Integrating the Gender Normative Pronouns into the Work of United Nations Human Rights Treaties By Casey Chandler
First, it was only the rights of men that mattered, then women’s rights slowly made somewhat of an appearance, and now, the human rights movement has led to the freedom to express one’s true self. This may be an inalienable right; however, it poses a question for the international community: How can universality among peoples be attained if gender normative pronouns only express rights for certain individuals?
For many of the general population, gender normative pronouns undermine the principle of equality among all. It subjects people to fall under a certain category or define themselves as something they might not be. Within the English language, there is a large dichotomy between pronouns, such as his and her. This leaves little room for people who identify as something else. There is no third person inclusive pronoun that encompasses the entirety of the LGBTIQA+ community.
Some people may present the argument that “they” could be used as an inclusive
Term, but it has, in the past, been used to dehumanize people or alienate a group of people. Others find “they” liberating.
Treaties are defined to liberate human kind by setting principles that reflect the ethical treatment of beings. By defining how someone should identify themselves, it violates the end goal of liberating a person from discrimination. When member states distinguish the lack of attention and carelessness of the United Nations towards to LGBTIQA+ community, it allows derogation from general principles of discrimination. For example, in many states within the continent of Africa, homosexual activity is against the law. This concept denies humans to the right to expression and the right to life.
When treaties were first written, they solely mentioned the rights of man, as if man encompassed the entire human kind. Some treaties adopted new perspectives and tried to avoid pronouns in general, but the majority of treaties still use masculine pronouns to refer to the human race. For example, the UN Refugee Convention only uses masculine pronouns to describe the global population. The idea of adopting women’s pronouns into programs and treaties was reviewed in 1996, but it solely said that women have the same rights. There are people that don’t identify as either gender that still have the same rights due to the principle of natural rights. Gender exclusive pronouns are built into many languages. No one bothers trying to change or develop these rights because they have been set in stone for so long. Auto correct in papers suggests using either himself or herself instead of themselves because it is known as proper grammar. Things are slowly progressing, but there is much more within the international community that can liberate people who have been suppressed due to self-expression.