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The mule of the world: Race, culture and essentialism in feminist approaches to international human rights law---an African perspective.

Sanusi, S. A. A (1999) The mule of the world: Race, culture and essentialism in feminist approaches to international human rights law---an African perspective. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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As a critical theory, feminisms and feminist legal theory challenge existing norms. Of necessity, the values behind this methodology must in turn be critiqued. Feminist methodology, essentialism is dependent on the experience of women, distilled into a particular type of woman for academic ease. Gender is only one of the defining traits of a woman. Depending on the specificities of the context, other traits will impact on the life experiences of a woman and how she experiences discriminatory practices. In a context where a particular racial group do not form the dominant culture, race will be an important defining trait. Therefore to be a Black woman in the Western world will shape a woman's experience of discrimination. To be a Black African woman in the West will also further determine the types of discrimination suffered in addition to gender discrimination which must be differentiated from the experiences of Black Western women and White Western woman. These experiences affect the realisation of women's human rights. Discrimination suffered by an African woman as a woman in Africa is contextually specific. It is identified as culturally specific. Yet, culturally identified or determined gender discrimination is arguably no more than the location of institutionalised gender discrimination in the private sphere. It is considered a cultural problem because the positionality of the dominant theory of feminism, which is Western, locates alien cultures as other and separates the experiences of women in that culture. The location of such gender based institutional discrimination primarily within a cultural sphere places it firmly within the cultural relativist paradigm which challenges the universality of human rights, including women's human rights, and further detaches gender based discrimination from the rights discourse. Therefore, not only is race peripheral to feminisms, culture, or the manifestation of culturally identified gender discrimination, is also marginalised. The separation of women from each other based on factors such as race, class and ethnicity limits the potential of feminist legal approaches to the promotion and protection of women's human rights. Feminist legal theory can promote, protect and assure all women's human rights if it is inclusive and if it is representative. To be representative, the manifestations of racial and cultural discrimination must form an integral part of the theory.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Political Science, International Law and Relations, Women's Studies, Law
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses

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