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Release: Immediate

(Editor's note: Hilary Charlesworth will be available to meet with members of the media from 3 p.m. to 3:40 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17 at the Old Public Library, 307 East College Street)

Australian lawyer lectures about gender inequities of human rights document

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Hilary Cunliffe-Charlesworth will present a lecture "Women and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18 at the Levitt Auditorium at the University of Iowa College of Law.

Charlesworth appears at the University of Iowa as part of the long-running UI Global Focus: Human Rights '98 Lecture Series events. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Charlesworth is the only HR '98 lecturer who is offering specifically a woman's perspective about the historic U.N. Declaration of Human Rights that implored all governments treat and recognize the dignity and inalienable rights of all persons. She is a law professor at the Australian National University in Canberra and is a leading international lawyer who was recently appointed the university's director of the Centre for International and Public Law. The prominent female legal scholar says the Declaration doesn't go far enough in offering equal liberties to women.

"The Declaration has been problematic because it was drafted with a male's perspective in mind, and it really doesn't take into account women's lives. During my lecture I will suggest ways to make the Declaration have a greater effect for women," she said, but she doesn't advocate rewriting it.

"It's not realistic to revise the document. I think it would be worse if rewritten by the U.N.," Charlesworth says. She says the 50-year-old document could be interpreted better to make it "more hospitable to women's concerns."

Charlesworth, a well-published author who in 1998 co-authored a leading coursebook with UI law professor Burns Weston, "International Law and World Order." Charlesworth is known throughout Australia for her support of that country's aboriginal peoples who are black. There has been an ongoing division between supporters of aboriginal landowners who were displaced by Australian Europeans who conquered the country more than 100 years ago. The major sticking point is in 1998, Australia's High Court, equivalent to the U.S. Supreme Court, denied aboriginals' right to recoup farmland that was taken from them through earlier European conquests. Australian Prime Minister John Howard supported the Court's decision, referred to as the "Wik decision."

Charlesworth says Howard is wrong in his view and says the law must recognize aboriginals' land was taken by force and that the law must make amends for it.

Currently, Charlesworth is a scholar-in-residence at Washington and Lee University at Lexington, Va., where she teaches a theory of international law course. She is writing a book about feminism and international law.