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12 Aust. YBIL 190 (1988-1989)
The Public/Private Distinction and the Right to Development in International Law

handle is hein.journals/ayil12 and id is 198 raw text is: THE PUBLIC/PRIVATE DISTINCTION AND THE
Women do two thirds of the world's work .... Yet ... women earn no more
than one tenth of the world's income and own less than one per cent of the
world's property.1
Why has gender not been an issue in international law?    Although
international lawyers have been forced to confront the challenge made to the
traditional canons of international law by developing nations, the deeply
gendered nature of their discipline has remained uncontroversial and unexplored.
In this paper I argue that international law is built on paradigms which privilege
a male perspective, one of which is a distinction between public and private
spheres of life.2  I first outline the theoretical basis of the public/private
distinction and the feminist critique of the dichotomy. I then examine the
operation of the public/private distinction in one particular area of international
law: the right to development.
The Public/Private Distinction
The dichotomy between public and private activities and spheres is central to
liberalism - the dominant political, and legal, philosophy of the West.3 Thus
John Locke, one of the most influential architects of modem liberal thought,
drew distinctions between reason and passion, knowledge and desire, mind and
body. The first of each of these dualisms was associated with the public sphere of
rationality, order and political authority; the latter with a private sphere of
subjectivity and desire.4
How did the dichotomy between the public and private spheres become
gendered? Women had no place in the public order and became associated with
irrational desire. Locke viewed women as naturally inferior to men, a condition
*  Law School, University of Melbourne
The author thanks Philip Alston, Christine Chinkin and Jenny Morgan for their very
helpful comments on a draft of this paper.
1 UN Doc E/CN.4/AC.39/1988/L2 para 59.
2   See generally Charlesworth H, Chinkin C, and Wright S, Feminist Approaches to
International Law (unpublished paper 1990).
3   For a historical account of the distinction in Western thought see Elshtain JB, Public
Man, Private Women (1981).
4   Locke J, Two Treatises of Government (Laslett P (ed) 1965). See Elshtain JB,
above n 2, pp 116-127.

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