Introduction to the 2022 edition
in The boundaries of international law
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This new introduction reflects on developments in the two decades since the publication of the book in 2000. It describes the profound changes in the international legal sphere, notably the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, intractable conflicts that have weakened the authority of multilateral institutions and the growth of right-wing populism. The chapter questions the overall optimism about the power of international law to improve the lives of women manifest in the book and emphasises the ambivalence of the international legal order for women. The chapter starts by considering the meaning of the term ‘feminist analysis’ and then moves on to review some of the history of feminist engagements with international law, observing that the international sphere has long provided a beacon of hope for women. Its focus is an area that had barely emerged when Boundaries was published: the UN Security Council’s ‘women, peace and security’ (WPS) agenda, which commenced with resolution 1325 adopted in October 2000. This field illustrates a pattern of apparent normative progress, which is undermined by gendered institutional cultures. The most acceptable feminist ideas internationally have been increasing the participation of women and combating violence against women, although these have faced many hurdles. It has been even more difficult to achieve normative and cultural change to support transformative equality for women, or an international legal order where issues of sex and gender and other structural inequalities are given sustained attention and adequate resources for achievement.

The boundaries of international law

A feminist analysis, with a new introduction

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