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Intersectionality in international human rights adjudication

Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality” in 1989 to describe how the interaction of prejudices based on different grounds can lead to prejudice that is different from, and sometimes greater than, the simple sum of its parts.

Implementing intersectional reasoning in human rights adjudication has been shown to provide better redress for individual human rights violations and to help combat structural oppression beyond the individual case at hand. In spite of this, the practice of intersectionality in the case law of international human rights monitoring bodies remains very inconsistent and context-dependent.

In order to provide explanations for and solutions to this problem, this study combines an empirical and a normative objective. First, it will systematically study and compare the practice of intersectionality – in the broad sense of the term, including a range of intersections involving marginalisations that have, until now, largely been left by the wayside – in the decisions of the eight UN human rights treaty with individual complaint mechanisms, the Court and Commission of the African and Inter-American regional human rights systems, and the European Court of Human Rights and Committee of Social Rights.

Furthermore, the study will develop concrete new approaches that international human rights monitoring bodies can apply to optimally address intersectionality.

Sarah Schoentjes is conducting this research as a fellow of the Flanders Research Foundation FWO, under the supervision of prof. dr. Eva Brems and dr. Pieter Cannoot from November 2020 until October 2024.

  • Research Foudation – Flanders (FWO-Fellowship Nov 2020-Oct 2024)


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