Equality with a Vengeance: Female Conscientious Objectors in Pursuit of a "Voice" and Substantive Gender Equality

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This article examines the role of law in creating the phenomenon of female draft resistors in Israel and in shaping and transforming it throughout the years. Israeli law subjects both men and women to a mandatory draft. Yet, for many years women enjoyed a specific recognized right for exemption from military service on grounds of conscience, while men were not awarded a similar right. However this sex specific right has been abolished recently by the Israeli Supreme Court. The Court, ruled that in all issues related to conscientious objection the principle of sex based equality requires that women should be subjected to the same strict legal treatment as men. This latter legal development and its various implications for women are the main focus of this article. I provide a close analysis of the legal framework within which the original sex specific right was born and explore the dynamics that led to its abolishment. The main argument is that this analysis provides an interesting case study regarding the inherent constraints of contemporary legal discourse in promoting substantive gender equality. This case study also sheds a more complex light on the nature of separate legal arrangements for women and raises important questions regarding the relationship between feminist agendas and legal outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-147
Number of pages49
JournalColumbia Journal of Gender & Law
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2007


  • Conscientious Objectors
  • Conscientious Objection
  • Gender Equality
  • Women Soldiers
  • Female Soldiers
  • Draft Resistance
  • Sex Discrimination
  • Israel Defense Forces
  • Military Service
  • Gender and Voice
  • Israeli Women


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