Rape of the world: an ecofeminist critique of international environmental law


University of British Columbia

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Master of Laws - LLM




Over the last twenty years, international environmental law has attempted to address the global threats to the health of our planet including ozone layer depletion, climate change, global deforestation, the pollution of freshwater resources and the oceans and species extinction. Unfortunately, the state of the environment is not improving as fast as environmental conventions come forth. The premise for this thesis is therefore that international environmental law is not effective in protecting the natural environment. Responsible for the survival of their families and communities, women in developing countries are the most vulnerable to environmental degradation as dwindling natural and freshwater resources and soil erosion threaten their survival base. Unfortunately, international environmental law does little to acknowledge this vulnerability and even less to assist women in developing countries cope with environmental degradation. The vast knowledge of ecosystems held by women in developing countries is also largely ignored, thus marginalizing their way of knowing and disregarding potential solutions to environmental problems. This thesis therefore takes a critical look from an ecofeminist standpoint at the traditional characteristics of international environmental law such as states' sovereign right to exploit their natural resources, states' right to development and the emphasis of international environmental law on science and technology. The thesis also examines emerging principles of international environmental law such as sustainable development, intergenerational equity, common concern of humankind, and the precautionary principle, which attempt to address some of the concerns raised by the more traditional approach. However, the thesis concludes that despite these new developments, international environmental law is still premised on an androcentric perspective of the natural environment which impedes it from achieving true environmental protection and which serves to continue the marginalization of women. In this thesis, I argue that a new conceptualization of the relationship between humankind and the natural environment is necessary in order to save our planet from ecological disaster and that ecofeminism can offer such an alternative view. Finally, the conclusion will suggest a few concrete ways of including women's perspectives and ways of knowing into the negotiation of environmental conventions and in their implementation.


Environmental law, International; Ecofeminism; Feminist theory

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Law, Peter A. Allard School of