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Imagining ‘Honour’ in Human Rights Communication

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The Coloniality of Contemporary Human Rights Discourses on ‘Honour’ in and Around the United Nations

Peer-reviewed research by: Hasret Cetinkaya

When it comes to human rights, what does ‘honour’ mean, exactly? Where has that meaning come from? While the concept may bring certain ideas and imaginaries forward, Hasret Cetinkaya shows how they can stem from racist stereotypes, bias and assumptions. Check out the abstract below: 


In United Nations (UN) human rights reporting and analysis, ‘honour’ has been systematically conflated with ‘honour-related violence’ (HRV). However, honour and HRV are not the same thing. In this article I examine contemporary UN human rights discourses around honour. I argue that these discourses are underpinned by racialised and orientalist-colonial imaginaries which falsely categorise people and places as either having or not having honour. This conflation presents honour as a cultural problem attributed to racialised communities mostly associated with the Muslim World. Adopting a critical post- and de-colonial perspective, I undertake a discourse analysis of UN human rights documents to expose orientalist tropes that reproduce epistemic and material violence against honour. There are three strategies employed to commit this violence: first, through the reduction of honour to physical and emotional HRV—a violence predicated upon the logic of coloniality and the orientalist division of the world into modern and pre-modern states; second, by associating honour as violence with Muslims and migrant communities, the discourse furthers structural Islamophobia; third, by reproducing colonial saviour narratives that designate honour as control over women’s sexuality. The human rights discourse on honour forecloses upon alternative ways of understanding what honour is and means for those who live with it. As such, the international human rights discourse on honour extends the coloniality of power and the geopolitics of knowledge.


Click here to read the full open-access article, published in 2023 in the journal Feminist Legal Studies

Full Reference //

Cetinkaya, H. (2023) The Coloniality of Contemporary Human Rights Discourses on ‘Honour’ in and Around the United Nations. Feminist Legal Studies.

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