Seeking Gender Justice in a Globalizing Age

Published in Political Studies Review 9.2 (2011): 276

Recent decades have witnessed a tremendous explosion of the global women's human rights movement, which has emphasised the gendered nature of global issues and urged the global community to take immediate steps towards gender-specific sustainable development. In this book, Niamh Reilly successfully analyses the historical evaluation of the UN-oriented Transnational Feminist Advocacy (TFA) from a cosmopolitan feminist perspective. Her account of cosmopolitan feminism takes a critical glance at the universal human rights norms, particularly the imposition of neo-liberal, male-centred Western norms and the exclusion of global Southern norms of human rights, and suggests that well-coordinated, bottom-up advocacy of transnational women's fora may play a key transformative role for human rights in bridging local implementation with global norms (pp. 518, p. 162).

The major strength of the book is its particular focus on an optimistic and applicable implementation strategy for the development of a more effective and efficient global women's rights regime. Throughout the book, Reilly provides useful and well-placed examples to attest to the applicability of her implementation strategy. Moreover, instead of escalating the polarised binary of universalism versus cultural relativism in global human rights debates, Reilly suggests a multi-level negotiation process that results in a successful combination of universal and local norms of human rights. On the other hand, she presents detailed and valuable information about different parties' standpoints during the negotiation processes which thoroughly illustrate features of international women's human rights debates.

Even though the book is not designed as a textbook, it would be appropriate to use it as such in courses on women's studies or human rights because of its strong instructive character. Undergraduates as well as graduate students may benefit particularly from chapters 3 and 6 since together they constitute a gripping summary of the major global steps on the way to creating international legal standards for women's equality vis--vis that of men.

Despite its strengths, the book is a little short in its focus. While the author places a special focus on domestic violence and the reproductive health of women in chapter 4, and conflict and post-conflict transformation of women's rights issues in chapter 5, she treats some other important aspects of global women's rights issues cursorily.

Nonetheless, based on its well-built theoretical construction and multidimensional discussion of global women's rights advocacy, this book is a precious contribution to the scholarly literature and it offers important insights into the distinctive characteristics of the global formation of women's rights norms. -- Senem Ertan (University of Siena)