Legal efforts to protect minority women (asylum seekers, migrants, nationals of migrant and
refugee origin) from their "cultures" have rapidly increased across Europe over the past decade or so. As a result, various “practices” associated with some “cultures” have been the focus of intense legal interventions both at countries’ borders (via migration and asylum law) and within their borders (via civil and criminal laws). One of the arguments often made to justify such legal responses is gender equality. Simply put, the claim is that these laws attempt to root out practices allegedly thought of as inherently oppressive of women and therefore gendered.
This project aims to identify problematic uses of culture in articulating the gender equality rationale in laws and courts’ decisions in the context of asylum/migration (at the borders) and civil/criminal responses (within borders). Using the examples of forced marriage and polygyny in Belgium and France, the project seeks to expose and challenge uses of culture that may mask or reinforce other sources of subordination of minority women and to suggest moves that can better address the interacting dimensions of culture/gender/race involved. One major question motivating this project is: do existing French and Belgian legislative/judicial responses attempting to protect women within their communities obscure or reinforce other forms of gender/cultural/racial subordination these women may endure within the larger society?