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Ending violence against women

Photo by Mary Knox Merrill.

An international group of human rights experts discussed the global challenges facing women’s rights and the responsibility of governments worldwide to eliminate violence against women, during a recent panel discussion sponsored by Northeastern University’s School of Law.

The event, held on April 29, was part of the Due Diligence Project hosted by the School of Law’s Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy. The project conducts extensive research to analyze how governments are complying with their due diligence obligations to eliminate violence against women.

Panelist Rashida Manjoo, Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women for the United Nations Human Rights Council, said physical and psychological violence against women remains a major universal problem, as women’s rights are still not recognized or protected in many parts of the world.

“Violence against women is the most pervasive human rights violation in the world,” said Manjoo, a native of South Africa. She said part of the challenge is determining whether governments fail to take action due to a lack of understanding or a lack of political will.

Manjoo will also deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary degree at the School of Law’s graduation ceremony on May 27.

During the panel discussion, attorney Geeta Ramaseshan discussed how India’s Supreme Court has handled human rights issues since the 1980s, while Genoveva Tisheva, an activist from Bulgaria, talked about the challenges she’s faced in her country over the last two decades pushing the government to end violence against women.

Vivienne Wee, an anthropologist from Singapore and a researcher with the Institute for Women’s Empowerment, noted the importance of determining whether violence is a social norm in that particular society when analyzing violence against women. She also asserted that many of the world’s states resulted from colonization, which she said inherently included some form of violence.

The Due Diligence Project is codirected by Janine Moussa, a senior fellow at Northeastern’s School of Law, and Zarizana Abdul Aziz, a visiting scholar at Northeastern and Columbia University. Manjoo is a principal advisor on the project.

Emily Spieler, dean of the School of Law, said Northeastern is privileged to host the project through next year, which she said compliments the work done in the Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy, as well as the School of Law’s Domestic Violence Institute.

“The combination of these [initiatives] has given our students extraordinary opportunities in both global and domestic thinking around violence against women and the roles of states globally, and the reasonable expectations for interventions that limit this violence,” Spieler said.