ESSAY: CRIMES OF WAR, CRIMES OF PEACE * Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 1993 Regents of the University of California
UCLA Women's Law Journal


* Excerpted from ON HUMAN RIGHTS: THE OXFORD AMNESTY LECTURES 1993, edited by Stephen Shute and Susan Hurley. Copyright (c) 1993 by Basic Books and Catharine A. MacKinnon. Reprinted with permission of Basic Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers Inc.


4 UCLA Women's L.J. 59


Catharine A. MacKinnon **


Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home ...

Eleanor Roosevelt


In reality begins principle. The loftiest legal abstractions, however strenuously empty of social specificity on the surface, are born of social life: amid the intercourse of particular groups, in the presumptive ease of the deciding classes, through the trauma of specific atrocities, at the expense of the silent and excluded, as a victory (usually compromised, often pyrrhic) for the powerless. Law does not grow by syllogistic compulsion; it is pushed by the social logic of domination and challenge to domination, forged in the interaction of change and resistance to change. It is not only in the common law that the life of the law is experience, not logic. 1 Behind all law is someone's story; someone whose blood, if you read closely, leaks through the lines. Text does not beget text; life does. The question - a question of politics and history and therefore law - is whose experience grounds what law.

Human rights principles are based on experience, but not that of women. It is not that women's human rights have not been violated. When women are violated like men who are otherwise like them - when women's arms and legs bleed when severed, when women are shot in pits and gassed in vans, when women's bodies are hidden at the bottom of abandoned mines, when women's skulls are sent from Auschwitz to Strasbourg for experiments - this is not ...
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