Between Intra-Group Vulnerability and Inter-Group Vulnerability: Bridging the Gaps in the Theoretical Scholarship on Internal Minorities

by Miriam Zucker

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Winner, Audre Rapoport Prize for Scholarship on Gender and Human Rights (2021)


The scholarship on internal minorities has generated different proposals for addressing concerns about the oppressive impacts of minority cultures’ practices on their more vulnerable members. Critical reflection on this scholarship reveals that it is characterized by a rigid binary choice between an interventionist approach—seeking to eradicate cultural practices that contradict liberal values and norms—and a laissez-faire approach that rejects interference in cultural minority communities’ affairs and instead relies on the right of minority members to exit their community. Despite these two approaches dominating the scholarship, both options under this binary are detached from the interests and needs of minority women. Rarely do women and girls benefit from putting their family members in jail under the interventionist approach, while leaving the community under the laissez-faire approach is either impossible or undesired (or both) because it often requires the individual to “leave her whole world behind.” This paper demonstrates that this binary stems from the fact that scholars have not accounted for the role of the state in the problem of intra-group vulnerability, and illuminates how when one does, one notices other options that better align with women and girls’ interests and needs.

About the Author 

Dr. Miriam Zucker is an Adjunct Professor and a visiting research fellow at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University. She is currently researching at the Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security, and has been a visiting fellow at the Institute for Feminist Legal Studies at Osgoode Hall Law School since February 2021. Miriam received her SJD degree from the University of Toronto Faculty of Law (June 2021).  Her research concerns the areas of Multiculturalism and Feminism, Law and Religion, and Human Rights Law, and her doctoral work focuses on the problem of minority women’s intra-group vulnerability, often described as the treatment of “minorities within minorities.”

Project & Publications Type: Audre Rapoport Prize for Scholarship on Gender and Human Rights, Rapoport Center Working Paper Series