Professor Bennoune Presents on Fundamentalism, Extremism, and Women’s Cultural Rights at United Nations General Assembly
Professor Karima Bennoune, acting in her capacity as United Nations Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, presented a report to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on October 25. The report shines a light on how diverse forms of fundamentalism and extremism pose a growing threat to women’s rights around the world.
“Fundamentalism and extremism are giving rise to widespread abuses of women’s cultural rights,” said Bennoune in a United Nations press release. “Some of the most urgent threats that women’s human rights will face in coming years will include the diverse forms of fundamentalism and extremism that are on the rise across all regions of the world.”
Bennoune called for an immediate end to discriminatory practices such as banning women’s artistic expression, extremist targeting of cultural events associated with women and girls, the imposition of “modest” dress codes, and curbs on women’s equal participation in social, economic, political, and cultural affairs. She also expressed concerns about efforts to limit the ability of girls and women to access educational opportunities.
“Arts, education, science, and culture are among the best ways to fight fundamentalism and extremism and support women’s rights,” said Bennoune. “These are not luxuries, but are critical to creating alternatives and protecting youth from any form of radicalization.”
Bennoune said that the key to progress lies in part in supporting secular politics and governance.
“The separation of religion and state is a critical piece of the struggle against fundamentalist and extremist ideologies that target women, as it creates or preserves space for women and minorities to challenge those ideologies, and to enjoy their cultural rights without discrimination,” she said.
Karima Bennoune is an author, lecturer, teacher, and international law scholar as well as the first Arab-American to be honored with the Derrick A. Bell Award from the Section on Minority Groups of the Association of American Law Schools. In 2014, she was awarded the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for her book Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight against Muslim Fundamentalism. In October 2015, she was appointed UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights. She was recently presented with the 2016 Rights and Leadership Award by IANGEL, the International Action Network for Gender Equity & Law.