Reconceptualizing Intersectionality in Judicial Interpretation: Moving Beyond Formalistic Accounts of Discrimination on Islamic Covering Prohibitions
Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law and Justice, 2020, Vol 35(1), pp. 71-90
20 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2020 Last revised: 6 May 2021
Date Written: November 21, 2019
This article analyzes the United Nations Human Rights Committee’s (HRC) consideration of legal prohibitions on Islamic face-coverings in Yaker v. France and Hebbadj v. France, and argues that the HRC’s recognition of discrimination at play represents a significant departure from the judicial trend of accepting such prohibitions in Europe. We contend that the HRC’s limited interpretation of intersectionality in the cases elides the full extent of harms and violations arising from such legislation. However, we suggest that judicial understanding of discrimination can be enhanced by drawing on a modified UN concept of harmful traditional practices, which allows an understanding of Islamic face-covering as one among many global patriarchal practices. Decolonizing jurisprudence on intersectional discrimination in this way allows an explicit recognition and articulation of how an exclusive focus on prohibitions of practices of members of minority groups, without attention to majority patriarchal practices, contributes to legitimating sexist and racist targeting of minority groups – and entrenches sexism against women more broadly.
Keywords: Intersectionality, Discrimination, Islamic Covering, France, Prohibitions, Human Rights, Decolonial Theory, Post-Colonial Theory, Feminist Theory, Freedom of Religion, Harmful Cultural Practices, Harmful Traditional Practices, Anti-Racism, Radical Feminist Theory, United Nations Human Rights Committ
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