Cultures, Citizenship and Human Rights


Widow Burning: The Burning Issue of Colonial Britain and India

“Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act…

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The Demolition of Sanjiang Church in China: When Law Meets Religion

In April 2014, Sanjiang Church, a Christian church in Wenzhou city in China, was demolished due to building codes violations. The church, its annex and parking lot covered more than 10,000 square metres, where as it only had permission for 1,881 square metres. The demolition by the Yongjia county government attracted much attention, and some Western media even…

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Understanding the Role of NGOs in a State-centric Human Rights System

This October and November, I spent a fascinating month with the UN Committee responsible for monitoring States parties’ implementation of the Covenant on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Essentially, this Committee of 23 independent experts meets three times a year in Geneva to assess the “report cards” of the 189…

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“Here anyone could die…”: Prisons and Human Rights in Guatemala

The Guatemalan prison system collapsed and was abandoned by the Guatemalan state decades ago, according to experts and human rights activists. Currently the penal centers are facing a 300% overpopulation[1] and use additional police jails and military installations to accommodate inmates. In addition, prisons lack (adequate) medical care, alimentation and sleeping arrangements and have become…

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Women converting to Islam in the Netherlands: ‘van Hagelslag naar Halal’

In public debates in contemporary Western Europe, religious traditions are often met with suspicion when it concerns the freedom of women. Monotheistic traditions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) are in these debates often considered to pose a threat to ideals of equality and emancipation. At the same time, traditional religious groups increasingly foreground themselves as protectors…

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Regeni and cosmopolitanism: the false question of national belonging

“Where are you from? – Italy.” “Ah, you have Regeni. We have thousands of Regeni in Syria.” At the beginning of the summer of 2016 I participated in a sit-in against the ongoing siege of the Syrian city of Darayya in the Hague. The sit-in was organized by Het Syrische Comitè (Lagnalida ҅am al-thawra al-suriyya fi Holanda),…

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