Racing populations, sexing environments: The challenges of a feminist politics in international law
In 1994, feminist activists made headlines at the United Nations Cairo Conference on Population and Development for their highly organised and influential lobbying. The final agreement negotiated at Cairo reflected this involvement by specifically referring to women’s reproductive rights, and by recognising the complex relationship between population policy, environmental security and economic growth. International population policy, defined broadly as the array of international projects and actors involved in efforts to curb population growth, is an increasingly important arena for the contestation of social values and the meaning of global community. In this paper, I offer a re-reading of the 1994 Cairo agreement, and population policy more generally, in the context of colonial discourses around race and gender, which articulate with constructions of the population ‘problem’. Focusing on the language of environment and economic growth, I examine how racialised conceptions of ‘dangerous’ fertility are reinforced rather than challenged by the Cairo agreement. Through this analysis, I attempt to first, make explicit the international inequality that structures international law and policy, and secondly, outline some of the challenges facing feminist engagement with international law.
Buss, D. (2000). Racing populations, sexing environments: The challenges of a feminist politics in international law. Legal Studies, 20(4), 463–484. doi:10.1111/j.1748-121X.2000.tb00155.x