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This theme page collects selected fundamental and constitutional rights - in particular with respect to their implementation in the (real-world) Constitution of the United States - which are directly or indirectly mentioned, questioned, or otherwise irrefutably alluded within the story-lines to which this wiki refers.

Equal Protection ClauseEdit

(Also known as: Equality before the law, see e.g. Art. 20 CFR)

Legal BackgroundEdit

The Equal Protection Clause is a clause within the text of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The clause, providing "nor shall any State [...] deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws", is the basis for many court decisions rejecting discrimination against people belonging to various (and variously specified) 'groups'.

Contrasts to GileadEdit

Gilead denies and undermines this general equality by explicitly specifying distinct social groups called "classes" among the populace and applying tailored jurisdiction and administrative treatment to each class separately. A Gilead official defends this 'constitutional' discrimination since "doing better never means better for everyone, but always worse for some"[1].

Examples of Discriminatory Legal PracticeEdit

Degree of PenaltyEdit

In Late, a Martha and a Handmaid are caught in a same-sex relationship and accused of "Gender Treachery". While the Martha receives a death sentence, the Handmaid is sentenced to a penal mutilation. The judge confirms the court is "bound" to this distinction[2]. Similar discriminatory practices hold for the prosecution of adultery (see main article).

Audi Alteram PartemEdit

(See also: Procedural due process doctrine as part of U.S.Const. amends. V and XIV)

The Latin phrase meaning "listen to the other side" is the legal principle that no person should be judged without a fair hearing. Gilead however grants the right to speak out on a charge only to members of certain social classes, like a Commander[3], an Econowife, or a Guardian[4], while a Martha and a Handmaid are prevented from manifesting themselves by having their mouths muzzled during trial[2].

Privacy and Self-DeterminationEdit

See also: Right to respect for private and family life, Art. 8 ECHR

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants citizens to be secure from governmental intrusions into their individual private spheres ("persons, houses, papers, and effects"), while it is prohibited (by the 14th Amendment) to "make or enforce any law which shall abridge" the given "immunities", i.e. to enact a law whose compliance could be verified solely by violating the immunity granted by the Fourth Amendment. In that spirit, Court decisions invalidated several state laws that targeted private and corporal self-determination[5], like ban of contraception or interdiction of abortion in the first trimester [6].

In the alternate reality of "The Handmaid's Tale (Series)" and as a means of addressing the fertility crisis, the pre-Gileadean United States enact some policies that contradict above-mentioned Court decisions, such as making it illegal for a man to undergo a vasectomy,[7] and requiring husbands to formally consent to their wives filling birth control prescriptions[8].

Equal Rights Amendment Edit

See also: Equality between women and men, Art. 23 CFR

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution designed to guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex, seeking to end the legal distinctions between men and women. First introduced in Congress in December 1923 [9][10], it was eventually approved by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in March 1972. Conservative anti-feminist advocacy groups like the Eagle Forum led by Phyllis Schlafly later successfully campaigned against its ratification by state legislatures.

In The Testaments, the Aunts frequent a Schlafly Cafe near Ardua Hall.

Ex Post Facto Law Edit

The fundamental legal priciple "Nulla poena sine lege (praevia)" requires that one cannot be punished for doing something that is not prohibited by (applicable) law. Since this principle can easily be evaded by new laws with retroactive effect ("ex post facto"), many constitutions expressly forbid to enact ex post facto laws, like in Article I (9, 10) of the United States Constitution.

Ban of abortion in Gilead is a retroactive ex post facto law, which means citizens are convicted of having had or performed abortions prior to the rise of Gilead (when some forms of abortion were apparently legal)[11]. The regime justifies this violation of the above-mentioned legal principle by declaring abortion as "war crime"[12].


Reference Edit

  1. The Handmaid's Tale (Novel), XII Jezebels, Section 32
  2. 2.0 2.1 Episode 1.3, Late
  3. Commander Putnam in Episode 1.10, "Night (Season 1)"
  4. Eden and Isaac in Episode 2.12, "Postpartum"
  5. See e.g. Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965) to the undue conflict with U.S.C. amend. IV: "Would we allow the police to search the sacred precincts of marital bedrooms for telltale signs of the use of contraceptives?"
  6. Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973)
  7. Episode 1.7, "The Other Side"
  8. Episode 2.1, "June (TV Episode)"
  9. COUNCIL ACCEPTS EQUAL-RIGHTS BILL: The Washington Post; Oct 3, 1921
  10. THREE AMENDMENTS OFFERED IN SENATE: The Sun; Dec 11, 1923
  11. Chapter XI Sackcloth
  12. Chapter II Shopping, Section 6
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