British philosopher Miranda Fricker coined the term Epistemic Injustice which is injustice related to exclusion, silencing and systematic misrepresentation of a marginalised group by people in authority.
Epistemic Injustice occurs for example in the case of a mother who is confronted with a social worker full of prejudice and bias who refuses to listen to what the mother has to say.
According to Fricker, there are two kinds of epistemic injustice: testimonial injustice and hermeneutical injustice.
Testimonial injustice is unfairness related to trusting what someone is saying.
An injustice of this kind can occur when someone is ignored, or not believed, because of their sex, sexuality, gender presentation, race, disability, or, broadly, because of their identity.
According to Fricker Testimonial Injustice occurs when “prejudice causes a hearer to give a deflated level of credibility to a speaker’s word.”
An example of this might occur in the Family Court when a judge rejects a mother’s assertions simply because she is a woman.
Hermeneutical injustice occurs when someone’s experiences are not well understood — by themselves or by others — because these experiences do not fit any concepts known to them (or known to others), due to the historic exclusion of some groups of people, for example mothers of children in care.
Hermeneutical injustice is injustice related to how people interpret their lives. (The word hermeneutical comes from the Greek word for ‘interpreter’.)
For example, in the 1970s, the phrase sexual harassment was introduced to describe something that many people, especially women, had long experienced.
Before this time, a woman experiencing sexual harassment may have had difficulty putting her experience into words.
According to Fricker, this difficulty is no accident, and is due largely to women’s exclusion from full participation in the shaping of the English language.
After the term sexual harassment was introduced, the same woman who experienced said harassment may have understood better what happened to her; however, she may have struggled to explain this experience to someone else, because the concept of sexual harassment was not yet well known.
Nowadays, mothers don’t have the language to describe the injustice that is being inflicted upon them by Tusla, the Gardaí and the Family Court.
Fricker argues that some women’s lives are less intelligible to themselves, and/or to others – because women have historically wielded less power to shape the categories through which people understand the world.
Birthmothers abused by Tusla, the Gardai and the Family Court must be regarded as Epistemic Injustice and dealt with by the Government and society as a whole similar to the way in which we are dealing with other forms of abuse like coercive control.