Feminism and International Law: Theory, Methodology, and Substantive Reform
Aaron Xavier Fellmeth
Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law
Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 22, p. 658, 2000
The purposes of this article are to analyze the claims, advanced by feminists, that international law disfavors women's interests and viewpoints conceptually, procedurally, and substantively; to identify the obstacles to international law recognizing women's voices and protecting their interests; and to suggest possible solutions.
This article argues that international law is gendered neither conceptually nor procedurally, and that most of its substance exhibits no gender bias. International law does formally account for most (but not all) of the human rights concerns that are unique to women and, moreover, has increasingly accounted for women's experiences in its creation and administration, even if it does not perform this function perfectly. While feminist legal scholars offer several interesting insights into the suffering and under representation of women internationally, their criticism really applies to the overwhelming economic, political, and social gender inequality in states, not in the international law system. Rather, compared to the legal systems of states, international law is sensitive to the concerns of women and is a progressive force for advancing women's interests. Hence, it has increasingly addressed the substantive concerns of women and procedurally adopted an arguably more feminine "ethic of care." However, in two areas, international law has not lived up to the legitimate expectations of women: in its disproportionate concentration on economic issues, and in its failure to provide for systemic support for the enforcement of women's human rights.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 76
Keywords: feminism, international law, human rightsAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: May 14, 2009
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