Lakhani 2014 Violence

Title Information

Speaker: Zain Lakhani

Title: Bodily Harms

Subtitle: Sexual Violence and Bodily Integrity in America’s Global Platform on Human Rights

Conference: 128th Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association (January 2-5, 2014)

Place: Washington, DC

Date: January 4, 2014

Language: English

Keywords: 20th Century | U.S. History

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»This paper explores how conceptions of bodily integrity became central to America’s platform on women’s human rights. Specifically, it traces crucial shifts during the sexual revolution of the 1970s and 1980s to the ways in which sexual violence was made politically meaningful. In pre-sexual revolution discourse, “rape” was often understood through scripted acts of force and resistance, drawing it’s meaning not from acts of bodily violation but from the circumstances under which it occurred. However feminist efforts to remove the marital ban and enact legal provisions for victims of date and acquaintance rape endeavored to make any act of sexual imposition that occurred in the absence of consent an inherently meaningful form of violence. As this paper argues, the “expansion” of rape to encompass types of violence previously shielded by circumstance or social arrangement critically shifted the meaning of violence, locating it in the violation of bodily integrity itself rather than external or situational factors.
The specific historical circumstances under which bodily integrity became politically meaningful has a direct impact on how sexual violence was integrated into the American feminist platform on human rights. Significantly, sexual violence in women’s human rights policy is centrally premised on violations of bodily integrity as politically meaningful even though they often occur outside the scope of traditionally political or state-sponsored activities. Tracing the shifting relationship between bodily integrity and political constructions of “rape” therefore reveals how some acts of sexual victimization are made meaningful over others. As my paper will suggest, the reformulation of bodily integrity as political in and of itself allowed events like systemic rape in Rwanda or the Former Yugoslavia to fall under the purview of rights governing institutions in ways that previous acts of mass rape and enforced prostitution did not.« (Source: American Historical Association)

Added: August 2, 2014 | Last updated: August 2, 2014