India and the United Nations Human Rights Council: Gender at a Crossroads
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At the core of the human rights debate lies the question of whether human rights can be considered as a universal ideal and yet able to integrate cultural differences from diverse societies. At the global arena the mandate for ensuring and strengthening the protection and promotion of human rights is bestowed on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) through the preparation of a Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of all member states of the United Nations wherein every state is given the opportunity to make recommendations on every other country’s human rights record. The latest UPR was conducted in May 2017 and 14 states were reviewed including India wherein 250 recommendations were made to India to improve its human rights record. In this regard India promised to ‘accept’ 152 of the recommendations and ‘noted’ the rest which includes recommendations such as elimination of gender-based prejudices, traditional practices, and provisions of personal status laws that are harmful and discriminatory to women and girls; elimination of criminalization of same-sex relations, criminalization of marital rape, and adequate protections to LGBT citizens. With India being elected as a member of the UNHRC in 2018, this paper seeks to explore and analyse India’s role in the development and implementation of human rights as a member state of the UNHRC in the realisation of gender equality with particular emphasis on the role of the Indian government’s policies and judicial precedents. The paper locates this discussion in the broader realm of the universalism versus cultural relativism debate in the implementation of gender equality.