Intersectionality theory has been slow to take root as a legal norm at the national level, even as scholars embrace it as a potent analytical tool. Yet, in recent years, intersectionality has entered law and policy practices through an unexpected portal: namely, local governments’ adoption of international norms. A growing number of local governments around the world explicitly incorporate intersectionality into their law and practice as part of implementing international antidiscrimination norms from human rights instruments like the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
This “relocalization” phenomenon—which brings intersectionality back to its roots in domestic law—is visible in many parts of the world. In Europe, cities in Spain proactively integrate intersectional approaches into their local human rights regimes. Outside of Europe, Montréal applies an intersectional analysis under its Charter of Rights and Responsibilities, a local governance document grounded in the values of fundamental human rights and dignity. Human rights cities like Gwangju, Korea, embrace intersectionality as a programmatic imperative. In the United States, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and Cincinnati, among others, incorporated intersectional approaches to nondiscrimination in the wake of adopting local CEDAWs.
The relocalization process is not always straightforward. Challenges include the difficulties of reconciling local intersectional approaches with national laws that may not recognize intersectionality, and developing indicators tailored to local experiences. On the other hand, local adoption of intersectionality opens up robust possibilities for participation in communities’ legal and political processes, which many local governments emphasize.