Legislating Public and Private Spaces

Challenges of Change: Religion, Secularism & Rights
Panel 3: Chaired by Regan Ralph, Speakers Jacqueline Pitanguy, Asma Khader, and Eleanor Smeal

Eleanor Smeal & Asma Khader
at "Challenges of Change"
Photos on Flickr | Videos on YouTube

Human rights are universal and admit no division between rights in the “public” sphere of politics and policy (long dominated by men) and in the “private” sphere (where women’s rights were long abused), said Regan Ralph, founding executive director of The Fund for Global Human Rights.

Neglect and violence against women in the home become accepted and spread to become accepted by the community, the courts, the workplace and in conflict situations, she said. Therefore they must be fought. Jacqueline Pitanguy, founder and director of CEPIA in Brazil, who sent a written statement, said only a secular state guarantees freedom of religion and protection for human rights.

 For women, democracy refers not only to the full exercise of citizenship in the public sphere, but also to its practices in every day life: at work, in the family, in health, sexuality, and education. In this sense, women’s struggle for democracy is also a struggle to redefine democracy itself. 
— Jacqueline Pitanguy
 

Asma Khader, general coordinator of Sisterhood is Global Institute/Jordan and a former Minister of Culture, said every Muslim country defends its family laws as immutable, based on Islam – but all the laws are different. Therefore they must be amendable.

Fighting for women’s human rights is fighting to save the planet and humanity itself, said Eleanor Smeal, founder and president of the Feminist Majority Foundation and former president of the National Organization for Women. Moneyed interests are the real opposition to women’s rights, “because if you give full rights to half the population you have to pay them better.”

She said changing U.S. law is difficult; one senator can block anything. So a multi-tactical approach is required to mobilize the public: writings, research, picketing, demonstrations, media work, legal work – all of it nonviolent and none of it too professionalized. But no legislation passes until the grassroots grows passionate and demands it.

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