Students in “New Debates in International Women’s Rights” seminar present policy proposals to United Nations leadership
Few law school classes involve convenings at the UN. Even fewer give students a forum to discuss their policy proposals with UN leadership. Yet Penn Law students in Associate Dean for International Programs Rangita de Silva de Alwis’s seminar on “New Debates in International Women’s Rights” did just that when they convened at the United Nations on April 29 to present their research to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), UN Women, Office of Legal Affairs, and the newly appointed Office of the Secretary-General’s Victims’ Rights Advocate. The students had the opportunity to present to Under-Secretary-General and Legal Counsel Miguel de Serpa Soares and Assistant Secretary-General Jane Connors and other experts. For students eager to share a semester or more of research, this audience of key policy leaders was an inspiration.
Feminism Across the Globe: A Cross-Continental Conversation
Historically, there has been widespread dissent over the precise definition of “feminism”. However, what is most powerful about the concept’s lack of a precise definition is that it is broad enough to encompass the hopes and ambitions of a plethora of different women around the world. International Women’s Day capitalizes on the different needs of women across the globe, presenting the opportunity for these vast and deviating needs to converge around a central theme, to demonstrate that despite our differences, despite our diverging needs, women are still—always—stronger when they are united. This is particularly important in an age where borders are becoming vapider, and people are migrating to different countries to pursue their ambitions. It is critical, therefore, on this momentous day, to understand what women in different places think and feel about feminism, about their country’s progress, and about their hopes for the future. This past Fall, I had the distinct privilege to study law at the London School of Economics. I sat down recently with two female student-leaders from LSE to talk about feminism, how the movement has changed to adapt to the 21st century, and to hear their thoughts on entering the legal profession as young women. What is most interesting about this conversation is that, though all three of us come from different countries and backgrounds– Carlotta is from Italy, Rachael from New Zealand, and I am from New York– we all see ourselves as actors that are part of the larger societal fabric, intricately benefitting from, and contributing to the feminist movement. All three of us were touched by Hillary Clinton’s avowal that women’s rights are indeed human rights: with these words echoing across oceans and deserts and reverberating across the metaphoric wild west of the internet, this conversation is proof that 108 years later, women are still united and driven to achieve not only equality but parity in every community and professional field.
Celebrating Women’s History Month
To mark Women’s History Month, we present four extraordinary stories that change the public conversation. On a personal level, I celebrate the women who have made history and shaped my thinking: Radhika Coomaraswamy, Asma Jahangir, Hina Jilani, Mary Robinson, Martha Minow, Nancy Gertner, Hillary Clinton, Melanne Verveer, Deborah Rhode, Paula Johnson, and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
The Female Mentors of Male Leaders
In The Odyssey, before he leaves for the Trojan War, Odysseus asks Mentor, a wise old friend to watch over his son, Telemachus. While Odysseus was on the battleground, goddess Athena, also disguised herself as Mentor to watch over Telemachus, creating Western history’s first interpretation of a female-male mentor relationship. Below, Bill Burke-White, Richard Perry Professor and Inaugural Director of Perry World House, speaks of the role of powerful female mentors and role models in his journey to leadership with Associate Dean of International Affairs Rangita de Silva de Alwis.
Celebrating Dorothy Roberts
Twenty-two years ago Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty changed the national conversation on race, gender and reproductive justice. Two decades later, it remains more critical than ever before–a rallying cry around the world, for education, awareness, and action. Its vision for reproductive justice for all women engages in the global conversations on Female Genital Mutilation, virginity testing, forced pregnancy, forced sterilization and asks questions on how women’s ability to control their bodies is constantly challenged by politics, economics, race, cultural traditions, and injustice. A whole generation of feminist scholars and practitioners are trained on Dorothy Robert’s groundbreaking scholarship. In marking International Women’s Day, we speak to her about the way she continues to exert an influence on the study of law, gender, and its intersections. A Q&A with Rangita de Silva de Alwis, Associate Dean of International Affairs
Crying Political Conspiracy: Reflecting on Dr. Ford’s Treatment in the Wake of The #MeToo Movement
The #MeToo movement has made significant progress exposing the prevalence of sexual violence in today’s society, while also helping to dispel myths that prevent victims from speaking out against their abusers. The movement has gained more power than ever over the past year, holding once untouchable men, such as Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and Matt Lauer, accountable for their actions. #MeToo has also dismembered myths surrounding sexual assault and harassment, including the idea that such violence is unpreventable because “boys will be boys,” or that a woman is “asking for it” if she dresses or acts a certain way. However, even with such significant progress, the treatment of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court Nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh show the steps that still must be taken before the country takes sexual violence seriously.
Emerging Women Leaders at Penn Law: “Nice People Still Finish First”
Kathy Ruemmler showed up to her first day of law school without ever having met a lawyer. Georgetown University Law Center was a far cry from the small, rural town in Washington State she called home, but she quickly learned how to overcome the challenges presented by law school and the legal profession. Within two years, she became the Editor-in-Chief of the Georgetown Law Journal, and by the time she was 40-years-old, she was the top lawyer in the White House.
What Feminism Means to Emerging Women Leaders at Penn Law: Shane Fischman L’19 & Allyson Reynolds L’19
Students explore feminism and shared experiences through conversations with each other.
“I Would Not Let Gender Hold Me Back”
In honor of Gender Equality Day, Penn Law celebrates Sophie L’Hélias LLM ’87, founder of the Gender Diversity Exchange℠ (GDE). In the story below, she digs deep into her intimate narrative and the powerful forces, both personal and political, that led her to create this groundbreaking index described by L’Hélias as “a search engine for positive impact, that draws upon my experience as an investor, lawyer and board director.”
The “Me Too” Movement in Indian Academia
In the wake of these movements, India saw a “Naming and Shaming” Campaign spread through social media. Raya Sarkar, then an LL.M. Candidate at University of California, Davis School of Law, posted a crowd-sourced list of Indian academicians who were alleged to have committed acts of sexual harassment or assault on her Facebook account in October 2017, which soon became viral.