Sexual specificity, rape law reform and the feminist quest for justice

South African Journal of Philosophy 31 (3):465-483 (2012)
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Recent rape law reform is most saliently characterised by a turn to gender neutrality in its definition of the crime of rape. The few possible advantages of a gender neutral approach to rape are offset by a series of disadvantages regarding gender justice when viewed from a feminist perspective. Formal gender neutrality does not safeguard against the effective influence of pervasive and enduring symbolic constructions pertaining to male and female sexuality and of a normalised hierarchical binary constructed between the two sexes, in particular where sexual relations are concerned. Such efficacy may impede justice for both male and female victims of rape. The question about the place of sexual difference or rather sexual specificity within feminist theories of justice should be considered anew in light of this critical analysis of gender neutrality in rape law



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Louise du Toit
University of Stellenbosch

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