The False Choice between Universalism and Religion/Culture

Citation:

Nayak, Meghana. 2013. “The False Choice between Universalism and Religion/Culture.” Politics & Gender 9 (01): 120–25. doi:10.1017/S1743923X12000785.

Author: Meghana Nayak

Abstract:

I seek to engage the authors in a deeper interrogation of their claims, particularly that societies can mitigate the evolutionary legacy of patriarchy by limiting the influence of religious/cultural enclaves and instead promoting universalism, as exemplified in CEDAW and international law. I challenge and politicize this alleged “choice” between universalism and cultural/religious enclaves/relativism, as it ultimately rests on a series of too-easy dichotomies (secular/religious, western/nonwestern) that may inadvertently stymie collaborative attempts between “western” and “non-western” feminists to challenge inequitable family law and gender violence. Hudson, Bowen, and Nielsen (2011) do offer critiques of western states. They are careful to point out nuances, subtleties, and complexities with their concept of religious/cultural enclaves. They also convincingly broaden the concept of gender equality beyond formal political rights to the kind of social, legal, and economic justice encapsulated in equitable family law and freedom from violence. And, they provoke an examination of why and how gender equality and gender violence are linked. But I suggest that their empirical research might have better traction by taking seriously two problematic implications of championing the “universal” as necessarily progressive: the failure to recognize patriarchy as part of universalism; and the inattention to why and how religious/cultural enclaves are patriarchal.

Topics: Feminisms, Patriarchy, International Law, International Human Rights

Year: 2013

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