UCL Faculty of Laws


Dr Silvia Suteu speaks at Strasbourg conference on Women’s Human Rights in the Twenty-First Century

24 February 2020

Dr Suteu spoke about Participatory Constitution-Making and Women’s Rights at a conference held at the European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg.

Dr Silvia Suteu speaks at Strasbourg conference

Dr Silvia Suteu (Lecturer in Public Law at UCL Laws) was a panellist at a conference on Women’s Human Rights in the Twenty-First Century: Developments and Challenges under International and European Law, held on 14th February. The conference was co-organised by the European Court of Human Rights, Consulat Général du Japon à Strasbourg, and Fondation René Cassin.

Titled ‘Participatory Constitution-Making and Women’s Rights: Two Distinctive Agendas?’, Dr Suteu’s contribution sought to critically evaluate the gendered dimensions of the recent participatory turn in constitution-making. The recognition that women should play a central role as constitution-makers has gone hand in hand with an expectation that broader civic participation and the women’s rights agenda will align neatly: that the former will lead to greater protection of the latter. However, Dr Suteu’s paper aimed to show that this is not always the case. Women continue to be relegated to the background once decision-making processes are under way and they continue to be expected to speak with one voice where diversity and divergence characterises women’s groups. Moreover, participatory mechanisms such as referendums can serve to cloak discriminatory outcomes in the veneer of popular endorsement.

The paper calls for a more nuanced, intersectional, and contextually-informed push for participation in constitution-making, which addresses the potential pitfalls for women as actors in often deeply unequal processes.

The conference aimed to discuss aspects of the state of women’s human rights and the challenges to achieving gender equality in the twenty-first century. It was part of a series of events this year celebrating 70 years of the European Convention on Human Rights. A number of current judges at the Court were involved, as were the current (Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos) and former (Jean-Paul Costa) Presidents of the Court, while the keynote address was delivered by the former President of the United Nations CEDAW Committee (Yoko Hayashi).

An edited collection bringing together conference contributions is to follow.

View the full conference programme