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Journal Article


Lépinard E. Am. Behav. Sci. 2010; 53(12): 1763-1787.


(Copyright © 2010, SAGE Publishing)






In Canada, women's rights organizations have successfully mobilized the law to foster gender equality. In doing so, they have been constrained by legal understandings of equality and discrimination, which have shaped their strategies to seek justice. In return, their mobilization, mainly through litigation, has contributed to craft or to alter legal categories (such as "substantive equality," "women," "sexual harassment," etc.), which in turn sustain their identities and their interests. However, claims made in the name of gender equality raise two issues: They tend to overlook the intersection of gender with other grounds of discrimination such as religion or race/ethnicity; and they tend to conflict with multiculturalism, a value enshrined in Canadian law. The recent decision taken by the province of Ontario to ban religious arbitration for family matters offers an illuminating case study of this tension between gender equality and religious rights in the Canadian context. This article analyzes women's rights activists' legal understandings of gender equality and religious/ethnic discrimination to explain how these representations have influenced women's mobilization against religious arbitration in Ontario. Bringing together the insights developed by critical legal studies about intersectionality and the study of legal mobilization, this articles explores through a concrete example the tension between feminism and multiculturalism.


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