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Culture & Human Rights: Challenging Cultural Excuses for Gender-Based Violence

In collaboration with Gender Across Borders, we welcome you to a blogging series exploring the relationship between culture and violence against women.

The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women defines “violence against women as any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”

Webster’s dictionary defines culture as “the behaviours and beliefs characteristic to a particular group.” But who defines the boundaries of inclusion and exclusion in a particular group or culture?

The personal narratives, journalistic articles, analytical pieces, critical essays and editorials that poured in from all corners of the world highlight how, regardless of who we are, and where we are, we all come face to face with 'cultural' arguments for gender-based violence.

Yet in every instance where ‘culture’ is used to impose control over women’s bodies, sexuality, emotions, decisions and actions, preventing them from expressing their own free will and enjoying their fundamental freedoms and human rights - we see individuals resisting and fighting back.

This series is itself a part of that process. Whether tackling issues such as rape, domestic violence, forced marriages, polygamy, female genital mutilation, harmful menstruation rituals, and much more, this series demonstrates that cultural evolution starts with each one of us.

We would like to thank everyone who sent in submissions, and we are especially grateful to Tanya Castle at Gender Across Borders for coordinating the series. We were, and remain, immensely moved and inspired by each contributor and hope you will too!

Violence Against Women and Culture: A Symbiotic Relationship

October 29, 2011

In this post, Danielle Prince demonstrates how women's rights advocates can promote positive cultural changes to strengthen gender equality.

Cultural Relativism and Universal Women’s Rights Doctrine

October 29, 2011

In this post, Elizabeth Crane demystifies the concept of 'culture', and discusses the relationship between cultural relativism and women's rights.

Complete Silence Is Not Absence

October 29, 2011

In this post, Mitzi Smith writes about silence as a response to trauma and abuse.

Acid-Attack Survivor Heals Others

October 29, 2011

In this post, Bijoyeta Das shares the inspirational story of Nurun Nahar.

No Excuse: Cultural Makeover Time

October 29, 2011

In this post, Claire Varley debunks the myth surrounding 'traditional culture'.

Remembering Eudy

October 29, 2011

In this post, Naatasha Segal remembers Eudy, who was savagely killed for her sexuality.

Street Culture

October 29, 2011

In this post, Elizabeth Wash investigates street harassment and the culture of sexual objectification.

Breaking the Chain of 'Culture' in the Minds of Women and Girls

October 29, 2011

In this post, Reem Mahmoud discusses the challenges of eliminating culturally-justified violence against women.

The Unbroken Curse

October 29, 2011

In this post, Wanjala Wafula informs us on culturally-justified violence against women in Kenya.

At 3:30AM

October 29, 2011

In this post, Kathleen Fallon demonstrates how culture is used far too often to justify actions,to rationalize norms that promote violence against women.

A Culture of Violence?

October 29, 2011

In this post, Miriam Vaswan discusses the notion of 'culture' in relation to reproductive rights and violence against women.

Arab Spring to End Violence Against Women?

November 25, 2011

In this post, Vibeke Thomsen comments on Arab Spring and the consequences for women in the Middle East and Africa.

Child Marriage: Ukuthwala in South Africa

November 25, 2011

In this post, Nicole Soucie recalls a trip to South Africa, and what she learned about child marriage.

Stereotyped Ukraine

October 29, 2011

In this post, Olga Pakos discusses violence and culture in the Ukraine.