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On March 8, Why Celebrate Feminist Constitutionalism?

Christine Peter da Silva, Associate Professor, Uniceub; Estefânia Maria de Queiroz Barboza, Professor, UFPR and Uninter; Marina Bonatto, Researcher at the Center for Studies of the Constitution, UFPR; and Melina Girardi Fachin, Professor, UFPR

The female universe is plural, complex and diverse. Feminist constitutionalism does not intend to reduce all inequalities and multiplicities in a single lens, but, regardless of these diverse features, there is a consensus that the burden for women is heavier.

Women live the reflections of the patriarchal society we inhabit. Law is a mirror of this society and therefore reproduces stereotypes and gender inequalities. But the same right that oppresses can also be an instrument for emancipation. For this reason, feminist constitutionalism relies on the powerful tools of constitutionalism to rescue its proposal (or better to say promise?) of equality.

And the reasons for this recognition are precisely the justifications that lead us to celebrate feminist constitutionalism on this day of women’s struggle, seeking to rethink the right from a gender perspective, whether at the time of its elaboration questioning the participation of women in the legislature and the impact that the laws cause on women, or compensating for these disproportionalities at the time of their interpretation and application by the Courts.

If you agree with the above assertion, you might not even need to read this text until the end, but we invite you to read it so that we can share some of the agendas that move feminist constitutionalism. This text is addressed especially to those who still have doubts about the gender inequalities in which we live. Thus, it is worth highlighting some reasons, in a non-exhaustive list, why we need to celebrate feminist constitutionalism on March 8:

The sexual division of labor is one of the sources of violence against women because it demonstrates the relations of domination by gender. Based on it, there are functions considered as typically feminine, paid or not, especially related to domestic chores (sometimes even perceived socially as work) and to duties aimed at care, especially with children and the elderly. This view belittles the woman, because, on the basis of it, it is up to the woman to always be in relation to the other, in a position to serve, owing to the family and children or to others.

The initial challenge is to recognize this as work: cooking, educating, caring, cleaning – unpaid and invisible works, extremely strenuous, the activity of care and affection that we were convinced was a natural task of the woman.

This has adverse effects both in the public and private spheres – and it is essential that we perceive these two fields as interconnected. In the public arena, even having entered the labor market, and in many cases being more qualified, women continue to receive less for the same job in the same roles. Another consequence of this is that women are the majority of the labour force in the informal market, which in recessive economic times such as the pandemic further aggravated inequalities. Such inequalities end up impacting also statistics related to Social Security: women receive lower pensions and childcare assignments remove them from the labour market, creating a shorter contribution time.

In the private arena, entry into the labor market did not imply an equitable distribution of domestic chores; Women are more dedicated to domestic work than men and sometimes work double or triple hours, in addition to the increased mental load. In the sexual division of labor, multiple journeys still hang on female shoulders.

The perversity here is accentuated by the question of economic dependency: the unequal distribution of household tasks causes women to be burdened, but still, as a rule, remain economically dependent on men.

This dependence is often in itself a source of violence or even a justification for many women to submit to aggressive relationships. The endemic nature of domestic violence is significant in the violation of women’s rights. In times of economic precariousness and social disability, gender violence in the domestic environment gains even more dramatic contours. Forced coexistence with aggressors, on the one hand, and the difficulty of accessing the services and often delays or precariousness of official response, on the other, drive the increase of violence, especially in its most harmful face that is physical and sexual violence.

Finally, for those who are not convinced, the final argument: we do not own our own bodies. It is inconceivable that we still legally perpetuate the absence of autonomy over our own bodies and of deciding on motherhood or not. The theme of autonomy needs rational debates in the public space, beyond religious disputes, and that equate women in their equal freedom with men.

All this shows us how society and law, from the sexual division of labour and the artificial public and private dichotomy, normalize and legitimize the perpetuation of this patriarchal system.

Suggested citation: Christine Peter da Silva, Estefânia Maria de Queiroz Barboza, Marina Bonatto, and Melina Girardi Fachin, On March 8, Why Celebrate Feminist Constitutionalism? Int’l J. Const. L. Blog, Mar. 8, 2022, at: http://www.iconnectblog.com/2022/03/on-march-8-why-celebrate-feminist-constitutionalism/

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Published on March 8, 2022
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