The University of Maryland School of Law conducted a conference on the "Global Advancement of Women: Barriers and Best Practices" April 6-7 that was highlighted by a keynote speech by Sheila Dauer, PhD, director of the Women's Human Rights Program for Amnesty International USA.
Dauer described violence against women as "the human rights scandal of our time" and said the underlying cause of such violence is discrimination against women. She outlined three types of violence against women-in custody, in war, and in the home-as a "crucial mechanism by which women are forced into subservience. She said "one in three women worldwide will be raped, beaten, or attacked this year."
She also noted that cultural differences around the world contribute to the subservience of women and cited a government study in Pakistan that "showed 42 percent of Pakistani women accept violence as part of their fate; only 19 percent challenged it."
Dauer said Amnesty International is working with governments, including the U.S. government, to change laws to protect women while at the same time respect cultural differences.
Dauer's complete keynote speech can be viewed using Real Player by clicking here.
At the conference's welcome dinner in Westminster Hall, three School of Law students discussed their experiences abroad. From a new litigation center in South Africa to the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, the University of Maryland School of Law has offered students opportunities that combine international and human rights law and help students gain experience in the international arena.
"I felt like I was on the cusp of greatness, (that) things were really happening," said Rupa Chilukuri, JD. As part of the school's South Africa externship program, the 2005 graduate spent a semester in Cape Town at the Women's Legal Center, which aims to protect and advance the rights of women in South Africa. Chilukuri worked on cases related to customary law, Muslim law, and reproductive rights.
Reena Shah, who will graduate in 2007, conducted similar research on customary law and its impact on women, while interning at the Southern African Litigation Centre, which is located in Johannesburg and supports nine African countries. Shah learned firsthand the complexities of international law. "It's the way you get the full perspective," she said.
An interest in health and human rights led Markus Rauschecker to an internship in Ethics, Trade, Human Rights and Health Law at the World Health Organization (WHO).
Part of Rauschecker's responsibilities was to create a health and human rights database-a collection of treaties, constitutions, case law, and papers relating to the right to health.
"It was a huge project," said Rauschecker, who graduates from the School of Law next year. "You always knew that you were working on a project that was going to be an official WHO tool available to anybody."
The conference was organized by Paula Monopoli, JD, associate professor of law and founding director of the Women, Leadership, and Equality Program, to explore the role of women in a changing global environment.
Papers presented at the conference will be published in an upcoming issue of the University of Maryland Law Journal of Race, Religion, Gender and Class.