L. Amede Obiora

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 1997

Publication Citation

4 Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 355 (1997)


In this article, Professor Obiora begins with the premise that the

credibility of traditional legal frameworks has eroded, because the law

remains unable to relieve the oppressions and polarization between cultures,

even in the wake of global institutional transformations that seem to help the

oppressed, particularly women. Professor Obiora offers the Beijing Platform

for Action as a radical new solution for human rights protection, radical in

that it is one of the first declaratives to transcend the previous dichotomy of

issues among women by expressing a commitment to a global framework in

which to address these issues, particularly the feminization ofpoverty. After

a briefdescription of the Platform, the author asks whether it is really possible

to provide such a global framework, given the inherently cultural and

communitarian nature of feminist issues. In the second section, Professor

Obiora argues that because the Platform for Action is not a legally binding

instrument, and because traditional sources of monetary and social support

may not be present, particularly in developing countries, alternative

mechanisms for enforcement of the Platform must be explored As a solution,

the author suggests that in order to realize the Bey'ing mandate, women need

to collaborate and move to mechanisms outside traditional institutions. In the

third section of the article, Professor Obiora responds to Aihwa Ong 's article,

and begins by highlighting Ong's concept offeminist imperialism as a starting

context for a discussion of the role of culture in defining a feminist agenda for

the alleviation of women's oppression. Professor Obiora then argues that the

international human rights regime is enhanced by culturally-sensitive

approaches, as centrality is the framework for existence. Yet, Professor

Obiora questions how to define and validate custom or culture in light of the

inevitable effect of world economic, political, and cultural forces. Professor

Obiora also questions how to reconcile the validation of cultural practices that

are seen by Western feminists as oppressive to the women who practice them.

Finally, in the fourth section, Professor Obiora attempts to integrate the

previously raised issues with a discussion of a universalist-relativist

framework. In doing so, the author suggests that the greatest challenge to

developing a human rights regime that appeals to all cultures may be to

negotiate a productive end for the recognition of difference, balancing the

benefits of both universalism and relativism.