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Rangita de Silva de Alwis

Associate Dean for International Programs

Rangita de Silva de Alwis

Rangita de Silva de Alwis is the Associate Dean of International Affairs at University of Pennsylvania Law School. She teaches International Women’s Human Rights Law. At Penn Law she has developed partnerships with OHCHR, UN Women and UNESCO and other multinational organizations. She also serves as the Academic Director of Penn Law’s Global Institute for Human Rights. In 2017, Rangita was appointed a Global Advisor to the UN Sustainable Development Goal Fund.

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 published widely with the United Nations, and in various leading law journals including with Yale Journal of Law and Feminism; 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, and University of Pennsylvania International Law Journal.

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. Her paper on Women and Constitution-making in Tunisia is to be published by the Berkeley Journal of International Law, and Women and the Reform of Personal Laws in India to be published by the NYU Journal of International Law and Policy.

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 Visiting 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, Women’s International Day, March 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.


  • Feminism
  • Human Rights
  • Law and Social Stratification
  • Law and Society
  • Sexuality and the Law

Articles and Book Chapters

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

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.

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