The Law of Indicators on Women’s Human Rights: Unmet Promises and Global Challenges

The Law of Indicators on Women’s Human Rights: Unmet Promises and Global Challenges


Global indicators on human rights (HRs) aim to measure HRs scores against HRs standards. In other words, they aim to measure legal phenomena against legal benchmarks. Despite HRs indicators’ reliance on legal knowledge, lawyers have so far neither made substantial contributions to their production, nor studied in depth the legal implications of their uses. The current state-of-the-art in the world of HRs indicators is the result of an ongoing process led by bureaucrats, economists, statisticians, and activists with limited legal training. It is these actors who are developing a new body of professional knowledge, and a new technology of governance based on knowledge.In the field of indicators on womens HRs – on which the paper focuses -, lawyers absence is particularly striking. On the one hand, lawyers are missing the opportunity to analyze who produces the indicators, under what pressures, and for what purposes – that is to say, the opportunity to understand the regulatory environment in which indicators’ producers and users operate, and to identify the accountability mechanisms that are (and should be) applicable to them. On the other hand, lawyers’participation in the substantive discourse underlying the production of indicators on womens’ HRs has until now been minimal, if any. Lawyers have so far kept themselves away from acting as translator from local practices and global HRs standards. Yet the production and use of these indicators badly need lawyers at ease with the legal cultures under examinations, as well as with the international HRs legal discourse which is supposed to be applied to them.The aim of the paper is therefore to explore what contribution law and lawyers can make to the world of indicators on womens’ HRs, with regard to both its institutional landscapes in which, and the legal methodologies through which these indicators are produced and used.

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Marta Infantino

Marta Infantino, Ph. D. (Palermo, Italy, 2008), LL.M (NYU, NY, 2011), is a post-doc fellow at the University of Trieste, Italy.