Domestic and Sexual Violence as Sex Discrimination: Comparing American and International Approaches
44 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2006
Feminist theory's insights into the ways in which domestic and sexual violence reflects and perpetuates sex-based inequality have been critical in advancing both domestic and international advocacy. This essay, part of a symposium on "The Global Impact of Feminist Legal Theory," explores the comparative roles those arguments have played. It first surveys the nature of recent reforms in the United States. Despite the fact that many reforms were grounded in arguments exposing domestic and sexual violence as a manifestation of historic sex-based discrimination, the current landscape of legal remedies and social services, with few exceptions, lack an express acknowledgment of domestic and sexual violence as a problem of sex discrimination. Yet the daily experience of domestic and sexual violence survivors continues to reflect sex discrimination's ongoing legacy. International human rights law contrasts with that of the United States in that it explicitly defines violence against women as a problem of inequality. The essay investigates the impact of that express link by analyzing the steps countries have reported taking to comply with international human rights laws' express anti-discrimination mandates, through the reports of the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women. It concludes that international human rights frameworks' structural incorporation of a mandate to address the root causes of domestic and sexual violence holds the potential to ensure that states address prevention and social and cultural transformation in addition to improved social services and criminal interventions.
Keywords: sex discrimination, violence against women, equality
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