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No one under the veil of ignorance would want the next generation to only have the bare minimum to survive because you could be in that very generation, or even the generations that come after it. When a ship is sinking, women and children are evacuated first. The government separates men from women and children, detaining them on separate islands.
This month, the government announced plans to take the remaining children off of Nauru and resettle them. This is a victory for human rights, but one must reflect on the position of children and women to advance human rights for all migrants.
Feminist scholars argue that women have a unique experience within the international context due to the prioritization of men under the law. Women and children are frequently portrayed as victims in international law, a construct feminist scholars seek to dismantle, and is the case in migration detention.
Yes, children are vulnerable, and this should be addressed through the special protections that they are given under conventions such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Australia is a party.
This Convention is not meant to elevate the rights of children above the rights of others, but to recognize and accommodate the differences between children and adults. The victimization of women and children can lead to the belief that they are more deserving of proper human rights protections and treatment in detention. Anne Orford, a feminist scholar, argues that the unequal treatment of women needs to change, but caution is needed when approaching it.
Placing women and children above men while trying to ensure human rights in detention runs the risk of allowing continued human rights abuses against others.
All humans are entitled to human rights protections just by nature of being human. Conventions that are specifically designed for women and children provide extra safeguards for them due to their status, but by focusing on the human rights abuses against women and children, there is the risk of leaving out other populations that may fall outside these categories, such as men and non-binary individuals.
Men and non-binary individuals are not only humans, but they may also be parents and family members. They deserve empathy and the protection of law. To address human rights abuses in migration detention, there must be a focus on underlying principles and rights of all humans.
Men separated from their families on an island deserve the same rights as the women separated from theirs. Emphasizing the ill-treatment of women and children, without also acknowledging the ill-treatment of others, will not help change the power dynamics in international law that feminist scholars seek to change.
When the international community wants to save "women and children first", nobody wins in the long-term. It is time to oblige, rather than encourage, corporations to respect human rights.
A new international treaty is being drafted to regulate the responsibilities of corporations to respect human rights. This is another disappointing yet unsurprising chapter in the book of deeply embedded structural inequalities in international law. International law, with its roots firmly planted in colonialism , continues to entrench global injustice today. Scholar Anthony Anghie in his book Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law elucidates how the economic interests of Western colonisers underpinned early international lawmaking with regard to private companies.
This dynamic continues today, with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund requiring Third World states to open up their economies for Western corporate plundering in order to qualify for loans: Loans which are needed to pull their economies out of the depths caused by colonial plundering and post-colonial civil war.