Legal remedies, truth recovery and illegal adoptions: The limits and transformative potential of human rights law and practice
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This thesis seeks to address two related research questions. First, to consider and assess the Irish State’s approach and legal responses to historical practices of illegal adoption – how are such legal responses affected by the gender-neutral conceptualisation and articulation of these practices and the resulting human rights abuses; and secondly, what is the potential of international human rights law in sourcing nuanced or appropriate legal remedies for these abuses. It explores the existence of this gap in terms of legal frameworks and responses nationally and internationally, highlighting the failure to address these violations, before re-conceptualising the articulation of these practices as gender-specific practices that targeted unmarried women and girls. The thesis draws together diverse legal perspectives, from feminist legal theory, transitional justice and international human rights law, and applies them for the first time to the historical practices of illegal adoption in Ireland. It builds on feminist legal theory critiquing the private public dichotomy, to argue for a gender-specific articulation and recognition of these human rights abuses as a form of reproductive violence and gender-discrimination. This enables the transition of these human rights abuses from the private sphere to the public domain, forcing the State to recognise the gendered nature of the abuses and harm suffered. It also draws on the theoretical conceptualisation of time in law to illustrate how law can be used to silence these gendered abuses (e.g. the Statute of Limitations, time-limited payment schemes). The use of time through law in this manner is significant in light of approaching how to remedy the human rights violations caused. Finally, the thesis relies on feminist legal perspectives in both international human rights law and transitional justice to argue for a transformative response to the legal forms of redress, reparations and truth recovery to historical practices of illegal adoption.
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