28 Sydney L. Rev. 665 (2006)
Human Rights in the 21st Century: Take a Walk on the Dark Side

handle is hein.journals/sydney28 and id is 659 raw text is: Human Rights in the 21st Century.
Take a Walk on the Dark Side
This article unpacks three normative claims on which the human rights project is
based and exposes the dark side of the project. The author examines the larger
context within which human rights has taken shape, and critiques the claim that
human rights is part of modernity's narrative of progress: interrogates the
assumption that human rights are universal, challenging its dehistoricised,
neutral, and inclusive claims; and unpacks the atomised, insular liberal subject on
which the human rights project is based and its correlating assumptions about the
'Other' who needs to be cabined or contained lest she destabilises or undermines
this subject. The author makes some tentative proposals as to howv we can engage
with human rights once its dark side is exposed.
We have witnessed an extraordinary, proliferation of human rights law in the course
of the 20th Century and the beginning of this millennium. Contrary to popular
belief, business is booming at the United Nations, with its entourage of resolutions,
declarations and conventions that now deal with a broad range of abuses across the
globe   including racial discrimination, women's rights to equality, the rights of
children, and the rights of indigenous groups - all aided and abetted by non-
governmental organisations, including faith-based groups, women's groups and
other social justice initiatives. There is a sense that the international community is
dealing with these 'problems' seriously and handling them with great speed and
Yet, the outward sense of progress, of something being done, of a social justice
project being pursued in the name of human rights, is emerging as a somewhat
disingenuous and illusory endeavour. The record of human rights since their
proclamation in the I8th Century has been less than stellar. Indeed, the legal
interventions that have been pursued in the name of human rights are perhaps the
most explicit examples we have to date of how the assumptions that more law
equals more equality and freedom, and that human rights is an optimistic and
hopeful pursuit, are quite mistaken. In fact, the proliferation of laws in the name of
human rights serves at times to remind us how our good intentions, passions and
progressive 'swords may have turned into boomerangs.' The human rights
tDirector of the Centre for I eminist tLegal Research New Dehli. Currently visiting professor at
the Geneva School tor International Relations and Diplomacy. This article is based on the 2005
Julius Stone Lecture.
I Janet Halley & Wendy Brown (eds), Left Legafism.Left Critique (2002) at 4.

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