208N, Munk School of Global Affairs (1 Devonshire Place)
  • March 2, 2016 from 10:00am to 12:00pm

Speaker: Laila Rahman (Lupina Senior Doctoral Fellow, PhD Candidate at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto)

Discussant: Dr. Laura Bisaillon (Assistant Professor in Health Studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough)

Globally, 1 in 3 women experience physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence (IPV) during their lifetime but this rate is almost double in one postcolonial nation – Bangladesh. Interventions are primarily geared toward changing social norms, not toward addressing the key societal determinants of subalterns who do not have social mobility. This paper tracks the discourses of ‘harmful cultural practices’ and ‘social norms’ within the framework of gender-based violence in the family under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Using postcolonial feminist discourse analysis, I explore how culture and social norms of the postcolonials have been constructed to produce and reproduce othering across different genres in the global and local contexts while the subalterns’ economic and social locations and their postcolonial history remain largely invisible. The documents considered include the United Nations General Recommendation No. 19 on violence against women (which brought violence against women within the realm of international human rights law), CEDAW special rapporteurs’ reports, country reports, World Report on Violence and Health and research literature on male IPV against women in Bangladesh. I argue that the discursive construction of ‘culture’ and ‘social norms’ in these well-intentioned documents, in order to negate ‘harmful cultural practices’ and eliminate ‘all forms of discrimination against women’, in fact, have been appropriating the colonial/neocolonial and patriarchal structures and, in turn, contributing to othering the women living in the Global South including Bangladesh.

Laila Rahman is a doctoral candidate in Social and Behavioral Health Sciences in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. In her doctoral research, funded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research, Laila is in dialogue with postcolonial feminism, intersectionality and discourse analysis in exploring the male intimate partner violence against women in Bangladesh.

Laura Bisaillon is Assistant Professor in Health Studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough. Her graduate cross-appointment is at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. She earned a PhD in Population Health (Ottawa), a Master’s in Urban Planning (McGill) and a BA in Political Studies (Bishop’s). Laura is an interdisciplinary social scientist interested in issues of migration, equity, socio-legal studies, and social and health policy. Through her research, she investigates social problems at the intersections of immigration, policy, the law, ethics, and HIV/AIDS. Laura holds funding for and carries out research in Ethiopia and Iran. Laura has developed courses including the social determinants of health, migration and public health, and critical qualitative health research methods. She sits on the editorial board of Refuge and the board of directors of the HIV and AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario. Laura is fluent in English and French. Her academic website ishttp://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/anthropology/laura-bisaillon