Presentation on “How we came to be human rights defenders and relational feminists”

By Jeanne Sarson | Apr 9, 2011

Sharing Linda and my work and the collective voices of all who have contacted us from different countries, such as New Zealand, Australia, Western Europe, the UK, USA and Canada, these presentations provide the opportunity to educate those in attendance about NST. Working to gain national and global human rights recognition that NST occurs is the meaning of human right defending work. Relational feminism for us means countering the destruction NST victimization inflicts to the victimized woman's relationship with/to/for Self by helping the woman so victimized re-claim her Self-relationship.

In the presentations, via the drawings of women, we share what NST is – it is acts of torture inflicted against women or against women when they were girls by torturers known and unknown to them. Their victimization can begin in their earliest of childhood years inflicted by a parent(s), family members, and other like-minded. The women are also trafficked to those they do not know. As one woman stated it, "I was rented out for torturing". We speak of women because it is women who mainly contact us. But we realize that men when they were boys were also subjected to NST victimization because the wmen speak of their male siblings being so harmed.

We have given three such presentations in the last three months and below are some of the points we have learned. We also share a little picture of the beauty of the coastline of Nova Scotia that we drove by on one of our trips to present.

Some points learned are:
1. That educating from a human rights-based approach is important because such a perspective is relatively new for many people to think about.

2. People are generally not familiar with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR), let alone article 5 stating that "no one shall be subjected to torture ...".

3. People are quite surprised to learn that the UDHR is "63 years old" given that it came into being in 1948.

4. Historically, they seldom realize that John Peters Humphrey, a Canadian lawyer and scholar, was a principal author of the UDHR.

5. Also, less known is that between 1946 and 1948, from a gendered perspective, it took great effort on the part of activists and the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) to have the word "man" removed from the UDHR framework and replaced with gender equality language. This was important because of the sexism that existed at this time when the English word "man" was considered to refer only to men. "Man" was replaced with the words of "all human beings" or "everyone" or "no one".[1] This is why article 5 today reads, "no one shall be subjected to torture" versus only "man will not be subjected to torture".

6. People are generally unaware of the existence of NST that exist and the data that police now have that pedophilic torture does occur at a presently known rate of approximately 20-26% in some industrialized countries; or, that adults can also be victims of NST.

7. That in spite of article 5 of the UDHR there has been a strong social conditioning that torture only occurs in the public sphere by State actors; therefore, it is a new reality for people to understand that this is not so.

We are proud to be able to share with all who attend such presentations equality space and the voices of all the women mostly, but also a few men, who have given us specific permission to also show their drawings which are so powerful to help explain to others the brutal and tragic reality of NSAT victimization.
Jeanne, April 9, 2011.


[1] Pietilä, Hilkka. (2002). Engendering the global agenda: The story of women and the United Nations (p. 17). New York: Un Non-Governmental Liaison Service, United Nations.

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