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Expanding the feminisation dimension of international law: targeted anti-abortion protest as violence against women

Tania Penovic and Ronli Sifris

Keywords: feminisation of international law; violence against women; reproductive rights; transnational civil society

International civil society has played a key role in shaping the international consensus which has facilitated the normative expansion of international law to accommodate abuses experienced by women. We examine this process of ‘feminisation’ with reference to the extent to which international law has accommodated women's lived experiences of violence and their struggle to secure the means to control their own fertility through access to reproductive health services, including abortion. While the movement to recognise violence against women as a human rights issue has garnered substantial support, the efforts of women's groups to advance consensus around reproductive rights, and particularly the right of safe access to abortion, have been highly contested. Conservative religious actors have mobilised to obstruct consensus at the international level and taken direct action at the local level to impede access to abortions. This direct action will be examined through a case study drawing on empirical research conducted in Australia. We will examine the activities of anti-abortion protest groups, their impact on the rights of others and the effectiveness of legislation put in place to restrict these activities within the radius of designated geographic zones. The consistency of these legislative regimes with international norms is evaluated within the framework of feminisation of international law.

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