One of the phrases used to explain the meaning of the “rule of law” is that “no one is above the law.” When we utter this assertion, however, we assume normative principles, i.e., that—as free individuals—all human beings are equal before the law. Yet is this always true? It does not seem to be the case. Namely, the issue can acquire a normative value only when it is constitutionally verified as the result of processes of democratic legitimation, able to confirm the validity of the procedures in the distinction of the state powers. The assertion that “no one is above the law” is a pseudo-neutral social construction because citizens do not have equal conditions to start with, as factual reality shows. De facto, it has legitimized for centuries a patriarchal, gender-based bias in legislative and political systems as well as in all societal domains because of the exclusion of women from the public realm. Thanks to grassroots struggles for the enlargement of the rights of citizenship and the full recognition of human rights, cross-border women’s movements have shown over time the intrinsic ideology of the phrase “equality before the law” because women were either counted in the number of free human beings or assumed as equal though different. Women’s claims from the bottom up have showed the constitutive injustice inherent in discriminative laws and induced the formation of democratic parliaments, which from the top down have promoted new legislation to change inequalities before the law. Therefore, the rule of law can be based and enacted only on equal starting conditions. Women’s protests have stressed a different “making of law.” Gender difference implies a diverse, both broader and specific, approach not only to citizenship but also to human rights. This is the result of three centuries of uninterrupted campaigns and actions. The history of women’s struggles for the recognition of citizenship and human rights began at the end of the eighteenth century and went on without interruption in the following centuries. Yet a turning point occurred at the end of the nineteenth century when—compared to a universal concept of human rights—the specificity of gender-based rights, from abortion to the fight against gender violence, was raised in the public arena thanks to a cross-border mobilization of a transnational women’s movement. The struggle against sexual and domestic violence, which is a “shadow pandemic” connoting all countries and cultures, has thus become one of the main targets for social policies at both domestic and international levels. For this reason, I think that democratic legitimacy and the rule of law must always be built on persistent intersectional and overlapping interactions between civil society and institutions on the basis of normative principles, which have to avoid discriminatory segregation among human beings and citizens thanks to constitutions based on the checks and balances of the different state powers. Within this analytic frame, this essay is aimed at stressing the changing meaning of the supposed neutral frame of “equal before the law,” if not confronted with protests and claims arising from the civil society, as women’s battles to broaden the notion and practice of citizenship and human rights have shown.

Calloni, M. (2021). Enlarging citizenship, strengthening human rights, reframing the rule of law. The enduring battles of cross-cultural women’s movements. In Barbara Faedda (ed.) (a cura di), Rule of Law: Strategies, Experiences, and Interpretations (pp. 161-170). Ranzani, Roma.

Enlarging citizenship, strengthening human rights, reframing the rule of law. The enduring battles of cross-cultural women’s movements

Marina Calloni
2021

Abstract

One of the phrases used to explain the meaning of the “rule of law” is that “no one is above the law.” When we utter this assertion, however, we assume normative principles, i.e., that—as free individuals—all human beings are equal before the law. Yet is this always true? It does not seem to be the case. Namely, the issue can acquire a normative value only when it is constitutionally verified as the result of processes of democratic legitimation, able to confirm the validity of the procedures in the distinction of the state powers. The assertion that “no one is above the law” is a pseudo-neutral social construction because citizens do not have equal conditions to start with, as factual reality shows. De facto, it has legitimized for centuries a patriarchal, gender-based bias in legislative and political systems as well as in all societal domains because of the exclusion of women from the public realm. Thanks to grassroots struggles for the enlargement of the rights of citizenship and the full recognition of human rights, cross-border women’s movements have shown over time the intrinsic ideology of the phrase “equality before the law” because women were either counted in the number of free human beings or assumed as equal though different. Women’s claims from the bottom up have showed the constitutive injustice inherent in discriminative laws and induced the formation of democratic parliaments, which from the top down have promoted new legislation to change inequalities before the law. Therefore, the rule of law can be based and enacted only on equal starting conditions. Women’s protests have stressed a different “making of law.” Gender difference implies a diverse, both broader and specific, approach not only to citizenship but also to human rights. This is the result of three centuries of uninterrupted campaigns and actions. The history of women’s struggles for the recognition of citizenship and human rights began at the end of the eighteenth century and went on without interruption in the following centuries. Yet a turning point occurred at the end of the nineteenth century when—compared to a universal concept of human rights—the specificity of gender-based rights, from abortion to the fight against gender violence, was raised in the public arena thanks to a cross-border mobilization of a transnational women’s movement. The struggle against sexual and domestic violence, which is a “shadow pandemic” connoting all countries and cultures, has thus become one of the main targets for social policies at both domestic and international levels. For this reason, I think that democratic legitimacy and the rule of law must always be built on persistent intersectional and overlapping interactions between civil society and institutions on the basis of normative principles, which have to avoid discriminatory segregation among human beings and citizens thanks to constitutions based on the checks and balances of the different state powers. Within this analytic frame, this essay is aimed at stressing the changing meaning of the supposed neutral frame of “equal before the law,” if not confronted with protests and claims arising from the civil society, as women’s battles to broaden the notion and practice of citizenship and human rights have shown.
No
Scientifica
Capitolo o saggio
Rule of Law. Human Rights. Women's Human Rights. Domestic Violence. Women's movement.
English
Rule of Law: Strategies, Experiences, and Interpretations
9791280382047
Calloni, M. (2021). Enlarging citizenship, strengthening human rights, reframing the rule of law. The enduring battles of cross-cultural women’s movements. In Barbara Faedda (ed.) (a cura di), Rule of Law: Strategies, Experiences, and Interpretations (pp. 161-170). Ranzani, Roma.
Calloni, M
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/10281/325410
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