Rights Spaces: An Exploration of Feminist Approaches to Refugee Law


Oswin, Natalie. 2001. “Rights Spaces: An Exploration of Feminist Approaches to Refugee Law.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 3 (3): 347–64.

Author: Natalie Oswin


The exigent needs of refugee women necessitate feminist attempts to use legal mechanisms, however imperfect, to their benefit. However, the temptation to overestimate the importance of feminist gains in this realm must be avoided due to current constraints within the international refugee regime. Most forcibly displaced persons never reach the borders of western countries to claim asylum. Moreover, western 'refugee-receiving' countries are effectively closing their borders to migration claimed on strictly humanitarian grounds. Therefore, while feminists have successfully claimed a place for refugee women within protective rights mechanisms, they have been granted only a small portion of what is already extremely finite territory. Given this troubling state of affairs, I suggest that although proven avenues within refugee law must not be abandoned, the time is right for the sustained exploration of new and creative modes of engagement within refugee rights discourse. In this vein, the second half of the paper draws extensively upon the work of feminist legal theorist Jennifer Nedelsky to suggestively consider some possible alternatives for feminist theory and praxis.

Keywords: refugees, gender, feminist legal theory

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Refugees, Feminisms, Gender, International Law

Year: 2001

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