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South Africa and Australia, albeit markedly different in their demographics, politics, and history, share a colonial past, where race was the fault line throughout the society. Although there were marked differences in the colonial structure and various policies of the colonial administrators, both societies shared certain patriarchal attitudes that cemented during the colonial period and left a particular legacy of violence against black women. In both, the incidence of violence against women was so systemic and so ubiquitous that it has been described as a continuing violation of their human rights. The intersection of colonialism, patriarchy and violence and its consequences for black women informs the main thesis of this paper, namely, criticalrace feminism and its particular perspective on the issue of violence against women. In other words, this paper addresses the following question: How can critical race feminism contribute to the continuing feminist project of unmasking structures, legal and otherwise, that generate, tolerate and acquiesce in violence against women? Colonialism's rampant racism, patriarchy, and cultures of masculinity left women in a particularly vulnerable position. In excavating the many causes of violence, my paper references not just the colonial experience, but the remnants and effects of both colonial and indigenous culture. In both South Africa and Australia, however, it was the ordinary processes of law and legalism which kept the colonial structures in place and which continue to raise questions about the role of law today. In my paper, the theme, violence against women, will combine the focus of these two societies.


Journal of Gender, Race and Justice 3, no. 2 (Spring 2000): 373-400