“Human Rights Penality and Violence against Women: the Coloniality of Disembodied Justice” - Dr. Silvana Tapia Tapia (University of Birmingham)

Event date
7 March 2023
Event time
16:00 - 17:00
Oxford week
HT 8
Members of the University
Centre for Criminology Seminar Room

Dr Silvana Tapia Tapia, Leverhulme Research Fellow at Birmingham Law School

Notes & Changes

Despite historical and contemporary experiences of extreme prison violence around the world, international human rights (IHR) discourses increasingly encourage states to trigger the penal apparatus as a response to human rights violations. In this session, I will introduce my paper which interrogates this “human rights penality” (HRP) in the realm of violence against women (VAW), using a decolonial feminist approach.

First, I will expose the colonial commitments that underlie dominant legalities at the ontological and epistemological levels, by contrasting parts of the Western-colonial register with ideas from non-Western relational thinking. Separateness, abstraction, and the aspiration to transcendence are identified as cornerstones that account for the exclusion of embodied experience and present-day reality in legal discourses. Then, through discourse analysis of Inter-American and European case law on VAW, I show the deployment of the resulting model of justice, as well as its contributions to the displacement of survivors’ experiences, and the invisibility of carceral violence.

IHR discourse construes VAW chiefly as a formal/penal issue: it is the non-existence of criminal law, and/or the non-initiation of a penal process that courts regard as failure, rather than the state’s inability/unwillingness to tackle systemic inequalities. The a priori functions attributed to criminal justice vindicate its expansion despite the real-world perils of penal violence. This enhances a colonial model of justice that precludes other imaginable approaches to VAW. The paper concludes with a reflection on the implications of these findings for a decolonial feminist agenda.

The presentation will last 40 minutes and will be followed by a 20–30-minute audience-led Q&A.

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