Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday made it all but impossible for asylum seekers to gain entry into the United States by citing fears of domestic abuse or gang violence, in a ruling that could have a broad effect on the flow of migrants from Central America.
Mr. Sessions’s decision in a closely watched domestic violence case is the latest turn in a long-running debate over what constitutes a need for asylum. He reversed an immigration appeals court ruling that granted it to a Salvadoran woman who said she had been sexually, emotionally and physically abused by her husband.
Relatively few asylum seekers are granted permanent entry into the United States. In 2016, for every applicant who succeeded, more than 10 others also sought asylum, according to data from the Department of Homeland Security. But the process can take months or years, and tens of thousands of people live freely in the United States while their cases wend through the courts.
Mr. Sessions’s decision overturns a precedent set during the Obama administration that allowed more women to claim credible fears of domestic abuse and will make it harder for such arguments to prevail in immigration courts. He said the Obama administration created “powerful incentives” for people to “come here illegally and claim a fear of return.”
Asylum claims have expanded too broadly to include victims of “private violence,” like domestic violence or gangs, Mr. Sessions wrote in his ruling, which narrowed the type of asylum requests allowed. The number of people who told homeland security officials that they had a credible fear of persecution jumped to 94,000 in 2016 from 5,000 in 2009, he said in a speech earlier in the day in which he signaled he would restore “sound principles of asylum and longstanding principles of immigration law.”
“The prototypical refugee flees her home country because the government has persecuted her,” Mr. Sessions wrote in his ruling. Because immigration courts are housed under the Justice Department, not the judicial branch of government, he has the authority to overturn their decisions.
“An alien may suffer threats and violence in a foreign country for any number of reasons relating to her social, economic, family or other personal circumstances,” he added. “Yet the asylum statute does not provide redress for all misfortune.”
His ruling drew immediate condemnation from immigrants’ rights groups. Some viewed it as a return to a time when domestic violence was considered a private matter, not the responsibility of the government to intervene, said Karen Musalo, a defense lawyer on the case who directs the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at the University of California Hastings College of the Law.
“What this decision does is yank us all back to the Dark Ages of human rights and women’s human rights and the conceptualization of it,” she said.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently issued a ruling denying asylum to female victims of domestic abuse and gang violence. His decision, which ruled against a Salvadoran woman who had been severely abused by her husband, concludes that such victims "generally" don't qualify for asylum under a federal law that grants asylum to any refugees who is "unable or unwilling to return to [her home country], and is unable or unwilling to avail . . . herself of the protection of, that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion." The decision overrules two prior Justice Department Board of Immigration Appeals decisions, which granted asylum to female victims of domestic abuse in Guatemala and El Salvador. Sessions' ruling is legally problematic. But, perhaps even more importantly, it highlights the arbitrary injustice of a policy that denies asylum to victims of horrible persecution as bad as that which falls within the scope of the rules.
The key legal question in the case is whether Salvadoran victims of domestic violence qualify as people with "a well-founded fear of persecution" based on their "membership in a particular social group." The phrase "particular social group" is far from precise. But, as Sessions recognizes, courts have generally defined it as a group "composed of members who share a common immutable characteristic, (2) defined with particularity, and (3) socially distinct within the society in question." It should be obvious that women qualify as a group that shares "a common immutable characteristic," and that they are also a group that is "socially distinct" and "can be defined with particularity." It is true that gender is not completely immutable in an age of sex change operations. But it is surely sufficiently so to qualify under the rules. And you don't have to be a radical feminist to recognize that, in highly sexist societies like El Salvador and Guatemala, which have a "culture of machismo and family violence" (as one of the BIA decisions overruled by Sessions puts it), domestic violence against women flourishes in large part because of gender bias. And such bias helps account for the failure of the authorities to effectively curtail such abuse. Recognizing that does not require us to assume that all Guatemalan and Salvadoran men are sexist or violent, or that all law enforcement officials in those countries are misogynists, merely that such attitudes are sufficiently widespread in those countries that they account for much of the danger faced by female victims of domestic violence.
Wednesday, March 28, 2018
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been reprimanded by Commons Speaker John Bercow for using sexist language.
Speaker Bercow intervened - to applause from some Labour MPs - after Mr Johnson referred to shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry as Lady Nugee.
Ms Thornberry is married to High Court judge Sir Christopher Nugee - but chooses to go by her maiden name.
Mr Bercow said it was "inappropriate" and sexist to refer to her as Lady Nugee.
He said MPs should be called by their names and not by the titles of their spouses.
Mr Johnson had to be reminded of Ms Thornberry's title by MPs, as he answered a question from a Conservative MP on the Commonwealth, calling her "the Baroness, whatever it is, I cannot remember what it is... Nugee".
Mr Bercow rebuked the foreign secretary, telling him: "We do not address people by the titles of their spouses.
"The shadow Foreign Secretary has a name, and it is not 'Lady something'. We know what her name is. It is inappropriate and frankly sexist to speak in those terms, and I am not having it in this Chamber.
"That is the end of the matter. No matter how senior a Member, that parlance is not legitimate. It will not be allowed, and it will be called out."
Mr Johnson subsequently apologised for his "inadvertent sexism."
Ms Thornberry has occasionally been teased about her formal title by Conservative critics and in February last year complained to Mr Bercow when Theresa May referred to her as Lady Nugee in the Commons.
"Is it in order for the prime minister to refer to a member of this House not by her own name, but by the name of her husband?" the Islington South MP said in a point of order.
"I have never been a Lady and it will be a great deal more than being married to a Knight of the Realm in order to make me one."
Mrs May said: "If the Honourable Lady is concerned about the reference that I made to her, of course I will apologise for that.
"I have to say to her, though, that for the last 36 years I have been referred to by my husband's name."
Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Petra Foubert, The Enforcement of the Principle of Equal Pay for Equal Work or Work of Equal Value: A Legal Analysis of the Situation in the EU Member States, Iceland,Liechtenstein and Norway (July 2017)
Sixty years after the principle of equal pay for men and women for equal work or work of equal value was first laid down in Article 119 of the EEC Treaty (currently Article 157 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU), the EU today faces a gender pay gap that has remained constant at a relatively high level for decades. The most recent Eurostat data show an average figure of 16.3 % (for the year 2015) for the 28 EU Member States. Although there is a big difference between the countries with the lowest pay gap (Italy and Luxembourg, both with 5.5 % in 2015) and the country with the highest pay gap (Estonia, with 26.9 % in 2015), and although these figures represent the so-called "unadjusted" gender pay gap (i.e. not adjusted according to individual characteristics that may explain part of the difference), there are signs that all over Europe sex-based pay discrimination remains a problem that should not be underestimated.
Foundations of Modern Penal Theory that Ignore the Gender Inequality of the Social and Family Context
Catalina Correa, The Foundations of Modern Criminal Law and Gender Inequality, 16 Seattle J. Soc. Justice 1 (2017)
Modern penal theory, like prevalent western theories of law, adopts a determined model of autonomy, one in which people are separable from social and family contexts. Taken to the criminal law context, this model proposes people can be defined without taking into account the social context. The use of prisons thus presupposes that individuals can be removed from their communities and families to be reeducated, readapted, treated or—in the retributive approach—simply punished. This notion of autonomy, however, hides from sight the group of people who not only maintain family ties with the men and women in prison, but who also, in contexts such as the Latin American one, take on the responsibility of supporting the prisoners economically. As this paper shows, this group is not heterogeneous or plural but defined by gender and primarily constituted of the mothers, daughters, wives and sisters of the people who are imprisoned. The data presented in this paper shows that this group of women is marginalized, impoverished and abused by a criminal justice system that not only omits to recognize the serious costs that the system imposes on them, but also omits to acknowledge their existence. This paper argues that this lack of recognition is possible because it is premised on a penal model that assumes a certain idea of autonomy, one which enables societies to erroneously affirm that prison sentences are individual sentences.
Friday, March 23, 2018
Marcia Zug, Make Immigration Great Again: How Morales-Santana Could Signal the End of Sexist Immigration Law and Provide a Way to Fight the Travel Ban, Wake Forest L. Rev. (forthcoming)
Gender plays a surprisingly important, and arguably unjust, role in immigration law. Explicit gender divisions and gender stereotypes are widespread. However, prior to the Supreme Court's recent decision in Morales-Santana, these distinctions have been consistently upheld. Consequently, despite the limited scope of Morales-Santana (it only applies to a single INA provision and does not overturn the Court’s previous cases), the case is extremely important. It indicates that the Court is no longer willing to excuse or attempt to rationalize immigration law’s widespread gender discrimination. Moreover, given immigration law’s long history of gender bias, the possibilities for discrimination claims are numerous and thus, it may be no coincidence that Morales-Santana, which finally confirms gender as an effective means of challenging discriminatory immigration laws, was decided only days before Trump v. International Refugee Assistance Project. International Refugee limited the scope of the government’s proposed travel ban and demonstrated the Court’s concern with the current administration’s attempts to restrict immigrant rights.Reading the two cases together, this essay suggests that gender discrimination claims may provide a new and effective means of challenging the travel ban, particularly if the current race and nationality based challenges fail.
Thursday, March 22, 2018
Cindy Ostberg & Matthew Wetstein, Strategic Behavior and Leadership Patterns of Modern Chief Justices
This study uses theories of strategic behaviour, leadership change and feminist theory to examine patterns of judicial activity by the three post-Charter chief justices. Building on prior scholarship, we use various methods to examine patterns of majority voting, dissenting activity, opinion writing, ideological voting, and panel size across the 1973-2014 period. While Chief Justice Lamer and Dickson exhibited clear patterns of task leadership, we find strong evidence of strategic change by Chief Justice McLachlin after her promotion to chief. She moved from a prolific dissenter as an associate justice to a chief that exhibited behaviour of both a task and social leader, which scholars see as highly uncommon. Her efforts to solidify her central role as a collegial leader within her own court are remarkable, and took place during a period of increasing panel sizes and a shrinking court docket.
Friday, March 16, 2018
In honor of St. Patrick's day, a review of posts on Irish law and gender:
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
UK Survey on Women in the Law Shows Unconscious Bias, Worklife, Flextime and Male Networks Still Barriers to Equality
The largest international survey of women in the law has been released by the Law Society of England and Wales to mark International Women’s Day 2018, shedding light on the road to gender equality in the legal profession.
“As women solicitors practising in England and Wales outnumber men for the first time in history, people working in law across the world have spoken out about the challenges the profession faces in achieving gender equality,” said Law Society vice president Christina Blacklaws. . . .
"“While more and more women are becoming lawyers, this shift is not yet reflected at more senior levels in the profession. Our survey and a wider programme of work during my presidency in 2018-19 seek to understand progress, barriers and support remedies.
“Unconscious bias in the legal profession is the most commonly identified barrier to career progression for women, while flexible working is seen as a remedy by an overwhelming 91% of respondents to our survey.
“Interestingly, while half of all respondents said they thought there had been progress on gender equality over the last five years, there was a significant difference in perception by gender with 74% of men reporting progress in gender equality compared to only 48% of women.”
- 7,781 people responded to the Law Society’s Women in the Law survey (5,758 women, 554 men and 1,469 unknown or other)
- 74% of men and 48% of women reported progress on gender equality in the last 5 years (overall 50%)
- Main barriers to career progression perceived as:
- Unconscious bias (52%); however, only 11% said unconscious bias training is consistently carried out in their organisation
- Unacceptable work/life balance demanded to reach senior levels (49%)
- Traditional networks/routes to promotion are male orientated (46%)
- Current resistance to flexible working practices (41%)
- 91% of respondents said flexible working is critical to improving diversity
- 52% work in an organisation where flexible working is in place
- 60% are aware of gender pay gap in their place of work
- Only 16% see visible steps taken to address gender pay gap
Monday, March 12, 2018
Mala Htun & S. Laurel Weldon, The Logics of Gender Justice: State Action on Women's Rights Around the World (Cambridge Univ. Press March 2018)
When and why do governments promote women's rights? Through comparative analysis of state action in seventy countries from 1975 to 2005, this book shows how different women's rights issues involve different histories, trigger different conflicts, and activate different sets of protagonists. Change on violence against women and workplace equality involves a logic of status politics: feminist movements leverage international norms to contest women's subordination. Family law, abortion, and contraception, which challenge the historical claim of religious groups to regulate kinship and reproduction, conform to a logic of doctrinal politics, which turns on relations between religious groups and the state. Publicly-paid parental leave and child care follow a logic of class politics, in which the strength of Left parties and overall economic conditions are more salient. The book reveals the multiple and complex pathways to gender justice, illuminating the opportunities and obstacles to social change for policymakers, advocates, and others seeking to advance women's rights,
Friday, March 9, 2018
Rebecca Gills & Christian Jensen, Where are the Women? Legal Traditions and Descriptive Representation on the European Court of Justice, in Politics, Groups, and Identities (Feb. 2018)
What constrains the representation of women on the European Court of Justice (ECJ)? In this paper, we investigate how gender-based double standards can diminish the likelihood that the member state will select a female candidate. We find that the appointment of women to the ECJ depends upon the relationship between the appointee's policymaking backgrounds and the degree to which legal traditions in the member state provide policymaking experience to ordinary judges. The fact that this configuration has a disparate impact by candidate gender reflects the fact that female candidates are expected to demonstrate partisan neutrality or policymaking expertise, while male candidates are assumed to have these traits. Our findings demonstrate the importance of informal job requirements and institutional constraints on the ability of governments to achieve their representation goals.
Thursday, March 8, 2018
But what is International Women’s Day? Where did it come from, and why is it necessary?
The day actually has fairly radical origins, involving the Socialist Party of America. Over the past few years, however, it has become a corporate-backed, global rallying day for women’s issues with a key goal: to finally bring about gender parity around the world.
In short, it’s a day to work toward gender parity.
The Socialist Party of America organized the first National Women’s Day in New York in 1909 to commemorate the 1908 strike of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. (Women garment workers in early-20th-century America had plenty of reasons to walk off the job, as the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire would tragically prove.)
A year later, National Women’s Day became International Women’s Day at the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, where more than 100 women from 17 countries decided to establish a worldwide day of celebration to press for working women’s demands.
In fact, the Russian Revolution has International Women’s Day to thank. The 1917 demonstrations by women demanding “bread and peace” sparked other strikes and protests, which led to the abdication of Czar Nicholas II four days later and granted women the right to vote.
International Women’s Day became a more popularized holiday after 1977, when the United Nations invited member states to celebrate it on March 8.
Campaign Website, internationalwomen'sday.com
Slate, Made in the USA
Americans may think of International Women’s Day as a sentimental export from abroad—but this week’s global strike is a throwback to its real history.
In the United States, the holiday’s reddish tint caused it to fall out of mainstream favor rather quickly, and until a few years ago, few Americans had heard of it. Recently, however, as digital marketing campaigns flow across national borders, the softer and more commercial descendent of the original radical American holiday has arrived back on our shores. A coalition of corporations, including BP and PepsiCo, now promotes International Women’s Day online with hashtags and official themes. (This year’s is #BeBoldForChange. Inspired yet?) A March 8 Google Doodle last year celebrated “Doodle-worthy women of the future” by asking women across the world to talk about their aspirations, from the unobjectionably noble (improve girls’ access to education) to the unobjectionably fun (swim with pigs in the Bahamas). Americans can now order an International Women’s Day bouquet to “honor an inspiring woman in your life,” or celebrate by buying perfume or mascara whose proceeds go to empowerment-related causes. Capitalism hearts your socialist holiday!
Tension over the radical origins of Women’s Day is nothing new. One long-popular origin story had it that the holiday was first established in 1907 to mark the 50th anniversary of a massive demonstration by female garment and textile workers in New York City, whose rally against low wages and 12-hour work days was brutally shut down by the police. There was only small problem with this inspiring tale: Neither the 1857 protest nor the 1907 tribute seem to have actually occurred. Two French feminist historians busted the myth in the 1980s, revealing that the 19th-century uprising was actually invented in 1955, in part “to detach International Women’s Day from its Soviet history.”
The organizers reclaiming International Women’s Day this week, by contrast, have no qualms about its far-left origins and are in fact trying to restore that spirit to the soft-focus holiday it’s become. Ashley Bohrer, a member of the International Women’s Strike’s national planning committee, described the strike in part as an effort to draw attention to “the decoupling of InternationalWomen’s Day from its very radical working-class background.” Early on, she pointed out, the holiday had often been called International Working Women’s Day. “In recent years people have celebrated March 8 as Women’s Day,” she said, “but what’s been lost is the ‘working’ part and the ‘international’ part.”
Though we now fondly know March 8 every year to be the day we celebrate International Women’s Day, it’s not always been that way. In 1908, amid early discussions about women’s poorly paid labor, long hours, and lack of voting rights (hahahahaha, sound familiar?), the first Women’s Day marches took place. The very first was in 1908, when 15,000 women (in New York City, baby!) took to the streets to protest. Only a year later and the inaugural national Women’s Day was born on February 28, 1909, in conjunction with the Socialist Party of America. Were the first Bernie Bros actually women? It really makes you think.
This tradition of celebrating National Women’s Day continued for five years in the States, while Germans Louise Zietz and Clara Zetkin were floating a larger idea internationally. Taking inspiration from Zietz, Zetkin, a Marxist and advocate or women’s rights, brought the idea of having an International Women’s Day to the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen in 1910. Her idea was appreciated so much by the hundreds of women in attendance — socialists, workers, and union laborers alike — that they all decreed that it must happen the following year. On March 19, 1911, Europe saw its first-ever International Women’s Day. The date was subsequently changed to March 8 two years later, and stuck. It’s been that way ever since.
The holiday continued steadily on every year and was finally acknowledged by the U.N. in 1975, who decided to officially sanction and recognize the holiday on a yearly basis. The day began receiving yearly themes in 1996, and has since been celebrated with themes like World Free of Violence Against Women, Investing in Women and Girls, and this year’s Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality, though many of the recognized themes are just as evergreen as the need to celebrate the day itself....
International Women’s Day is a national holiday and day off in the following countries — Afghanistan, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Macedonia (for women only), Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Zambia — but not the United States. Maybe next year?
Thursday, February 15, 2018
Gendered Relations of the Judges on the Brazilian Supreme Court and the Impact on Judicial Decisionmaking
Supreme Courts are generally portrayed as institutions particularly well-positioned to defend and promote rights of minorities, including gender rights. However, gender discrimination often occurs within these institutions. Although existing empirical studies have largely focused on how the gender of the judge affects his or her decisions on the merits of the case, gender hierarchy and gender stereotypes can have an impact in other aspects of Court’s operation, such as in how judges relate to one another during deliberations. The paper aims to explore one facet of this phenomenon by looking at gendered relations judges in the Brazilian Supreme Court decision-making process. By examining a database containing all the court rulings debates between 2001 and 2013, we analyze the impact of gender in two dimensions of judicial behavior in a collegiate setting. More specifically, we test whether the gender of their colleagues affect how Brazilian Supreme Court Justices behaves when it comes to (i) dissenting from the case reporter's opinion; and (ii) asking for deliberations to be suspended, after the case reporter has spoken, in order to further study the arguments and case files. In all these dimensions, we expect the justices' confidence in the reporter's or the dissenter's knowledge or authority on the issues being discussed plays an important role, which makes them relevant to understanding the role of gender stereotypes. Our preliminary results point to gender biases in the Justices' attitudes towards female case reporters and female dissenters in at least one of these dimensions: when the case reporter is female, the other Justices are more likely to dissent. We interpret these results as suggesting that gender stereotypes -- for example, that women are less competent or reliable, and/or less likely or less able to retaliate -- might help us understand decision-making in the STF and in Brazilian courts more generally.
Rosa Freedman & Aoife O'Donoghue, United Nations Gender Network: United Nations Policy Proposal on Gender Equality and Parity
The UN Gender Network (UNGN) is rooted in both strengthening the UN’s leadership of gender equality and the empowerment of women working within the UN Secretariat, Funds, Programmes and Agencies. The UNGN believes that to enhance the UN’s leadership legitimacy in all areas but particularly regarding gender equality; to ensure the UN attracts the best talent from around the globe and to guarantee the UN fully represents ‘we the peoples’ significant change regarding gender equality amongst UN staff is required.
This policy paper places the women who work at the UN at its core. This policy looks at the history of women working at the Organisation, past attempts to strengthen their roles and looking to the future, suggests changes at the both the policy and practice levels to ensure that women working at the UN will be better served. This policy proposal aims to cause a significant shift in not just the numbers of women working at all levels at the UN but also their experiences within the workplace. The policy’s goal is to make the UN a better place for all staff to work and in doing so ensuring they can lead states in making their own workplaces into spaces where gender equality is without question a good.
Wednesday, February 14, 2018
Dalhousie law professor Craig’s impeccably researched book, which analyzes how Canada’s criminal justice system contributes to the trauma of sexual assault victims, is an outstanding work that dovetails perfectly with the #MeToo movement. Working from interviews with legal professionals, analyses of problematic judicial decisions, and reproductions of stomach-turning trial transcripts, Craig (Troubling Sex) skewers the still prevalent notion that Canadian sexual assault survivors enjoy a free pass in the courts. By reproducing contemporary accounts of aggressive cross-examinations that “whack the complainant,” unsavory defense strategies intended to intimidate complainants into withdrawing their cases, and reliance on rape myths—revealing clothing, alcohol use, past sexual history—in criminal trials, Craig expertly makes the case that, despite progressive law reforms, the legal system remains predominantly unsafe for survivors. Combining academic rigor with an eminently readable style that is cohesive and fearless (prominent lawyers and judges are pointedly called to account), Craig makes several proposals—including improved education and training for all judicial system participants, public reporting of all decisions, and making courtroom culture less imposing—that would mitigate harm without impinging on the rights of the accused. This is a must-read title for judges, lawyers, politicians, courtroom staff, and anyone concerned about sexual violence.
Tuesday, February 13, 2018
The UK Labour Party has long utilised All-Women candidate shortlists in an aim to ensure that female representation in the House of Commons increases. This has always been controversial, however it has been responsible for a noted increase in the number of female MPs in general and female Labour MPs in particular. Here, Mary Nugent and Mona Lena Krook dispel some of the myths around All-Women Shortlists, and show that gender quotas do not pose a threat to "merit," and that the diversity they have fostered has brought about a number of important democratic outcomes.
Tuesday, February 6, 2018
Tuesday marks 100 years since British women won the right to vote — sort of.
The 1918 law set certain conditions for women to vote. They had to be over age 30 and own or occupy property — or be married to a man who did. The law allowed all men over 21 to vote.
Ten years later those restrictions for women were finally lifted.
In the United States, some women were allowed to vote in 1920, after the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified. Nearly a half-century later, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 guaranteed the right to vote regardless of race.
Elsewhere around the world, New Zealand was the first country to grant women the right to vote, while Saudi Arabia waited until 2011 to allow it.
Here's a timeline of when counties allowed women to vote, compiled by the Nellie McClung Foundation, named for the Canadian suffragist.
1893 New Zealand
1918 Austria, Germany, Poland, Russia
1920 United States
1928 Britain, Ireland
1947 Argentina, Japan, Mexico, Pakistan
1957 Malaysia, Zimbabwe
1963 Iran, Morocco
1990 Western Samoa
1993 Kazakhstan, Moldova
1994 South Africa
2006 United Arab Emirates
2011 Saudi Arabia
*Aborigines, male and female, gained the right to vote in 1962.
**Canadian First Nation, male and female, did not win the vote until 196
Monday, February 5, 2018
Cornell International Law Journal, Symposium: Transnational Legal Feminisms: Challenges and Opportunities
This symposium brings together feminist scholars from around the world to discuss, offer, critique or disseminate a vision of transnational legal feminisms and the challenges and opportunities it presents.
In particular, we seek to explore three contemporary developments. First, we are interested in the rise, paths, success and challenges of transnational feminism. The far and wide reach of different feminist legal ideas changed the world wherever they touched.
A second development is the rise and maturation of critique within the feminist movement. Feminism has always been an introspective movement. Yet in recent years, some critical voices about feminist paths of power in the national and transnational sphere gained increased foothold within feminist thought.
A third contemporary development this symposium will explore, is the rise of right wing, populist, mostly conservative, politics, in many different parts of the globe, from center to periphery and back again. We are interested in exploring together the meaning of this political tidal wave to feminist politics, movement and national and transnational advocacy.
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
Karen Engle, Feminist Governance and International Law: From Liberal to Carceral Feminism, in Governance Feminism: Notes from the Field (Janet Halley, Prabha Kotiswaran, Rachel Rebouché & Hila Shamir, eds.) (University of Minnesota Press, 2018)
Feminist legal theory came to international law and discourse later than it came to many other legal fields. It primarily emerged in international human rights where, in a surprisingly short amount of time, it went from being extremely marginal to relatively mainstream. Not unrelatedly, it has primarily grown, and also developed significant influence, in the doctrinal areas of international humanitarian and criminal law. This piece, written as a chapter in a book on governance feminism, chronicles the trajectory of feminist engagement with international law, paying special attention to how both feminisms and feminists have played governing roles in its development and operation.
The chapter provides an account of three distinctive feminist approaches to women’s human rights that developed from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s. Each of the three approaches is identified according to its distinctive concern: liberal inclusion, structural bias, and the Third World, respectively. During the early period of feminist engagement, these approaches variously competed, complemented, and exchanged with each other in the push for a feminist foothold in human rights law. But the end of the Cold War, a compromise around “culturally sensitive universalism,” the emergence of a preoccupation with sexual violence in conflict, and the pursuit of criminal law as the primary response to it all ultimately functioned to favor a strand of structural bias feminism focused on female sexual subordination and to suppress and sideline the other feminist critiques, especially their material dimensions.
Tracing this genealogy, the chapter calls into question a dangerous common sense about sexual violence in conflict, a common sense that bears upon culture, sex, economic distribution, and criminalization, and that still dominates human rights law and discourse today. It seeks to motivate a return to, and reevaluation of, other possibilities of feminist critique that were left by the wayside when the structural bias critique prevailed, and when sexual violence and carceral responses became central to feminist approaches to human rights law.
One of the most widely publicized cases of our time is that of Amanda Knox, the college student from West Seattle who was convicted of murdering her British roommate in Italy and served four years in prison before being acquitted and released. Retried in absentia, she was convicted again, only to be exonerated by the Italian Supreme Court, which handed down its final opinion in September, 2015. Throughout its eight-year duration, the case garnered worldwide attention, in part because of the pretty, photogenic defendant and the drug-fueled sex game that the prosecutor adduced as the motive for the crime. Interest in the case spiked again with the release of a Netflix original documentary, Amanda Knox, in the fall of 2016.
While the Amanda Knox case has been remarkable for its ability to fascinate an international audience, it is not altogether unique. Rather, it is emblematic of broader themes and a broader problem−that of human beings’ prejudice against “strangeness” and our desperation for a hasty assessment of guilt or innocence‒qualities that can bleed into a legal system to the detriment of the quest for truth.
In this Article, I explore the Amanda Knox case in the context of our defective ability to judge. In Part One, I use the conceit of a “What Not to Do” list to highlight the role played by Amanda’s “strangeness” in bringing about her arrest and two convictions. In Part Two, I re-examine the usual rationale for Amanda’s behavior and suggest that a better explanation lies in her age and developmental stage. In Part Three, I shift from the interpreted to the interpreters, arguing that the latter were powerfully affected by the Madonna/whore complex and cultural differences between Perugia and Seattle. In Part Four, I analyze the impact of the Italian legal system, with its deep roots in the inquisitorial paradigm and its limited adversarial reforms.
This Article is based not only on scholarly research but also on my four sojourns in Italy, where I retraced Amanda’s footsteps and discussed the case with numerous legal experts. I had the opportunity to interview Amanda herself after she was free in Seattle.
Monday, January 22, 2018
Dr. Shivaun Quinlivan, Disrupting the Status Quo? Discrimination in Academic Promotions, 14 Irish Employment J. 68 (2017)
In June 2016 the HEA Report of the Expert Group: HEA National Review of Gender Equality in Higher Education Institutions (Gender Equality Review p.11) reported and stated that there was a need for “radical action” without which they could not guarantee that Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) would “ever be free of gender inequality”. This report was commissioned in the aftermath of the now high profile case of Sheehy Skeffington v National University of Ireland Galway (DEC-E2014-078) (hereinafter NUI Galway) and the controversy surrounding this decision. This article addresses the decision in Sheehy Skeffington v NUI Galway, the fallout from that decision and the recommendations of the Gender Equality Review as regards recruitment and promotion. In particular, this article looks at that recommendation considered most radical, yet also considered necessary, namely the introduction of mandatory gender quotas. This article seeks to assess why it was deemed necessary for the Expert Review Group to recommend the introduction of mandatory quotas and to posit the question: what happens if the HEIs do not comply with that recommendation?