Discrimination due to gender and sexual orientation tends nowadays to be prohibited under international human rights instruments, as well as under the national laws of many countries that express their commitment to defending human rights. Nonetheless, as the work of Amnesty International has shown, violence against women (whatever their sexual orientation), gay men, trans-gendered and transsexual persons remains an appallingly constant phenomenon, both in countries that have an official commitment to fighting these forms of discrimination and in those that do not. Violence is inflicted by private actors as well as - in many countries - by state officials, and is often justified by reference to local customs and moral values. These essays, based on the 2002 Oxford Amnesty Lectures, seek to explore some of the inter-connections between human rights, gender, and sexuality. Many difficult questions are considered. How do we understand and categorize human rights abuses related to a person's sex or sexual orientation, for example? Are these distinctive types of abuse, or are they both examples of the social enforcement of 'traditional' gender roles?Does their inclusion within the remit of human rights abuses require us to refine what we mean by human rights? What weight, if any, should be given to demands made in the name of particular religious and cultural traditions which seek to restrict the rights of women and sexual minority groups? What role does the law have to play in combating these types of discrimination? And how far have we come, and how far have we left to go, in the quest for a world in which discrimination based on sex and sexual orientation is a thing of the past? The essays in this collection - written by internationally distinguished authors from a wide variety of disciplines - are united in their belief that it is a serious human rights violation unjustly to penalize people because of their sex or sexual orientation. However, they adopt a wide variety of approaches to their subject-matter, and tackle the questions raised in very different ways. In consequence, they make important contributions to academic and practical debates about human rights, gender and sexuality.The Oxford Amnesty Lectures is an internationally renowned lecture series that seeks to promote discussion about human rights, whether in theory or in practice.
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