Translating international norms: Filters to women's rights in Lebanon

Rita A Sabat, Florida International University


In 1979 the United Nations passed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), an international bill of rights for women. Much scholarship has focused on the degree to which states have adopted these new international gender norms, but have paid little attention to the fact that norms change in the processes of implementation. This dissertation focuses on that process assessing the translation of international gender equality norm in Lebanon. The study traces global gender equality norms as they are translated into a complex context characterized by a political structure that divides powers according to confessional groups, a social structure that empowers men as heads of families, and a geopolitical structure that opposes a secular West to the Muslim East. Through a comparison of three campaigns – the campaign to combat violence against women, the campaign to change personal status codes, and the campaign to give women equal rights to pass on their nationality – the study traces different ways in which norms are translated as activists negotiate the structures that make up the Lebanese context. Through ethnographic research, the process of norm translation was found to produce various filters, i.e., constellations of arguments put forward by activists as they seek to match international norms to the local context. The dissertation identifies six such filters and finds that these filters often have created faithless translations of international norms.

Subject Area

Womens studies|Middle Eastern Studies|International Relations|Social structure

Recommended Citation

Sabat, Rita A, "Translating international norms: Filters to women's rights in Lebanon" (2010). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3470230.