'The Province of all Humankind' - A Feminist Analysis of Space Law

Stacey Henderson and Melissa de Zwart (ed.s) 'Military and Commercial Uses of outer Space', (Springer) (2020, Forthcoming)

51 Pages Posted: 23 Sep 2020

See all articles by Cassandra Steer

Cassandra Steer

The Australian National University

Date Written: July 27, 2020


This chapter argues that greater diversity is needed in the space sector, and this will only be achieved when women feel they are truly part of the structures and institutions that govern space. International space law today contains many powerful remnants of the Cold War era, including gender-specific language in the OST which states that space shall be “the province of all mankind”. While we cannot change the terms of the treaty, we can change the way language is used today within the space governance power structures and in future legal instruments. Some may argue that this is not necessary, since “mankind” is intended to include women, however a feminist legal analysis reveals the power dynamics in processes of law-making, interpretation and application which maintain a status quo. In space law and governance, that status quo includes geopolitical dominance by a small group of elite countries, and underrepresentation of women at all levels of decision-making. In the space sector as a whole, the status quo is also a persistent lack of diversity, which not only limits design decisions, but can negatively impact our future in space. If we seek to build new human societies in space, on the Moon, and eventually on Mars, this requires reproductive health and the full participation of all members of these new societies. We cannot achieve this unless we radically shift the assumption of male biology and the male experience as the norm, and unless we move away from elite decision-makers forming laws and governance structures to their own benefit. This chapter undertakes to learn from achievements of feminist legal activism in domestic laws, and to apply this to the process of space law-making, interpretation and application. The use of language in the law is of paramount importance, and so a feminist outcome would be to actively re-interpret the OST and ensure that space becomes the “province of all humankind”.

Keywords: space law, feminist legal theory, legal history

JEL Classification: K33, K39, I24, I28

Suggested Citation

Steer, Cassandra, 'The Province of all Humankind' - A Feminist Analysis of Space Law (July 27, 2020). Stacey Henderson and Melissa de Zwart (ed.s) 'Military and Commercial Uses of outer Space', (Springer) (2020, Forthcoming), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3670381

Cassandra Steer (Contact Author)

The Australian National University ( email )


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