Law and Social Inequality

1.      Law in its political sense vis a vis battered women syndrome, terrorism

Law is what governs social relations.  Classifications of law regulating human behavior may include moral, natural and civil law.  All these classifications are viewed to apply to all people alike regardless of sex, age or social status in life.

Law is impartial, that is, they apply equally to all people subject of the jurisdiction of a certain territory.  In fact, the same may be applied whether or not a person has knowledge of the existence of the law, pursuant to the maxim that ignorance of the law excuses no one from compliance therewith.  Thus, the same is strictly applied and enforced on all people equally.

Impartiality of the law as one of its characteristics is intended to impose compliance among people.  Whether people are similarly situated or not, each is expected to obey and conform to what society dictates, or what the government dictates through the enactment of laws and regulations.

While law is seen to be applied equally to all persons alike, contrary views prove otherwise.  While it is true that the laws are enacted as they are and obedience is extracted from all people, it is indubitable that people are not similarly situated. As has been said in fact, not all even have knowledge of the existence of a particular law, it is only the constructive presumption attached by the state that everyone is presumed to know the law which is the basis of enforcing these laws upon them.  Moreover, not everyone for instance is engaged in the same jobs or are earning this much, which result to inequality in social status or social standing.  These matters affect on the matter of implementation of the law.

It is safe to conclude therefore that people are not similarly situated.  Not all have cars or not all have jobs, not all could feed themselves and so on and so forth.  It is in this aspect that law can be said to have varying application and implementation, one of saying that law is in a sense, political in nature.

To expound the concept, political, as understood in our context, is one where there is inequality, or one characterized by partiality.  This is in contrast to the theory that law is primarily characterized by its impartiality.

Undeniably, people are situated in different conditions of life.  There are those who belong to the group of wealthy people and those who are in the opposite end.  In this sense, some view that some forms of criminal law are applied only to the poor, for instance, laws against mendicancy, prostitution, theft and robbery among others are applied only to the poor.  This observation can be attributed to the fact that indeed the offenders belong to the lower class of society.  Those who beg or engaged in prostitution are definitely badly in need of money for a living, and one of surviving is to do what is prohibited by law.

More often than not, violations of criminal laws which involve as a reward, money and other financial gratification are committed by the lower class.  There are however forms of criminal laws which are applied and are violated by the higher class.  For instance, murder committed by giving prize, reward or promise to another to perpetrate the crime, can be committed only by one who is capable of giving such reward or prize, in short, only by one belonging to the upper class.

In matters of civil law particularly human relations, the wealthy deal much on their reputation and so anything that would injure or prejudice their name is made as a source of cause of action.  In fact, there are those seeking for damages plainly in court to vindicate their right and enforce liability on that basis.

It is on these basis that the law is not applied to all, that is, only those who particularly violated what has been dictated by society and by law are subject to the strict applications of these laws.

However, law in its political sense, is viewed as such for a reason.  The purpose of the enactment or enforcement of laws is to regulate human behavior, civil relations and govern rights and responsibilities arising therefrom.  In this regard, only those who fail to comply the conditions imposed by these laws are subject to punishment or liability as the case may be.

With respect to moral laws for instance, people whose acts are adversely injurious to the conscience and proper for human relations are considered as taboo, though the fact that it is being viewed as such is based on unwritten law.  Such acts are highly criticized and subject to disapproval by society.

Perfect examples on the political nature of laws is the enactment of laws particularly targeting for instance battered women and the world’s enemy, the terrorists.  Laws protecting battered women and/or fighting against terrorism are even enacted not just by the United States, but are adopted globally pursuant to the United Nations Convention principles fighting against these universal crimes.

Battered women syndrome is one where women have tendencies of committing violence and in fact are involved the killing of their husbands for instance, partners and the like.  It has been recognized in the history that women have been the subject of their husbands’ battery for whatever reason they have in mind.  Constant abuse upon them, physical, sexual, moral or economic abuse, does not render them helpless.

While DSM IV does not recognize battered women syndrome, the concept is treated as a manifestation of post traumatic stress after the so-called emotional, physical, sexual, moral or economic abuse.  These forms of abuse create a tendency on women to take retaliatory defenses upon their male abusers and results their commission of the said crimes.

In view of the recognition of battered women syndrome as a manifestation of post traumatic stress disorder, the same can be raised as a defense by those women who have resorted to violence in order to defend and protect their person, property or honor, including their children.  There are even instances where battered women syndrome is considered as a complete form of self-defense which justifies the commission of the crime, and in such case, the women offenders are exonerated both from criminal and civil liability.  In fact, they are considered as the victims and not the offenders.

On the other hand, there are now laws fighting against terrorism.  It is an established fact that terrorism is a universal crime, threatening as it does, not only the survival of the people in a single community but all countries in general.  In this regard, countries including the United States find it fitting to impose with strictness the application on the laws fighting against terrorism and imposing stiffer penalties upon the offenders other than actual retaliatory measures taken by the state, such as for instance, the dispersal of military troupes by the United States upon Iraq during the past years.

In this aspect, laws on terrorism are strictly enforced against the offenders.  Obviously, offenders as they are, the law imposes upon them stiffer penalties not to mention, other forms of retaliatory measures that a state may take, such as economic sabotage, termination of trade relations, and the like.  While the law follows the maxim that the offenders are considered innocent until their guilt has been proved beyond reasonable doubt, a strict application of terrorism laws have been observed.  This has for the purpose of protecting not only the United States as a country but the world as a whole from violent and unreasonable attacks by bandits and terrorist groups.

2.      Law is an ideological discourse that is shaped by, and reflective of the interests and experiences of those who participate in society’s dominant structures and institutions.

Ideology shall mean that which has for its purpose of maintaining social order, promoting social change through peaceful means and in accordance to society’s expectations.  In other words, ideologies are those intended to regulate human behavior without compromising the individual interest and the interests of the state.  These ideologies are imposed upon the people as a form of unwritten law, establishing discipline and impose punishment when appropriate.  Long practice of these ideologies result in the enactment of laws pursuant thereto, that is, unwritten laws becoming formal and written principles of law to extract obedience and impose discipline among the populace.

As defined, ideologies come from society’s expectations, uniform behavior and practices observed for a considerable period of time.  They are generated from the evolution of society and the practices of the people and have become absolute rule of law.  Particularly, ideologies are based on the actuations and behavior of the people who have strong influence and involvement in the government such as politicians, businessmen, government officers and such other influential people.  Considering that they are looked up to by many, their acts are even adhered to and eventually becoming a common practice among the constituents.  It in this respect that ideologies have become the foundation and basis of some laws.

Moreover, it should be understood that the term laws does not only refer to written civil or criminal laws but also refers to moral and natural laws, the latter two being unwritten laws.  Both the moral and natural laws form ideologies and are eventually transformed to civil laws or criminal laws as the case may be.

At this point, law as an ideology shall be seen in the light of the two cases involving Jane Doe on rape cases and the case of Leilani Muri.

In the past, rape cases are seen in the light of women being the cause of their being raped.  Laws or shall we say, law enforcers have discriminating attitude upon women who are the supposed victims of rape cases.  Sexual advances made by men upon women were considered as the effect of women’s lewd acts when it should have been otherwise.  In short, women are seen not as victims but as the reason for their plight.

However, recent cases reflect the protection accorded to women and strengthen by state laws protecting the interests of women in rape cases.

The law and jurisprudence now recognizes the right of rape victims to protect their honor against male offenders or abusers.  Rape victims are accorded respect as society should do so because their plight has been characterized by the result of barbaric acts of men.  In this regard, there have been enacted laws that are intended to protect women’s rights such as their exclusive right to prosecute their cases.  Women victims may opt to file rape charges against their violators.

While it is a public crime, in the absence of the woman victim’s participation by being a witness to the case, the case could not prosper.  The law now recognizes the need of some women victims for privacy and confidentiality.  In this respect also, states have formulated the Rape Shield Law in order to keep records of rape cases as absolutely confidential.

Prior the enactment of the Rape Shield Law, there was no law protecting sexual history of ‘victims’ and in this regard, offenders may prove such sexual history derogatory to the credibility of the woman victim/witness.  With the advent of the present law however, shaped by society’s ideology of protecting women’s rights to privacy, the Rape Shield is included into the written law and has now been observed not only by law enforcers but also by the judiciary in the adjudication of rape cases.

Another important case in relation to the enactment of laws on the basis of social ideologies is the case of Leilani Muri.

The law involved in the instant case is the Sexual Sterelization Act of 1928.  prior the enactment of the law, it has been observed that IQ tests are used as a tool for proving that different individuals learn and take in information differently.  Initially however, these tests such as IQ testing and other eugenics are applied on animals.  It was later however discovered their appropriate applications on human and so the introduction of the law.  Major advocates of the law were women of higher positions in society.  In the course of time however, moral issues vis a vis application of scientific means and methods applied to both animals and humans arise.

Thus, the law now establishes some guidelines to protect the present subjects of the foregoing tests such as the need to obtain prior consent of patients before they engaged into certain body operations.

In the light of moral issues in its application, considering that sterilization has been a sensitive issue, its adverse effects of future generation children, the law-making body decided to repeal the same.

This is a reverse application of the first case on rape.  In the previous case, ideologies protecting women victim from further sexual and physical abuses of male offenders, there has been enacted the Rape Shield Law for instance.  In the instant case however, an enacted law has been repealed and therefore can no longer be a source of any right nor did obligation, considering the moral issues involve particularly the future generation.

It is important to note at this instance, that societal ideologies not only encourage the enactment of laws, but are likewise tools to stop unwarranted practices previously allowed.  Our ideologies therefore serve dual purpose – enactment of written and formal law and their repeal in order to protect the interests of the people and the government and regulating the conduct of humans in the course of human relations.

Bibliography

October 2 discussion

October 6 discussion

October 9 discussion

October 14 discussion, case

October 21 discussion, case continued

September 25 discussion

Anti-terrorism texts

Battered women texts