Pascale Fournier back from New York City

Posted on Thursday, March 17, 2016

Pascale Fournier devant devant le siège des Nations Unies à New York

Professor Fournier has just come back from a week à la New York, filled with profound exchanges and dynamism. She presented four conferences at Columbia University, NYU and the United Nations respectively.

She presented the 29th of February at Columbia UniversityColumbia’s Law School is known for the academic rigor of its law degree and the excellence of its professors. Professor Fournier had been invited by the University’s “Centre for Gender & Sexuality Law”, which studies and promotes laws and policies in the fields of gender and sexuality studies through varied discourses. Notably, the center has launched the “Public Rights/Private Conscience Project” (PRPCP), a unique law and policy think tank destined at conceptualizing new frames for understanding religious exemptions and their relationship to reproductive and sexual liberty and equality rights. The “Center for Gender and Sexuality Law” situates the University of Columbia as a reference with regards to gender and sexuality law.

The 1st of March, Professor Fournier presented at NYU (New York University), in Professor Sally Engle Merry’ class entitled “Violence, Gender and the Law”. Professor Merry, a heroine of the Law and Society movement, is a renowned international researcher who distinguished herself by her numerous studies on the interaction of law and culture. Her course explores the nature of violence as a concept that incorporates both physical harm and cultural meanings, using an anthropological perspective. The focus is on violence in gendered and non-gendered relationships and the role the law plays in controlling that violence. It examines law and violence in the context of non-state societies, colonialism, international law and human rights, and transitional justice. It focuses in particular on gender-based violence in a variety of forms, such as domestic violence, rape, sex trafficking, genocide, and wartime violence and considers legal strategies that attempt to deal with it.

Wednesday the 2nd of March, Professor Fournier visited the United Nations “Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict”. This office serves as the United Nations’ spokesperson and political advocate on conflict-related sexual violence, and is the chair of the network UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict.The Office was established by Security Council resolution 1888 (2009), one in a series of resolutions which recognized the detrimental impact that sexual violence in conflict has on communities, and acknowledged that this crime undermines efforts at peace and security and rebuilding once a conflict has ended.  These resolutions signal a change in the way the international community views and deals with conflict-related sexual violence.  It is no longer seen as an inevitable by-product of war, but rather a crime that is preventable and punishable under international human rights law.

Lastly, Thursday the 3rd of March, Professor Fournier was hosted by the “Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations” Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Division. The Mission of Canada is the primary channel for communications between the Canadian government and the United Nations in New York City. Thanks to diplomacy, negotiation and the unrelenting pursuit of UN goals, this organization works to advance the interests of Canada, to promote international development, security and the rights of persons.

In her presentation entitled God is Emancipation to You—To me, He is Oppression: Secularism, Gender and the State”, Professor Fournier examined the lived experiences of Jewish and Muslim women seeking civil and religious divorce in Canada, France, Germany and England. The academic study of secularism portrays secularism as potentially liberating and uniquely emancipatory for female citizens. However, very little research examines how actual persons consciously “live” secular arrangements in their everyday lives. Very little research interrogates the gendered dimensions of the encounters between a secular state and its subjects. Very little research goes one step further and asks how religious women might navigate two sets of relations: one with the secular state, and another simultaneously with their own religious authorities. Drawing on original interviews, Professor Fournier’s presentation interrogated how religious women negotiate and contest secular policies of the state and religious policies of their faith. Bringing these women into sharper focus troubles standard accounts of secularism as necessarily emancipatory. This presentation urged us to reckon with secularism as a unique mode of state power that can serve to liberate but also to discipline women political subjects.

Author: Victoria Snyers

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