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The Security Council recognizes that peace is inextricably linked with equality between women and men…[and] that the equal access and full participation of women in power structures and their full involvement in all efforts for the prevention and resolution of conflicts are essential for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.
– Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdury (2000) President, UN Security Council
Recent feminist efforts to engage with the United Nations (UN) Security Council could be dismissed as a futile attempt to employ the “master's tools” to dismantle the “master's house.” There is a long history of lip service by international institutions to the antimilitaristic ways of thinking that have been at the heart of women's peace movements for centuries. However unlikely it was, these efforts have borne fruit as evidenced by the Statement of the Council's President, Bangladeshi Ambassador Chowdury, on International Women's Day in 2000, linking gender equality “inextricably” with peace, the core project of the UN. The Statement was followed several months later, on October 31, by the Council's unanimous adoption of Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security. The resolution calls for inter alia the increased participation of women in decision making related to the prevention, management, and resolution of armed conflict. Although it is nonbinding, the resolution has been enormously productive. Not only has it provided the basis for strengthening institutional commitment to gender mainstreaming and continuing annual dialogue between women's peace advocates and the Security Council in New York, it has also supplied leverage for many grassroots women's groups to claim a role in peace negotiations and postconflict decision making.
International human rights law ‘sexes’ its subjects, (re)producing unequal relations of gender power, but at the same time providing important opportunities for contestation and change; at least that is the hope that has sustained feminist human rights advocacy. Around the world, women's human rights campaigners have engaged assiduously with the discourse as activists, victims, policy-makers and lawyers, pushing against its masculinist and imperial underpinnings in their efforts to glimpse its emancipatory potential. This engagement has revealed that, through a variety of techniques and historical residues, women are systematically marginalized by the masculine standards and conceptions of the regime and therefore not constituted as fully human for the purposes of guaranteeing their enjoyment of human rights. The allegedly neutral universal subject of human rights law also reproduces other hierarchies, including those of race, culture, nation, socio-economic status and sexuality, which intersect with constructions of gender to produce subjects that bear the markings of complex histories of subjugation and resistance. While being attentive to these intersections, and the part that feminist human rights advocacy has played in reproducing other hierarchies, my goal in this chapter is to focus on the lineage of the dualistic and hierarchical production of sexed subjectivities in human rights discourse in order to examine how the exclusionary effects of a discourse that makes the highest claims to inclusivity have been legitimated.