How Do Norms Travel? Theorizing International Women’s Rights in Transnational Perspective1
If women’s rights norms have become internationally acknowledged, is it reasonable to assume that the status of women worldwide has improved because of international norms? It is argued here that the assumption of a global-to-local flow of norms inherent in most of the global norm diffusion literature is simplistic. To provide a more adequate theoretical framework, the paper juxtaposes the debate on the impact of international regimes and the power of global norms with an interdisciplinary mix of transnational approaches that identify multidirectional processes of appropriation and contestation of global norms. Departing from the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) as the most authoritative and steady piece of the international women’s rights discourse, the transnational perspective developed here proposes three main constellations of traveling global norms: global discourse translation, impact translation, and distorted translation.