Disabling Citizenship: Civil Death for Women in the 1990s?
Adelaide Law Review, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp. 49-76, 1995
29 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2008
Date Written: July, 23 2008
This article addresses two barriers to women's participation in the legal system which, it is argued, impact negatively on women's citizenship by limiting their access to justice. While the notion of citizenship has generally been seen as a gender-neutral phenomenon, feminist scholarship has revealed that many aspects of citizenship are in fact highly gendered. Using the historical notion of 'civil' death, the rule by which felons were prevented from bringing civil proceedings once convicted, the authors argue that contemporary barriers have the same effect.
The article commences with an exploration of the gendered nature of the Australian legal aid system, looking at the allocation of legal aid funding across types of law, and by gender. This demonstrates a clear priority given to defending - mostly men - charged with criminal offences, at the expense of funding the types of issues that are more likely to affect women, such as family law cases or other civil actions. The second part focuses on limitation of actions legislation and considers the example of claims for childhood sexual abuse which are often rendered effectively unavailable by the operation of the apparently prosaic (and gender neutral) doctrine of limitation periods.
Keywords: feminist legal theory, legal aid, torts, limitation periods, citizenship, gendered harms
JEL Classification: K10, K13, K30
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation