Permitting dishonour: Culture, gender and freedom of expression

Res Publica 13 (1):29-52 (2007)
While the right to freedom of expression is of great importance in liberal societies, liberal governments should be wary of speech that disparages minority groups. This issue is particularly problematic when minority women publicly criticise gender oppression within their communities. By focusing on the controversy over the play Behzti in 2004, this article explores the difficulties involved in protecting individual women’s rights to criticise injustice, when doing so risks perpetuating negative stereotypes in society at large. If liberal polities wish to preserve an ethos in society that enables minority women to speak out about their experience of oppression, then there is sometimes a case for restricting the right to free speech in these cases. By comparing Behzti with two other works, the article proposes a three-part test to indicate when liberals should seriously consider informal restrictions on free speech when this problem arises.
Keywords freedom of expression  identity  intersectionality  multiculturalism  rights  women
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DOI 10.1007/s11158-006-9014-7
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