Added: February 4, 2017 – Last updated: February 4, 2017


Author: Faye N. Forman

Title: The Unintended Consequences of the International Women's Movement

Subtitle: Medicalizing Rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Thesis: Senior Thesis, Bard College

Advisor: Peter Rosenblum

Year: 2016

Pages: 76pp.

Language: English

Keywords: Modern History: 20th Century, 21st Century | African History: Congolese History; American History: U.S. History | Prosecution: Laws / International Law


Link: Bard Digital Commons: Digital Repository of the Bard College (Free Access)


Abstract: »The legal advancements made by western feminists from the 1960s continuing today mark a distinct shift for both the women's movement and mainstream radical feminist philosophy. This project examines the unintended consequences of the rise of the international women's movement as American feminists brought the law to bear as the primary instrument for reform to eradicate rape and violence against women. As contemporary political scholars demonstrate, legal remediation further codifies gender inequality and protective tropes that sexualize women's injury. Chapter 2 and 3 examines the intensified feminist efforts to criminalize domestic abuse at an international level, first at the United Nations (1980s) and later, sexual violence during wartime in international criminal law (1990s).
In practice, state legislation to protect women from violence is often used as a vehicle to advance conservative political agendas. Two anthropological case studies explore these policies in action: Algerian women's access to humanitarian asylum in France and specialized humanitarian medical care provided to raped women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. One pressing conclusion to draw from both studies is that women's full citizenship status is being threatened by conservative notions of women's worth being defined in terms of her chastity.
Chapter 4 examines the highly publicized humanitarian medical response to mass rape in Congo and explores the colonially derived racial hierarchy that underlies many humanitarian missions. In the interest of circumventing state power over sexuality and therefore removing the sexual stigma from rape in legal terms, this paper engages with Michel Foucault's argument that the crime of rape be desexualized and placed on a spectrum of degrees of assault.« (Source: Thesis)


  1. Framing Rape in the United States (1870 – 1980) (p. 1)
    Catharine A. MacKinnon: Radical Feminist Reforms (p. 7)
      On Sexual Harassment (p. 7)
      On Pornography (p. 9)
      On Rape and Consent (p. 14)
    A Critique of Feminist Theory (p. 15)
    A Philosophical Reconceptualization: Desexualizing Rape (1971) (p. 22)
  2. Violence against Women at the UN 1980s (p. 23)
    A brief history of women's organizing (p. 25)
    The Rise of 'Violence against Women' (p. 27)
    The Boundary Between Citizen and Patient (p. 35)
  3. Radical Feminism's Rise to Power in International Law (1990s) (p. 38)
    Governance Feminism in Power (p. 39)
    GFeminists in IHL/ICL 1990s + (p. 44)
    Defining Rape in the ICTs (p. 48)
    Unraveling Humanitarianism and Medical Care in Congo (p. 55)
  4. Humanitarian Medical Care in the Democratic Republic of Congo (p. 62)
  Bibliography (p. 66)

Wikipedia: History of Africa: History of the Democratic Republic of the Congo | History of the Americas: History of the United States / History of the United States (1991–present) | Law: International law | Sexual violence: Sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo