. And it's really about understanding it within this broader framework that helps to bring people to appreciate what that means. >> Some people say that the human rights movement, which is really very popular now, and many people are talking about human rights. Some people say that the human rights movement is the mainstreaming of feminism. Think I agree with that. I think that people concerned with women's rights, or women's empowerment, women's education, and so on, always came back to the importance of the way people treated each other. Which is what I think human rights is all about. And so I've sort of liked that at that phrase that human rights is mainstreaming feminism. Does that explain why the Global Justice Center, which is essentially a human rights organization, really does its work through women's or a gender lens? >> Absolutely, and I think a part of it is that we believe that without gender equality, you can't have a true rule of law. You can't have a fully equal world. And so, that's why we focus in particular on issues that impact women, on gaining women's access to political participation, to having women have equal rights to healthcare and to be free from discrimination in all aspects of their life. And we think that that's really what builds a truer, fuller society and to the ends in which it helps women realize themselves as well. >> What are some of the issues that you're focusing on specifically, and in which countries? >> We have several different projects at the moment. Our two major projects focus on sexual violence and conflict, which I think has really risen to a level. And it's actually one of the more, it's an interesting case because 20 years ago, you wouldn't have the UN Security Council debating issues of sexual violence against women. And now, it is a full thematic. They have yearly discussions on the topic. They consider it a Peace and Security issue. They consider it integral to maintaining world order and to their mandate. And I think sexual violence, taking it seriously has really been enormous in recognizing that this is not just something that happens in private, but this is something that impacts stability and community cohesion. And our two big projects in the moment on sexual, one is on looking at women's right and access to abortion after being raped in conflict. We know that in places like Rwanda and in Bosnia, they are purposely impregnating women with the intention of affecting the ethnic communities. And there's kind of a general phenomenon of the denial of abortion because people don't realize that it's actually something that's important for these women to move forward. When they become pregnant, it's often one of the worst consequences because it's proof of them being raped. It perpetuates the cycle. So when they're ostracized out of their communities, so are their children. And that also creates continuing risks. Often, these young women who can be as young as 14 turn to sex work because they don't have any opportunities to support themselves. And so that's one of our big projects. That's kind of a global project. We're looking primarily at the African conflicts, but we do know it's happened in Bangladesh, it's happened in Bosnia, it's happened in Burma. So it is a phenomenon that's happening over on the world. And our other projects on sexual violence is trying to, again, how do we use this human rights framework that exists to bring this issue outside of just the realm of something that happens in the home. And so we're looking at it under the illegal means and methods of warfare framework which has been developed to regulate warfare. And so looking at where sexual violence is being used for a particular political or military targets and saying, that is illegal use of a weapon or method of warfare. >> Is this, are you referring to the Geneva Conventions? >> Under the Geneva Conventions >> And when you say an illegal weapon of war, has rape been, do people agree that rape is, in fact, a weapon of war? >> The rhetoric of rape is a weapon of war is often used. But I think that people don't necessarily consider what that means. Even the Security Council, they have said several times, rape is a tactic of war. Rape is a method of warfare and there is a framework that regulates it. Sometimes, when we look at conflicts, Syria is very popular right now and you have the red line on Syria was use of chemical weapons against the population, which is use of an illegal weapon. And I think that one of the things we've also seen in Syria over the last two years has been a rampant use of sexual violence against the civilian population. One of the major reasons for civilian displacement in Syria has actually been threat or fear of sexual violence. And I think that that, looking at it within this context brings it to decision makers who are making decisions on how do you respond to these crises. Sexual violence happens to men, but it's predominately against women. I think it's you know, at least 80 percent of it, is definitely targeting women. And so it's bringing an issue that Traditionally would be women's rights to an area that helps understand it within a global context. >> When you say women's rights there, because if we were worried for example, about sexual violence in a place like Syria or anywhere where there's war, we know that rates of sexual violence are very high anywhere where there is war. If we're framing it as a health issue, which we could do. >> Absolutely. >> Obviously a major health issue. That's one thing, and international donors will provide funding to help people if they're ill or they're injured. >> Right. >> What is the special advantage of framing it as a human rights issue as opposed to a health or might even say a development issue? Well I think it's the human right to health. There's definitely obviously a public health impact of sexual violence. But I think understanding that you as a human being who have the right to bodily integrity, I think framing that helps people understand it. It's not about particular treatments. It's not about It's not if you have a fistula and you need fistula repair. It's that you, as a person, are entitled to all of the care that you need. >> Mm-hm. >> And I think that's an important concept for people to understand because, again, going back to abortion, it's often a polarizing >> You now its a polarizing subject. But if you frame it within the right to health where women can die from it and its something that you may need as a woman. It's just one of the medical treatments. You know you could just need, you know you could need a scale birth attendant. You can need all of these different things and I think that's what's important. Is trying to understand it where it's more about what you as a human being require. >> On that issue, a great deal of humanitarian aid whose gone into the Congo but that most of that aid cannot be used for totally appropriate medical care, which would include abortion. >> Right. What's happening around that and is the Global Justice Center concerned about this and working on this? >> Mm-hm, that's one of the issues that the Global Justice Center has done. It's actually a problem that's caused. Primarily by the US government. The US government. [LAUGH] Does not allow their funding to be used for providing abortion services, including in conflict zones, and including in countries where it's legal like Sudan. In Sudan, you have evidence of soldiers raping women and saying things like you will have the child of a Janjaweed, you will You will have an Arab child. They're trying to, this is their end goal, and abortion is legal there. And because the majority of humanitarian providers receive funds from the US in some form or the other. There is Is a complete lack of abortion services available on the ground. >> Other governments will allow their [CROSSTALK] >> Other governments will allow their aid to be used. But one, the US is so pervasive, and the other thing is, you know, a lot of these on the ground situations, you can technically segregate your funds. But it's not particularly easy to do. And so the Global Justice Center's been working with countries like the Uk and Norway and Sweden who are committed funders of sexual reproductive health to say that their money can be used. So we're working to kind of parse out this issue, but really what you need is movement from the US government To change this policy. >> Let's move to some other issues, domestic violence, for example. Can you comment on that? I'm not sure if the Global Justice Center work specifically on it but comment on domestic violence. A very common, common issue. One out of three women will experience it worldwide in their lifetimes. Coming on the human rights aspect on that issue if you could. >> So, I mean I think domestic violence is one of the things where there is such a pervasive silence around it that you don't, >> People are encouraged not to hear about it and I think a lot of it has to do with its shame that is put on the woman and how the blame is taking up by the woman herself or what's happening to her. And I think understanding it from a human rights perspective that you as a person have a right to be free from violence can really help break some of that stigma. It doesn't matter, some countries have great laws against domestic violence, and other countries have terrible laws against domestic violence. And at the same time what you have are the statistics are often the same, the reporting rates are often the same, and that really has to do more with the stigma and the inability to talk about it. And the inability to not understand it is something that. You've brought upon yourself or that you know you deserve. >> And do you feel that the language that we're using now is improving I mean are we finding language to turn those arguments around, this is a good example I think, where yes the woman has often been blamed or she has felt shame >> Now we understand in a human rights context that she has a right to health, and she has a right to report this or find care. Are there other examples of language actually changing in the international >> Field or in academia or wherever? >> I think sexual balance again, has really been, it's not easier to talk about than domestic violence, but the cases in conflict has been so severe, that there have been some >> Incredible movements over the last 20 years with sexual violence being deemed a war crime, being deemed a crime against humanity. It's, again, it's not about something that happens that's shameful to a woman. But it is something that's illegal, and that raises to the same level as murder, or as torture, or it can be a form of torture, it can be a form of genocide. And I think That kind of terminology is slowly helping to create norm change even on the ground. And that's one of the other things we've been looking at with this means and methods of warfare project because the reason it's so effective is that they consider it to be a blight against a woman's honor which then dishonors the community and breaks it apart. So really looking at it like it's murder, like it's a crime. Helps to take some of that same and stigma and shift it towards what it really is. >> Mm-hm. >> And in a more general sense, I know that for years rape and pillage was collateral damage. >> Yes. >> It was called collateral damage. And now to be able to move it from that sort of invisible Kind of term to to something that that refers to human rights allows. >> And it's not inevitable anymore. >> Yeah. >> You know we don't just it's going to be a part of conflict. Now it's a part of conflict that will need to address. >> Are there other programs that the global justice center or other issues that you'd like to comment on? >> We are doing a lot of work in Burma, which as a country, that's transitioning out of 60 years of dictatorship and trying to transition towards democracy. It shows a really interesting movement for how do you integrate women Into democracy and programs going forward. The important of having women participate fully in everything from peace processes to the legislature. I think that where there's opportunities. You know, Burma's looking at Rewriting their constitution, which is hugely problematic document. Over the next, they set up a commission, who knows how open it's going to be, on changing their constitution. But that's a place where you can embed woman's rights straight in. You can define. Discrimination against women very clearly, and I think that those sorts of nasa-political processes are important. And in Rwanda, when they did their constitution, they put in 40%. They put in a quote for women's participation The legislature. And now Rwanda has the highest number of women in Parliament, it's something around 60%. The US is still about 17%. So I think that those kind of movements and that's why our work environment is really interesting because over the next couple of years, we're going to be able to work with women's groups and see how we can really embed women's rights into the structures. So at least, the laws and the structures aren't the barriers. I think, you know, there's opportunity in transition times. I remember reading about Japanese women, who at the time at the end of the second world war, the regulations and constitution were being rewritten. And, they were able to embed language at that time, and no one took it very seriously, a long time ago. >> Right. >> No one took it very seriously, but by embedding >> These women's rights language into the new constitution. It stayed. And it had an effect. So you have an opportunity in these times of transition in Iraq and Burma- >> Sudan. >> Sudan. >> Sudan has been working on their constitution, yeah. >> Well, thank you. What you've done, I think, has highlighted some of the sort of outrages that happen to women, but at the same time >> Talked about some of the positive things that have happened. And as you know, there are many students out here who'll be listening to your comments. And I wonder if you have any messages you'd like to deliver to students who might hear our conversation. >> Well I think that >> You know the human rights framework is something that, it seems confusing and complicated but I think once you understand the mechanisms and how it can be used, it's a really powerful tool for women. And it's a powerful tool for changing some of these things from outreaches to really positive examples and movements forward. Thanks very much. >> Thanks, Ann. Hi, I'm Akila Radhakrishnan. I'm the Senior Counsel at the Global Justice Center, a human rights organization that believes that gender equality is essential to building a stable rule of law. And I encourage you to look at women's health from a human rights perspective, and how the human rights framework can really be used to Empower women and help them achieve their goals. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. If you have any questions, I encourage you to visit the Global Justice Center's website, www.globaljusticecenter.net or you could follow-up directly with me with specific questions. Thank you.