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date: 29 November 2020

UN, Gender, and Womenlocked

  • Soumita BasuSoumita BasuDepartment of International Relations, South Asian University

Summary

After the end of World War II, women’s rights advocates at the United Nations vigorously campaigned for equality between the sexes. At the UN Charter Conference held in San Francisco in 1945, women delegates fought for the recognition of sex-based discrimination as a violation of human rights in Article 1 of the Charter. At the UN, issues relating to women were primarily placed under the purview of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), established in June 1946 with the mandate to “prepare recommendations and report to the Economic and Social Council on promoting women’s rights in political, economic, civil, social and educational fields.” Three main perspectives underpin feminist International Relations (IR) literature on the UN, gender and women: promoting women’s participation and inclusion of women’s issues at the UN; gender critique of the UN, geared towards institutional transformation; and challenging the universality of the UN. Despite some fundamental differences between these three strands of thinking, their political significance is widely acknowledged in the literature. The co-existence of these contentious viewpoints resonates with the vibrant feminist politics at the UN, and offers a fruitful avenue for envisioning a better intergovernmental organization. This is particularly relevant in light of feminist scholars’ engagement with activism and policymaking at the UN from the very beginning. Nevertheless, there are issues that deserve further consideration, such as the workings of the UN, as reflected in its unique diplomatic characteristics and bureaucratic practices.

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