Women’s Human Rights: From Progress to Transformation (An Intersectional Response to Nussbaum)

This article asks ‘the intersectional question’ about women’s progress. The purpose is to understand whether the successes of the women’s movement and women’s human rights have improved the conditions of women who are disadvantaged not only because of their sex or gender but also disadvantaged by their race, colour, caste, religion, region, disability, age, sexual orientation, etc. It takes its cue from an account of the matter laid out by Martha Nussbaum. I contend that Nussbaum’s view of women’s progress, especially under CEDAW, does not consider the substantive and strategic implications of intersectionality and thus is not transformative in nature, say in respect of a group like Dalit women. The article proposes a normative vision of women’s progress which is intersectional such that it reflects and improves the lives of all women in the specific ways in which they are affected by multiple and overlapping systems of disadvantage and in turn subverts and transforms these systems.