Gender and culture in the courtroom: Notes from Southern Europe

In the debates about the interplay between gender and culture in the practice of domestic courts in Europe and North America, the main focus continues to be on women of (real or perceived) foreign origin and on the way ‘their culture’ hinders their social integration and/or enjoyment of fundamental rights. This focus contributes to an exaggerated perception of ethnic difference and to a highly problematic equation of gender violence with ethnic/cultural difference. By reviewing court rulings from three Southern European countries with notorious patriarchal traditions – Portugal, Spain and Italy – this paper aims to contribute to a better understanding of the way in which cultural arguments from the ‘host culture’ are being used by defendants and judges in cases involving some form of gender violence and of how this use compares with that of cultural arguments from ‘other cultures’. The paper is an opportunity to discuss preliminary results of a 4-year project entitled InclusiveCourts.