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Rangita de Silva de Alwis

Senior Adjunct Professor of Global Leadership

Rangita de Silva de Alwis

Rangita de Silva de Alwis is a globally recognized international women's rights expert. She serves as the Associate Dean of International Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania Law School where she teaches International Women's Rights and the Policy Lab, including the Policy Lab on AI and Bias, directs the Global Institute for Human Rights, has been appointed Leader-in-Residence at the Harvard Kennedy School's Women and Public Policy Program for 2019-2021 academic years and was named the Hillary Rodham Clinton Fellow on Gender Equity, Georgetown (2020-2021). She is a Fellow with the Private Capital Research Institute at Harvard Business School on a study on diversity and inclusion in private equity (2021-2022). In 2017, she started the Global Women's Leadership Project and Women, Law & Leadership Lab under the auspices of UN Women's Executive Director, Under Secretary-General Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka to map the laws that regulate the status of women in the family. Rangita serves as Special Advisor to the President of Wellesley College and as Distinguished Adviser to the Executive Director of UN Women on global women's rights and women's leadership. Rangita is a Non-Resident  Senior Fellow of Harvard Law School's Center on the Legal Profession where she is co-authoring a Study with Under Secretary General Mlambo- Ngcuka on the transformative impact of business leadership, innovation and inclusion on accelerating the SDGs. She also serves on the UN Women High Level Working Group on Women's Access to Justice and as Advisor to Gender Equality at UNESCO.  In 2017, she was appointed a Global Advisor to the UN Sustainable Development Goal Fund. Most recently, Rangita advised the European Union in directing Foreign Policy and development cooperation in the EU Resolution "Toward an EU external strategy against early and forced marriage" introduced before the European Parliament in 2018. By appointment by the Hon. Julia Gillard, the former Prime Minister of Australia, she serves on the Steering Group for the Global Gender and Leadership Index at King’s College, London. At the appointment of the World Bank's Legal Vice Presidency, Rangita serves as an Expert to the Access to Justice and Technology Task Force of the World Bank.

Before coming to Penn Law, she was the inaugural director of the Global Women’s Leadership Initiative and the Women in Public Service Project launched by Secretary Hillary Clinton and the Seven Sisters Colleges at Wellesley College which then moved to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Rangita is a women’s human rights scholar and practitioner with over 25 years of experience working globally in over 25 countries with a vast network of academic institutions, government, and nongovernment entities on women’s human rights law and policy making and institutional reform. She has convened several transnational networks including the Women’s Leadership Network in Muslim Communities, the Asia Cause Lawyer Network in India, and the Gender and Law Expert Group and the Women’s Watch in China. She has worked over 15 years with Chinese gender and law experts and academics and has testified twice before the Congressional Executive Commission on China on the status of women’s rights in China. She has advised UNICEF, UN Women, UNFPA, and UNDP on state accountability under the relevant human rights treaties and the intersections of the different treaties and treaty bodies. She has lectured at Yale Law School and spoken around the world on gender-based law reform. She has served as Visiting Faculty at the Hong Kong University School of Law in 2017 and 2018. She has published widely with the United Nations, and in various leading law journals including with Yale Journal of Law and Feminism; NYU Journal of International Law and Politics; Texas Journal of Gender and the Law; University of Pennsylvania East Asia Law Journal; Duke Journal of Gender and the Law; UCLA Pacific Rim Journal; UCLA Journal of International Law and Foreign Relations, Michigan Journal of International Law,  University of Washington International Law Journal,  University of Pennsylvania International Law Journal, Berkeley Journal of International Law, and the Virginia Journal of Social Policy & the Law.

Most recently, she developed a Gender Supplement to the U.N. Secretary General’s Guidelines on Disability, and a report to the World Bank on Women’s Voice and Agency. Her latest work has been on Gender and Disability Lawmaking for UN DESA.

Rangita has a LL.M and S.J.D. from Harvard Law School and was a Teaching Fellow with the European Law Research Institute at Harvard Law School, a Research Fellow with the Women and Public Policy Program at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University and a Visiting Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program. She was a Fulbright Specialist with the Asian University of Women, a Distinguished Visiting Lecturer at Wellesley College, a Senior Scholar at Wellesley Centers for Women, a Salzburg Global Fellow and an Honorary Professor of China Women’s University. She has received many recognitions for her work on international women’s human rights. Most recently she was honored by Harvard Law School as a Woman Inspiring Change, 2015. She serves on several Boards including the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain and Behavior at Harvard University, the Landesa Board of Directors, and is a trustee of the Harpswell Foundation.

Currently, she is working on a chapter on gender equality and leadership for the  Handbook on the Sustainable Development Goals, Oxford University Press. Rangita's recent work was featured in the Financial Times (FT). She has also appeared on C-span's Book TV. Rangita also leads the Thomson Reuters Project on Inclusion and Transforming Women's Leadership.



Articles and Book Chapters

"Time Is A-Wasting": Making the Case for CEDAW Ratification by the United States, 60 COLUM. J. TRANSNAT'L L. __ (Fall 2021). (forthcoming 2021)

Rangita de Silva de Alwis, A New Reckoning on Gender Based Violence: Structural and Intersectional Violence against Women Globally, 54 N.Y.U. J. Int’l L. (forthcoming Fall 2021) (forthcoming)

Reshaping the Narrative on Inclusion: Allyship in a Time of a "Thousand Papercuts", HASTINGS RACE & POVERTY L.J. (by invitation; in celebration of Joan Williams, Hastings Distinguished Professor) (forthcoming). (forthcoming)

Goal Five and Gender Equality, in TREATISE ON THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS (SDGS) (Oxford Univ. Press, forthcoming 2021). (forthcoming 2021)

The Changing Landscape of Women's Rights Activism in China: The Continued Legacy of the Beijing Conference, 28 UCLA WOMEN'S L.J. (forthcoming Spring 2021). (forthcoming 2021)

Dismantling “Dilemmas of Difference” in the Workplace, 27 VA. J. SOC. POL'Y & L. 193 (2020) (et al.).

Why Women’s Leadership is the Cause of Our Time, in GENDER, POWER, LAW & LEADERSHIP 25 (Hannah Brenner & Renee Knake eds., 2020).

“Long Past Time”: CEDAW Ratification in the United States, 3 J. L. & PUB. AFF. 16 (2018) (with Amanda M. Martin).

Women’s Human Rights and Migration: Sex-Selective Abortion Laws in the United States and India, 19 ASIA-PAC. J. ON HUM. RTS. & L. 69 (2018).

When Law is Complicit in Gender Bias: Ending De Jure Discrimination Against Women as an Important Target of Sustainable Development Goal 5, in SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS 5TH: GENDER EQUALITY (Paloma Durán y Lalaguna, Sagrario Morán Blanco, & Cástor Miguel Díaz Barrado eds., Aranzadi 2018).

Women and the Making of the Tunisian Constitution, 35 BERKELEY J. INT'L L. 90 (2017).

Conclusion: Future Trends of Sustainable Development Goal, in SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS GOAL 16: PEACE, JUSTICE AND STRONG INSTITUTIONS (Cástor Miguel Díaz Barrado et al. eds., Aranzadi 2017).

The Role of Personal Laws in Creating a “Second Sex”, 48 N.Y.U. J. INT'L L. & POL. 1085 (2016) (with Indira Jaising).

Freedom from Violence: A Global Perspective in Light of Chinese Domestic Violence Law, 2015, 37 U. PA. J. INT'L L. 1 (2015) (with Jeni Klugman).

Why Women's Leadership is the Cause of Our Time, 18 UCLA J. INT'L L. & FOR. AFF. 87 (2013), reprinted in GENDER, POWER, LAW & LEADERSHIP (Hannah Brenner & Renee Knake eds., West Academic forthcoming 2020).

Domestic Violence Lawmaking in Asia: Some Innovative Trends in Feminist Lawmaking, 29 UCLA PAC. BASIN L. J. 176 (2012).

Examining Gender Stereotypes in New Work/Family Reconciliation Laws Around the World: The Creation of a New Paradigm, 18 DUKE J. GENDER L. & POL'Y 305 (2011).

Opportunities and Challenges for Gender-Based Legal Reform in China, 5 E. ASIA L. REV. 197 (2010) (Translated into Chinese by the China University of Political Science and the Law and published in WOMEN'S PARTICIPATION IN CRIMINAL PROCEDURE (2010)).

Mining the Intersections: Advancing the Rights of Women and Children with Disabilities within an Interrelated Web of Human Rights, 18 PAC. RIM L. & POL'Y J. 293 (2009).

Reconceptualizing Human Rights to Challenge Tobacco, 17 MICH. ST. U. J. INT'L L. 291 (2008/2009) (with Richard Daynard).

The Recently Revised Marriage Law of China: The Promise and the Reality, 13 TEX. J. WOMEN & L. 251 (2004) (with Charles J. Ogletree, Jr.).

When Gender Differences Become a Trap: The Impact of China's Labor Law on Women, 14 YALE J. L. & FEMINISM 69 (2002) (with Charles J. Ogletree, Jr.).

More publications can be found here.

Working Papers

Redefining Leadership in the Age of the SDGs: Accelerating and Scaling Up Delivery Through Innovation and Inclusion (August 21, 2019), Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession working paper (with Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka). (forthcoming)
[View Document]

An Analysis of Ethiopia’s Gender Discriminatory Laws, United Nations, 2019.


  • International Women's Human Rights
  • Women, Law and Leadership
  • Policy Lab on AI and Bias
  • Policy Lab on Harassment (with World Bank)

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