Feminism, Violence Against Women, and Law Reform Decolonial Lessons from Ecuador
Offering an important addition to existing critiques of governance feminism and carceral expansion based mainly on experiences from the Global North, this book critically addresses feminist law reform on violence against women, from a decolonial perspective.
Challenging the consensus that penal expansion is mainly associated with the co-option of feminist campaigns to counteract violence against women in the context of neoliberal globalisation, this book shows that long-standing colonial narratives underlie many of today’s dominant legal discourses justifying criminalisation, even in countries whose governments have called themselves "leftist" and "post-neoliberal". Mapping the history of law reform on violence against women in Ecuador, the book reveals how the conciliation between feminist campaigns and criminalisation strategies takes place through liberal legality, the language of human rights, and the discourse of constitutional guarantees, across the political spectrum. Whilst human rights make violence against women intelligible in mainstream legal terms, the book shows that the emergence of a "rights-based penality" produces a benign, formally innocuous criminal law, which can be presented as progressive, but in practice reproduces colonial and postcolonial paradigms that limit and reshape feminist demands. The book raises new questions on the complex social and political factors that impact on feminist law reform projects, as it demonstrates how colonial assumptions about gender, race, class, and the family remain embedded in liberal criminal law.
This theoretically and empirically informed analysis makes an innovative contribution to feminist legal theory, post-colonial studies, and criminal law; and will be of interest to activists, scholars and policymakers working at the intersections between gender equality, law, and violence in Latin America and beyond.
Introduction Toward a decolonial feminist critique of penality
Chapter 1 Protecting women in postcolonial Latin America
Chapter 2 Law was foe: women’s movements before the 1990s
Chapter 3 Violence against women, human rights, and the turn to criminal law
Chapter 4 From neoliberal to post-neoliberal: the constitutional journey of rights-based penality
Chapter 5 A new Penal Code: criminalising violence against women using rights-based penality
Chapter 6 Report from the field: women's experiences of using specialised penal courts
Winner of the 2023 Hart-SLSA Book Prize
"Feminism, Violence Against Women and Law Reform is a testament to the power of feminist decolonial thinking in a resiliently patriarchal, colonial and violent world. Its central argument is devastating. Whether in the form of reactionary criminalisation or in the apparently more progressive guise of human rights advocacy, liberal legality continues to dominate the public debate about violence against women. Indeed, neither the demise of formal colonialism nor the effort to transcend neoliberalism has done anything to undermine this dominance, let alone the impervious levels of violence that women all over the world continue to face. What then? An epistemic break in the form of a decolonial feminist abolitionist agenda – this is Tapia Tapia’s answer. To get there and beyond is everyone’s task."
- Luis Eslava, Reader in International Law, Kent Law School, University of Kent
"In this innovative and wide-ranging socio-legal history of initiatives tackling violence against women in Ecuador, Silvana Tapia Tapia makes a key contribution to the growing field of post-colonial legal studies. In her illuminating analysis of the Ecuadorian case, she problematizes what has been taken in much literature to be an analytic association between neoliberalism and the feminist embrace of penality, suggesting instead that, even in the context of left-wing governments, penal expansion in the field of violence against women has been fed by both colonial discourses and, ironically, the appeal to human rights. Her book has important implications both across and beyond Latin America."
- Nicola Lacey, School Professor of Law, Gender and Social Policy, LSE
"Tapia Tapia’s excellent book is a vital intervention on a contemporary topic of the utmost importance and urgency: the deployment of carcerality in the name of liberation. Focusing on the feminist alliance with the State’s carceral power over the course of significant political change in Ecuador, the study’s account of the process, pitfalls and alternatives to this alignment is based on painstaking research and remarkable critical insight. Tapia Tapia’s findings, particularly regarding the lure and ramifications of penality for progressive agendas, are sensitive to the context in which her research is embedded, but also carry significant implications for anyone seeking to understand and fight oppression anywhere. Ultimately, the author eloquently delivers a call to ‘unlearn’ and undo rights-based penality, embracing a counter-carceral approach that transcends the pull of liberal legality and reimagines both emancipation and protection through a decolonial feminist lens."
- Natasa Mavronicola, Reader in Law, Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham