Feminist Legal Studies

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 263–283 | Cite as

Gendered Violence and International Human Rights: Thinking Non-discrimination Beyond the Sex Binary

  • Kathryn McNeilly


The concept of non-discrimination has been central in the feminist challenge to gendered violence within international human rights law. This article critically explores non-discrimination and the challenge it seeks to pose to gendered violence through the work of Judith Butler. Drawing upon Butler’s critique of heteronormative sex/gender, the article utilises an understanding of gendered violence as effected by the restrictive scripts of sex/gender within heteronormativity to illustrate how the development of non-discrimination within international human rights law renders it ineffective to challenge gendered violence due to its own commitments to binarised and asymmetrical sex/gender. However, the article also seeks to encourage a reworking of non-discrimination beyond the heteronormative sex binary through employing Butler’s concept of cultural translation. Analysis via the lens of cultural translation reveals the fluidity of non-discrimination as a universal concept and offers new possibilities for feminist engagement with universal human rights.


Gendered violence Non-discrimination Sex/gender Judith Butler Heteronormativity 



Many thanks are owed to Ruth Fletcher for her comments on an earlier draft of this article, and to the journal’s two anonymous referees for their insightful contributions in shaping this piece.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of LawQueen’s University BelfastBelfastUK

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