Catherine A. Hardee


Balancing Acts

Catherine A. Hardee

In the postcolonial world, many developing nations struggle to manage significant populations of different ethnic groups, religions, and nationalities within their borders. There has been a concentrated effort on the part of many nations to provide protection for cultural groups, even to the extent of allowing cultural and religious groups to define the personal law that will govern their members. Often, however, the effort to provide freedom for cultural groups to practice their beliefs conflicts with the ideals of equality and choice for women that are central to the liberal feminist movement. In this Note, Catherine Hardee surveys the theoretical literature surrounding the debate between multiculturalism and feminism and advocates for the use of a middle-ground approach that balances the rights both of cultural groups and women-giving minority groups protection from the law of the majority if and only if, their practices do not interfere with the rights of individuals within that culture to fully participate in society. Hardee then examines Kenyan marital law to see how that balance is struck. She finds that the multiple types of marriages available to Kenyan women create something of a market in marriage with the potential to amplify women’s voices through choice. Practical problems, however, lead to inefficiencies in the market that threaten women’s rights. To adequately protect women’s interests these inefficiencies must be addressed to ensure that market outcomes accurately reflect the preferences of women within the cultural group.