Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Almost...The First Female Supreme Court Justice in Afghanistan

Historic Bid To Become Afghanistan's First Female Justice Falls 9 Votes Short

The day is still etched in the Afghan judge’s mind more than a decade later — when she was in Washington, when she met with Supreme Court justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She recalls feeling awed and barely present, her thoughts instead flittering back to her country.


“I was asking myself whether we would ever have a similar situation in Afghanistan,“ said Anisa Rasooli, “where a woman judge would become a member of the Supreme Court.”


Last month, Rasooli came close — only to be let down by other women.


Afghanistan’s U.S.-educated president, Ashraf Ghani, had nominated Rasooli to become the country’s first female Supreme Court justice, carrying out an election promise. It was a landmark choice in a country where only 14 years ago, the Taliban Islamist regime bannedwomen from work, education and other parts of public life. They were forbidden from even leaving their homeswithout a male relative and a head-to-toe burqa.


Activists here and abroad were ecstatic. A woman on the bench of the country’s highest court could be an antidote to a growing concern: the erosion of gains in women’s rights as the Western military and aid footprint shrinks.


But then Afghanistan’s conservative establishment asserted itself. Influential Islamic clerics, as well as some male lawmakers, declared that a woman was not fit to try serious criminal cases. Their protests illustrated a continuing struggle pitting age-old traditions and customs against efforts to shape Afghanistan into a modern society.


Still, there were 69 female members in the Afghan parliament, which had to ratify Rasooli’s appointment, providing good odds for her to make history. But when the body met to vote this month, 23 female lawmakers were absent. Of 184 lawmakers present, 88 voted for her in the secret ballot — nine too few.

July 28, 2015 in International, Judges | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 27, 2015

Obama criticizes Kenya on gay rights

President Obama is presently traveling through Africa.  Recently, he gave a speech in Kenya condemning the nation's refusal to protect the rights of its gay citizens.  From the NYT: 

NAIROBI, Kenya—Widespread celebration of President Barack Obama’s visit to a country teeming with national pride over an American leader considered a local son was briefly overshadowed Saturday by a public disagreement with his Kenyan counterpart over gay rights.

In an awkward moment of tension, Mr. Obama condemned Kenya’s treatment of gays and lesbians as “wrong—full stop” while standing alongside Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta during a joint news conference.

The president, whose personal story has deep resonance in Kenya, even used himself as an example of why discrimination on the basis of gender, race or sexual orientation should be illegal.

“As an African American in the United States I am painfully aware of what happens when people are treated differently under the law,” said Mr. Obama, whose father was born and raised in Kenya.

To no avail......

But none of it swayed Mr. Kenyatta, who responded by saying his country does not share the U.S. president’s view.

“For Kenyans today the issue of gay rights is really a non-issue,” Mr. Kenyatta said, stressing matter-of-factly that economic and security concerns are of higher concern.

July 27, 2015 in International, LGBT | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 17, 2015

"Ireland passes law allowing trans people to choose their legal gender"

From the Guardian UK: 

Transgender people in Ireland have won legal recognition of their status after a law was passed allowing them to change their legal gender with no medical or state intervention.

The majority of countries in Europe require transgender people to undergo surgery and sterilisation, or be diagnosed with a mental disorder and get divorced if they are married, in order to have their desired gender legally recognised.

The gender recognition bill, passed late on Wednesday and set to be signed into law by the end of July, makes Ireland only the third European country, after Denmark and Malta, to allow transgender people aged over 18 to change their legal gender without intervention.

The bill was passed months after the people of Ireland backed same-sex marriageby a landslide in a referendum that marked a dramatic social shift in a country that decriminalised homosexuality just two decades ago.

July 17, 2015 in International, LGBT | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Ratifying the UN Women's Rights Treaty at the Local Level

Women's Treaty Trying Local Doors to US Senate

Women in many other countries have also benefited from the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, or CEDAW.


For girls and women in the United States--where gun violence, rape, sex harassment and domestic violence are all major problems --treaty approval is unlikely any time soon. That's because the United States is one of only a handful of countries--including Iran, Somalia and Sudan--that hasn't ratified the longstanding, U.N.-backed treaty, which is continually updated to strengthen human and civil rights for women.


U.S. presidents have given the treaty their backing. The Clinton and Carter administrations supported the treaty and in 2009 the Obama administration backed ratification. But for more than 30 years the U.S. Senate has refused to take the treaty to a vote.


In light of that, CEDAW backers are now turning to city governments to try to put pressure on the Senate.


At least 40 cities have expressed interest in putting in place their own version of CEDAW, says Karen Mulhauser, chair of the United Nations Association of the USA, which is pushing for ratification at the local level and by the U.S. Senate.

D.C. Seeks to Amend Law

The immediate target of opportunity, she says, is in the District of Columbia. In March, the D.C. City Council unanimously proposed a law that would amend the city's Human Rights Act to incorporate the principles of CEDAW, affirming human rights and equality for women and eliminating discrimination. Hearings are likely this fall.


The District is especially intriguing to CEDAW's backers because all of its legislation must also undergo congressional review, which could then force a debate on CEDAW in Congress. In other words, the District could open a backdoor that could draw more attention to the cause.

July 9, 2015 in International, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

"Canadian elections hinge on women – at the polls and behind the scenes"

From the Guardian UK: 

The fact that the women’s vote could be a deciding factor in Canada’s forthcoming federal election is not lost on any of the three main parties.

For the first time in the country’s history, all three have women in charge of their national campaigns.

The Conservative national campaign manager, Jenni Byrne, New Democrat national campaign director, Anne McGrath, and Liberal national campaign co-chair, Katie Telford, will be engaged in the battle for votes in roles long dominated by men.

“The reality is that you can’t do poorly among women and win an election in Canada,” said pollster Nik Nanos.

July 1, 2015 in International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 15, 2015

"Ireland Poised To Have Better Transgender Identity Law Than Most Of The World"

Who knew Ireland would the most progressive nation on earth with regard to LGBT issues? 

This month Ireland may go from not legally recognizing transgender people to having one of the best trans identity laws in the world.

Two weeks ago, the nation made history when it became thefirst country in the world to approve gay marriage by a popular vote.

Ireland may once again make history by allowing transgender people over the age of 18 to self-declare their gender on legal documents solely based on their self-determination, and without any medical intervention. The legislation is scheduled to go to committee stage on June 17.

June 15, 2015 in International, LGBT | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Mixed-Race Miss Japan

From the NYT: 

TOKYO — WHEN Ariana Miyamoto was crowned Miss Universe Japan 2015, participants said she stole the show with a saucy strut, an infectious smile and a calm self-confidence that belied her 21 years. But it was not just her beauty and poise that catapulted her to national attention.

Ms. Miyamoto is one of only a tiny handful of “hafu,” or Japanese of mixed race, to win a major beauty pageant in proudly homogeneousJapan. And she is the first half-black woman ever to do so.

May 30, 2015 in International, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Unintended Consequences of Family-Friendly Workplace Policies

It's what the early 20th century equality feminists feared from social feminism and protective labor laws.

NYT, When Family-Friendly Policies Backfire

In Chile, a law requires employers to provide working mothers with child care. One result? Women are paid less.


In Spain, a policy to give parents of young children the right to work part-time has led to a decline in full-time, stable jobs available to all women — even those who are not mothers.


Elsewhere in Europe, generous maternity leaves have meant that women are much less likely than men to become managers or achieve other high-powered positions at work.


Family-friendly policies can help parents balance jobs and responsibilities at home, and go a long way toward making it possible for women with children to remain in the work force. But these policies often have unintended consequences.

May 26, 2015 in Equal Employment, Family, International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Dublin Archbishop on Gay Marriage

BBC reports on surprising, and rather liberal, comments offered by the Dublin Archbishop after Ireland became the first nation to legalize gay marriage:

Diarmuid Martin, the archbishop of Dublin, said the Church in Ireland needed to reconnect with young people.

The referendum found 62% were in favour of changing the constitution to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid MartinThe archbishop voted 'No' in the referendum

The archbishop told the broadcaster RTE: "We [the Church] have to stop and have a reality check, not move into denial of the realities.

"We won't begin again with a sense of renewal, with a sense of denial.

"I appreciate how gay and lesbian men and women feel on this day. That they feel this is something that is enriching the way they live. I think it is a social revolution."

The archbishop personally voted "No" arguing that gay rights should be respected "without changing the definition of marriage".

"I ask myself, most of these young people who voted yes are products of our Catholic school system for 12 years. I'm saying there's a big challenge there to see how we get across the message of the Church," he added.

Ireland is the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage through a popular vote, and its referendum was held 22 years after homosexual acts were decriminalised in the Republic of Ireland.


May 24, 2015 in International, LGBT | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

"Banned from driving, Saudi women flock to ride-share apps"

From the LA Times, in a story that implies the acute connection between gender autonomy and physical movement: 

When Hala Radwan returned to Saudi Arabia after obtaining a business degree in France, she was eager to put her new skills to use.

She found a job in the marketing department of a big international company. There was just one problem: How would she get to and from work in the only country that does not allow women to drive?


May 7, 2015 in International, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

"Crying Rooms" for Women

The story--from the Korea Times--is depressingly spare in details, especially for a publication that claims to be a newspaper, but deeply suggestive in its weirdness:


By John-Patrick Gerard Thackeray

Japan will introduce hotel rooms for women "to cry the stress away."

The "crying rooms" will be tested in the Shinjuku ward of Tokyo and will offer scented tissues, make-up and movies specifically for women.

A hotel spokesperson said the rooms would "help woman overcome emotional problems and cry the stress away." They will cost about $84 a day.

In Asia, hotels and motels are slightly different from those of the Western world, mostly because of the experiences offered. These can range from themed rooms offering "planet experiences" to rooms that enable many to sleep together, which roughly translates as "sleep together shops."

With Asian women becoming more independent, the need for areas that are female-only is growing. After all, everyone needs time to let off a little steam occasionally. 


May 6, 2015 in International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 27, 2015

World's Most Progressive Gender Identity Law?

(Pope Francis meets with Malta’s President, Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca during a private audience in September Gabriel Bouys / AP)

That Malta--the small archipelago in the Mediterranean--should pass the world's most progressive gender identity law is surprising.  Malta's constitution states that its official religion is Catholicism, and until 2011, it forbade divorce.  

But now:  

The Mediterranean country of Malta adopted the world’s most progressive gender identity law on Wednesday in a final vote by the country’s parliament on Wednesday.

The law is the latest in a series of LGBT rights laws ushered in by the Labour Party after taking power in 2013, a dramatic about-face for the country which has a constitution establishing Catholicism as the official religion.

The law — which goes beyond those its fellow European Union members have passed — would allow for someone to change their legal gender through simply filing an affidavit with a notary without a significant waiting period, eliminates any requirement for medical gender reassignment procedures, and prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity. It now heads to the desk of President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, and LGBT rights advocates expect her to sign.

It also includes some groundbreaking provisions for minors and intersex babies, those born without clearly male or female anatomy. Medical experts estimate that around .1 - .2 percent of children are born with atypical genitals that cannot be classified as either male or female, and in much of the world doctors operate on these children to make their anatomy clearly male or female.


April 27, 2015 in International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

China Detains Women's Rights Activists

NYT, Chinese Police Seeking Charges Against Detained Women's Activists, Lawyer Says

Police officers in Beijing have asked prosecutors to charge five women’s rights activists who have been detained for more than a month with organizing a crowd to disturb public order, lawyers for two of them said on Thursday.


The filing allows the police to detain the activists, all of them women whose plight has led to harsh criticism from abroad, for seven more days while prosecutors make a decision on whether to bring charges.


The police had originally investigated the women on suspicion of “picking quarrels” but have since changed the charges they want prosecutors to impose, said one of the lawyers, Wang Qiushi.


He said the charges of organizing crowds to disturb public order were tied to two actions: an attempt by the women to organize a nationwide campaign last month against sexual harassment on public transportation, as well as an earlier public campaign they had carried out against domestic violence in which they wore wedding dresses smeared with fake blood.



April 9, 2015 in International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Sweden Adds Gender-Neutral Pronoun

WashPost, Sweden is About to Add a Gender-Neutral Pronoun to its Official Dictionary

In the Egalia, a preschool in Stockholm, there are no male or femalestudents. Instead, all children are referred to as 'hen' – a gender-neutral pronoun that has become so established in Sweden that it will be recognized next month in the newest edition of the country's official dictionary.


The Swedish Academy's SAOL dictionary, which is updated every 10 years and will be republished April 15, will feature 'hen' as an alternative to the male pronoun 'han' and the female 'hon.' The revised edition will also include thousands of other new words.


According to linguistic expert Sofia Malmgård, the gender-neutral term can be used in two ways. "First, if the gender is unknown or not relevant (as in: "If anyone needs to smoke, 'hen' may do so outside"). Second, it can be used as a pronoun for inter-gender people (as in: "Kim is neither boy or girl, 'hen' is inter-gender")," she explained.


To many Swedes, the decision of the Swedish Academy reflects how quickly their society has embraced gender-neutral language. "Over the last few years, the word 'hen' has more and more found its way into the Swedish language," Malmgård told The Washington Post.


Five years ago, barely anyone in Sweden was aware of the word. The decision to now include 'hen' in the authoritative SAOL dictionary is expected to facilitate an even more frequent use of it in everyday conversations. Set up in 1785, the academy was established with the aim to adapt the Swedish languages to changing cultural and societal influences – a role the institution still feels committed to.


According to experts, the 'hen'-revolution in Sweden has two primary origins: LGBT groups have promoted the pronoun as a way to raise awareness for their cause. However, support for the idea has also come from a more unexpected side: Nurseries, kindergartens and preschools such as Egalia increasingly argue that the pronoun's usage allows children to grow up without feeling the impact of gender biases. "The public debate over the pronoun actually only started after the publication of the country's first gender-neutral children's book", Lann Hornscheidt, an professor of Scandinavian languages and gender studies at Berlin's Humboldt University explained.

April 7, 2015 in Gender, International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Struggle for Male Suffrage

A commentary in the Guardian UK: 

On 23 March, while arguing the case on these pages for a Minister for Men, Tim Samuels apologised for trespassing on feminism’s most hallowed ground and said: “We men have not had to fight tooth and nail for our votes”.

No doubt, everybody would go along with that. Everybody in this country is taught from infancy that the Suffragettes had to wrest votes for women from a brutal male establishment that was protecting the monopoly exercised by all men. My daughters learned that lesson at primary school before they had even been introduced to the cardinal beliefs of the world’s leading religions.


As is so often the case with the feminist catechism however, everybody - including Mr Samuels - is looking at history with one eye. As a matter of fact, men did have to fight before all men could get the vote. And men’s fight was not conducted in debating halls, demonstrations and salons, nor even from the relative safety of the prison cell. Before all British men were allowed to vote, poor young men had to be wounded in millions and to die in hundreds of thousands in a war from which all women were exempted solely by reason of their gender.

Mr Samuels was writing almost exactly on the 99th anniversary of the Military Service Act, under which every British man 18-41 was subject to conscription for the First World War. The actual wording of the Act was that every man of that age was “deemed to have enlisted”.

April 3, 2015 in International, Manliness, Masculinities | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Denial of Abortion as Cruel and Inhuman Treatment

Alyson M. Zureick, "(En)Gendering Suffering: Denial of Abortion as a Form of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment," 38 Fordham Int'l L. J. 1 (2015) 

From the abstract:

The regulation of abortion has long been considered a prerogative of the state. In recent years, however, international human rights bodies have begun to consider the conformity of domestic abortion regulations with a state’s human rights obligations. This paper examines a notable trend among human rights bodies: namely, finding that denying or obstructing a woman’s access to abortion can amount to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment under multiple human rights treaties. First, human rights bodies have found that states can be responsible for CIDT inflicted on women who are harassed and denied services that are legally available to them under the state’s laws. Second, human rights bodies have found that the application of restrictive abortion laws themselves may inflict CIDT by depriving women of an abortion in particularly serious cases, such as rape or when the woman’s life is threatened. I argue that these findings reflect an understanding that certain restrictions on abortion — or the state’s failure to act to prevent de facto restrictions from arising — are unjustifiable and disproportionate to lawful state aims. They also demonstrate a limited but important recognition that deprivations of autonomy in the reproductive rights context can lead to the kind of pain and suffering that is unacceptable in modern societies. At the same time, I argue that human rights bodies should further strengthen their understanding of women’s autonomy interests in this context, particularly the ways in which the frustration of their reproductive autonomy can inflict severe and unacceptable pain or suffering tantamount to CIDT. 

April 2, 2015 in Abortion, International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Glass Ceiling of the Australian Supreme Court

Harry Hobbs, Finding a Fair Reflection on the High Court of Australia

Of the 51 Justices appointed to the High Court of Australia, only four have been women. Although all eminently qualified, there is something fundamentally wrong with this statistic. The principle of fair reflection is neither at odds with the fundamental principle of judicial impartiality, nor controversial when it comes to federal balance on the Court. It is time that the untrammelled discretion of the Attorney General is confined to require a 40% composition of either gender on the Court. Doing so would increase the quality of the Court’s decisions, and its sociological legitimacy.

March 28, 2015 in International, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

France Debates Weight Laws for Fashion Models

NYT, French Parliament Debates Weight Standards for Fashion Models

The French Parliament is debating legislation that would effectively set minimum weights for women and girls to work as models, a step that supporters of the bill say is necessary to combat the persistence of anorexia.


If it becomes law — it is backed by President François Hollande’s Socialist government — modeling agencies and fashion houses that employ models whose body mass index measurements do not meet minimum standards would face criminal penalties.


Israel already bans the use of underweight and underage models, while other countries, including Italy and Spain, have weighed legislation similar to the one under consideration in France but for now continue to rely on voluntary pacts with the fashion industry.

March 26, 2015 in International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Pope Condemns Gender Theory as Attack on Family

The story: 

NAPLES, Italy, March 23, 2015 ( -- For at least the third time in his pontificate Pope Francis has used very strong language to condemn the gender theory, one of the intellectual underpinnings of the ‘LGBT’ agenda. Speaking Sunday with young people on his voyage to Naples, Italy, Pope Francis spoke of the “ideological colonization” of families seen throughout Europe and the West.

“Gender theory is an error of the human mind that leads to so much confusion," he said. “So the family is under attack.” As to how to deal with the “secularization” or the “ideological colonization,” the pope said he does not have the answer. He pointed however to the Synod on the Family, which he called inspired by the Lord.


The comments echo those made in an in-flight interview Pope Francis gave while returning from Manila in the Philippines on January 19, 2015. Francis lamented the Western practice of imposing a homosexual agenda on other nations through foreign aid, which he called a form of “ideological colonization” and compared it to the Nazi propaganda machine.

Asked by a reporter to explain the phrase “ideological colonization,” the pope gave an example from 1995 when, he says, a minister of education in a poor area was told she could have a loan for building schools so long as the schools used a book that taught “gender theory.”


"This is ideological colonization,” he said. “It colonizes the people with an idea that wants to change a mentality or a structure." This ideological colonization, he added, “is not new, the dictators of the last century did the same.”  "They came with their own doctrine. Think of the BalilLa (The Fascist Youth under Mussolini), think of the Hitler youth."

March 25, 2015 in International, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sweden Introduces Gender-Neutral Pronoun

From the Guardian UK: 

The official dictionary of the Swedish language will introduce a gender-neutral pronoun in April, editors at the Swedish Academy have announced.

“Hen” will be added to “han” (he) and “hon” (she) as one of 13,000 new words in the latest edition of the Swedish Academy’s SAOL.

The pronoun is used to refer to a person without revealing their gender – either because it is unknown, because the person is transgender, or the speaker or writer deems the gender to be superfluous information.

“For those who use the pronoun, it’s obviously a strength that it is now in the dictionary,” one of the editors, Sture Berg, told AFP on Tuesday.

March 25, 2015 in International, LGBT, Manliness, Masculinities, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)