Date of Submission

Spring 2016

Academic Programs and Concentrations

Historical Studies; Africana Studies; Human Rights

Project Advisor 1

Peter Rosenblum

Project Advisor 2

Drew Thompson

Abstract/Artist's Statement

The legal advancements made by western feminists from the 1960s continuing today mark a distinct shift for both the women's movement and mainstream radical feminist philosophy. This project examines the unintended consequences of the rise of the international women's movement as American feminists brought the law to bear as the primary instrument for reform to eradicate rape and violence against women. As contemporary political scholars demonstrate, legal remediation further codifies gender inequality and protective tropes that sexualize women's injury. Chapter 2 and 3 examines the intensified feminist efforts to criminalize domestic abuse at an international level, first at the United Nations (1980s) and later, sexual violence during wartime in international criminal law (1990s).

In practice, state legislation to protect women from violence is often used as a vehicle to advance conservative political agendas. Two anthropological case studies explore these policies in action: Algerian women's access to humanitarian asylum in France and specialized humanitarian medical care provided to raped women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. One pressing conclusion to draw from both studies is that women's full citizenship status is being threatened by conservative notions of women's worth being defined in terms of her chastity.

Chapter 4 examines the highly publicized humanitarian medical response to mass rape in Congo and explores the colonially derived racial hierarchy that underlies many humanitarian missions. In the interest of circumventing state power over sexuality and therefore removing the sexual stigma from rape in legal terms, this paper engages with Michel Foucault's argument that the crime of rape be desexualized and placed on a spectrum of degrees of assault.

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