Gender and the Rule of Law in Transitional Societies

21 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2009 Last revised: 3 Jun 2009

See all articles by Fionnuala D. Ni Aolain

Fionnuala D. Ni Aolain

University of Minnesota Law School; The Queens University of Belfast

Michael Hamilton

University of East Anglia, School of Law; Central European University

Date Written: March 11, 2009


This article examines a unique relationship-specifically, the connection between the rule of law, as it is imported and experienced in post-conflict/post-repression societies, and gender. We assert that some of the most gendered and problematic dimensions of rule-of-law discourse and practice can arise with intensity in post-conflict or post-repressive societies. In particular, we explore a fundamental contradiction. Transitional societies bring powerful and transformative moments to global attention. The rule-of-law movement gains cachet from being a defining and motivating cog in that transitional process. Yet such transformation can be selective, both in its spheres of influence and in its masculinity. While transformation may occur, the pivotal question we address is for whom? We suggest that what may appear to be a moment of opportunity in transitional societies can become a moment of retrenchment. Such retrenchment, at least from a feminist perspective, is arguably located in the core private/public division that accompanies the rule of law in theory and practice. Moreover, despite substantive advances in dismantling the public/private divide in many western societies, we argue that those same western states - in part, through rule-of-law proselytizing - can entrench the operation of this divide in transitional states.

Keywords: gender, rule of law, transitional justice, equality, public/private, social change, conflict, repression

Suggested Citation

Ni Aolain, Fionnuala D. and Hamilton, Michael, Gender and the Rule of Law in Transitional Societies (March 11, 2009). Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-12, Transitional Justice Institute Research Paper No. 09-02, Available at SSRN: or

Fionnuala D. Ni Aolain (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota Law School ( email )

229 19th Ave. So.
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States
612-624-2318 (Phone)
612-625-2011 (Fax)

The Queens University of Belfast ( email )

University Square
Belfast, County Down
Northern Ireland

Michael Hamilton

University of East Anglia, School of Law ( email )

Norwich NR4 7TJ, Norfolk
United Kingdom

Central European University ( email )

Nádor u. 9
Budapest, 1051

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