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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: January 2010

Introduction: Toward a Feminist Constitutional Agenda

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Summary

Women around the world increasingly resort to constitutional litigation to resolve controversies involving gender issues. This litigation has involved claims for political participation, freedom from discrimination and violence, sexual and reproductive rights, employment and civic rights, matrimonial and familial autonomy, as well as other social and economic rights. For the most part, constitutional law scholars have analyzed this jurisprudence doctrinally, confining their research mainly to individual flashpoint issues such as abortion or affirmative action. Such studies are usually framed by national boundaries; and, when comparative, their reach is often limited to a small number of countries sharing the same legal tradition. This explains the need for a feminist analysis of constitutional jurisprudence in which gender becomes the focal point and for a broader comparative constitutional law approach that encompasses both of the world's major legal traditions. Those are the focal points of this book.

Not long ago a feminist constitutional law scholar asked: “Can constitutions be for women too”? Cognizant of the dangers of overgeneralizing about women's experiences and concerns, she was cautious about responding affirmatively. Nevertheless, her message was clear. Although women may be un-, or under-, represented among the ranks of those who draft domestic constitutions, we are not entirely without constitutional agency. Whether constitutional language adverts or not to women, we still advance claims for constitutional rights.

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