Challenges in ‘translating’ human rights: perceptions and practices of civil society actors in western India

Unnithan, Maya and Heitmeyer, Carolyn (2014) Challenges in ‘translating’ human rights: perceptions and practices of civil society actors in western India. Development And Change, 45 (6). pp. 1361-1384. ISSN 0012-155X

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Rights-based approaches have become prevalent in development rhetoric and programmes in countries such as India, yet little is known about their impact on development practice on the ground. There is limited understanding of how rights work is carried out in India, a country that has a long history of indigenous rights discourse and a strong tradition of civil society activism on rights issues. In this article, we examine the multiple ways in which members of civil society organizations (CSOs) working on rights issues in the state of Rajasthan understand and operationalize rights in their development programmes. As a result of diverse ‘translations’ of rights, local development actors are required to bridge the gaps between the rhetoric of policy and the reality of access to healthcare on the ground. This article illustrates that drawing on community-near traditions of activism and mobilization, such ‘translation work’ is most effective when it responds to local exigencies and needs in ways that the universal language of human rights and state development discourse leave unmet and unacknowledged. In the process, civil society actors use rights-based development frameworks instrumentally as well as normatively to deepen community awareness and participation on the one hand, and to fix the state in its role as duty bearer of health rights, on the other hand. In their engagement with rights, CSO members work to reinforce but also challenge neoliberal modes of health governance.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Anthropology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Depositing User: Helen Webb - Library
Date Deposited: 31 Oct 2014 17:05
Last Modified: 23 Jul 2020 09:26

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Project NameSussex Project NumberFunderFunder Ref
Realising Global Rights to Health: An ethnographic analysis of rights-based organisations in promoting reproductive health in IndiaG0394ESRC-ECONOMIC & SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCILRES-062-23-1609