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Universal human rights for women: UN engagement with traditional abuses, 1948-1965

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posted on 2021-10-11, 00:47 authored by Roland BurkeRoland Burke
This chapter explores the first two decades of UN human rights endeavours around traditional and cultural practices, principally those which prevented the realization of the UDHR for women. Its focal point will be the Convention on Consent, Minimum Age, and Registration for Marriage, one of the very first international treaties on human rights protection adopted by the UN, preceding its more celebrated siblings of the mid-1960s by several years. With its proximate origin in the 1956 Supplemental Convention Slavery, and a deeper lineage to the energetic interwar projects on women and children’s welfare undertaken by activists within the League of Nations, the marriage initiative was a striking instance where the UN began to consider human rights in terms of attitudinal, social, and community oppressions, as opposed to the elegant model of state and citizen. Drawing on extensive archival materials, the chapter will recover the energetic advocacy of Arab and African women in the early UN, from India’s Hansa Mehta and Iraq’s Bedia Afnan, to Togo’s Marie Sivomey, and Guinea’s Jean Martin Cisse.


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Book Title

Women and the UN: A New History of Women's International Human Rights


Adami, R. Plesch, D.



Place of publication

Abingdon, UK and New York, USA


Routledge Explorations in Development Studies


17p. (p. 71-87)



Rights Statement

© 2022 Roland Burke The Open Access version of this chapter, available at, has been made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives 4.0 license.

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