Organised by the Centre for Law and Society in a Global Context (CLSGC).
Chair: Dr Isobel Roele (QMUL)
Speaker: Professor Ratna Kapur (Jindal Global Law School)
Commentator: Dr Jessie Hohmann (QMUL)
Alterity, Gender Equality and the Veil
‘This draft chapter from my book manuscript entitled “Freedom in a Fishbowl: Gender, Alterity and Human Rights,” examines competing understandings of freedom within the specific context of human rights engagement with alterity and the gendered ‘Other’ in relation to the veil. I first delineate how these engagements hinge on the forceful liberal premise that freedom from this practice is a universally desired end goal in the domain of gender equality, and can be effectively secured through the incorporation of the wearer into rights discourse. These interventions demonstrate how the human rights project is advancing a specific vision not only of gender but also of freedom; and in fact aggressively asserting itself as the vision of freedom unequivocally aspired to by all those who, according to the liberal paradigm, are un-free. The second and related focus of this chapter is to draw attention to the politics that informs the choice of some of the women who refuse to unveil. My argument illuminates how such alternative definitions of freedom push back against the hegemonies of rights discourse with regard to the axiomatic liberal definition of what constitutes freedom for all women. In the process, I expose not only the coercive limits of gender equality, but also the much bigger illusion of human rights as a viable and effective freedom project’.