*The full article is available through this link. This article may be available free of charge to those with university credentials.
This ethnographic analysis of one of the core human rights conventions suggests that despite the lack of enforceability of this convention and its operation within the framework of state sovereignty, it is similar to state law. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, or CEDAW, the major UN convention on the status of women, articulates a vision of women's equal protection from discrimination and addresses gender-based violence as a form of discrimination. It had been ratified by 171 nation states as of mid-2003. Its implementation relies on a complex process of periodic reporting to a global body meeting in New York and a symbiotic if sometimes contentious relationship between government representatives and international and domestic NGOs. Like state law, it serves to articulate and name problems and delineate solutions. It provides a resource for activists endeavoring to address problems of women's status and turns the international gaze on resisting nations. Its regulatory strength depends on the cultural legitimacy of the international process of consensus building and related social movements to define social justice in these terms. Thus, like state law, its impact depends on its cultural legitimacy and its embodiment in local cultures and legal consciousness. This examination of CEDAW as quasi law extends our understanding of law as a plural and a symbolic system rooted in a particular historical moment of globalization.