'She Knew What Was Expected of Her' : The White Legal System's Encounter with Traditional Marriage
A recent case in the Northern Territory of Australia has raised the issues of intra-racial rape and the legal recognition of traditional marriages between Indigenous people. The defendant in the Jamilmira case was charged with statutory rape of a 15-year-old girl. He argued that the girl's status as his promised wife should lead to mitigation of his sentence. Members of the Northern Territory judiciary and others in the community were divided in their response to his claim. Ultimately the case led to reform of the law in relation to the recognition of traditional marriage, a response which outraged some members of the Indigenous community. In this article I examine the various representations of culture and individuals that were utilised by 'the law' and how these representations informed the legal response. In the process I question the limits of my own role as a 'white middle-class feminist' in the context of explorations of law and culture. Is there a space to become involved in these debates without being complicit in fostering racism and prejudice and without reverting to stereotypes and cultural arrogance?
Feminist Legal Studies