17 Harv. Women's L.J. 5 (1994)
Rape, Genocide, and Women's Human Rights

handle is hein.journals/hwlj17 and id is 13 raw text is: RAPE, GENOCIDE, AND WOMEN'S HUMAN RIGHTS*
CATHARINE A. MACKINNON**
Human rights have not been women's rights-not in theory or in
reality, not legally or socially, not domestically or internationally. Rights
that human beings have by virtue of being human have not been rights
to which women have had access, nor have violations of women as such
been part of the definition of the violation of the human as such on
which human rights law has traditionally been predicated.
This is not because women's human rights have not been violated. The
eliding of women in the human rights setting happens in two ways.
When women are violated like men who are otherwise like them-when
women's arms and legs are cut and bleed like the arms and legs of men;
when women, with men, are shot in pits and gassed in vans; when
women's bodies are hidden with men's at the bottom of abandoned
mines; when women's and men's skulls are sent from Auschwitz to
Strasbourg for experiments-these atrocities are not marked in the his-
tory of violations of women's human rights. The women are counted as
Argentinian or Honduran or Jewish-which, of course, they are. When
what happens to women also happens to men, like being beaten and
disappearing and being tortured to death, the fact that those it happened
to are women is not registered in the record of human atrocity.
The other way violations of women are obscured is this: When no war
has been declared, and life goes on in a state of everyday hostilities,
women are beaten by men to whom we are close. Wives disappear from
supermarket parking lots. Prostitutes float up in rivers or turn up under
piles of rags in abandoned buildings. These atrocities are not counted as
human rights violations, their victims as the desaparecidos of everyday
life. In the record of human rights violations they are overlooked en-
tirely, because the victims are women and what was done to them smells
of sex. When a woman is tortured in an Argentine prison cell, even as
it is forgotten that she is a woman, it is seen that her human rights are
* Copyright @ 1994 by Catharine A. MacKinnon. This lecture also appears in MASS
RAPE: THE WAR AGAINST WOMEN IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA (Alexandra Stiglnayer ed.,
1994), published by the University of Nebraska Press.
** Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School. Earlier versions of this
material were delivered at the United Nations World Conference on Human Rights,
Vienna, on June 17, 1993, and at the Zagreb University Law School, Zagreb, on June
25, 1993. The intellectual and research collaboration of Natalie Nenadic and Asja
Armanda, all the women of Kareta Feminist Group, and the survivors made this work
possible.

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