Complying or resisting? Reconfiguring autonomy in women's commitment to "honour"

Onderzoeksoutput: Meeting abstract (Book)


Descriptions and explanations of men's and women's behaviour in cases of honour-based violence are often informed by specific understandings of the concepts of autonomy, agency and gender equality, as developed in Western liberal theory. Conditional upon a desire to realise one's own life plan, to be free from coercion and to strive towards individuation, these understandings appear unhelpful when confronted with immigrant women who are neither victimized by, nor vehemently resisting restrictive sexual norms and practices within their communities. Analogously, an understanding of gender equality informed by an essentially western conception of what constitutes sexual freedom, will inevitably result in disproportionally disqualifying non-western cultural practices as unequal, thereby effectively silencing the variety of views of non-western women.

Recent re-interpretations of autonomy, as developed by Marilyn Friedman and Martha Nussbaum, have conceded that even in oppressive environments, women are able to critically reflect and may legitimately endorse patriarchal norms and values. This position however risks an uncritical acceptance of women's choices as valuable once certain procedural conditions for autonomy have been fulfilled, thereby failing to further question the detrimental implications these choices may have for women's rights and gender equality.

Recognizing the challenges posed by a multicultural society characterised by an increasing variation in sexual ethics and practices, this paper will explore how notions of autonomy, agency and gender equality could be expanded so as to include a larger variety of views on what constitutes sexual freedom and equality. It is argued that an abandoning of a biased liberal-secular view on what constitutes gender equality, does not preclude a normative commitment to the safeguarding of women's rights. Rather than making 'autonomous choice' the central concern however, analysis should focus on how the content of individual choices is shaped by socio-political contexts which (re)produce unequal power relations.
Originele taal-2English
StatusPublished - 29 aug 2012
EvenementINSEP2012 – Connecting Sexual Ethics and Politics - Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
Duur: 29 aug 201231 aug 2012


ConferenceINSEP2012 – Connecting Sexual Ethics and Politics


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