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I am a Norwegian law student studying at the University of Oslo. I am currently doing legal research on the development of international human rights. I would like to know if the term gender as used today in current legal theory and international documents include sexual orientation. What is a gender approach to human rights after all, and why has the UN shifted its focus from the original women's approach to human rights? I will appreciate all comments and suggestions for research resourses.

Thanks for your note to FEMINIST.COM. Your note actually arrived just as I felt like I have had one too many conversations about why we can't conflate the term feminism with human rights. My argument being that "human rights" still needs a gender lens. For instance, the grounds for human rights abuses are just beginning to take into consideration such things as rape as a weapon of war. Similarly, "asylum" for reasons of human rights has only had hints of including female genital mutilation in their list of accepted reasons.

There are a few organizations who have been initiating these conversations over the past many years, too. Specifically, there is Equality Now, under the leadership of Jessica Neuwirth, and also, the Center for Women's Global Leadership, under the leadership of Charlotte Bunch. Both are trying to "feminize" human rights--and, therefore, may be appropriate places to contact for more specifics.

Unfortunately, I am not familiar enough with "legal theory and international documents" to know if the "term gender..include[s] sexual orientation." However, I wouldn't think so, given that the former has to do with gender and the latter with sexual preference--regardless of gender. Likewise, I am not familiar enough with the UN's past and/or present to know what their current approach is. However, based on what I know about the UN's approach, I would conclude that the UN hasn't yet gotten to a focus on women's rights--therefore, it doesn't seem likely that it would have moved from women to human rights, but vice versa. Contacting the above mentioned organizations might help to answer both of your questions.


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