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BHUM 1260A - Gender and Other Challenges of the Law

Type d'enseignement : Seminar

Semester : Autumn 2017-2018

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English



Course Description

A major challenge for lawmakers in diverse societies is to design and enforce social policies that will not treat any one group unfairly. This course will examine the functioning of law in the presence of heterogeneous social groups with potentially conflicting interests. The course will begin with a brief exploration of various legal perspectives on the ideal of “equality” and various legal definitions of “inequality.” In the introductory portion of the course, we will also consider the normative consequences of one's perspective on “equality”, i.e., how one's definition of equality affects the design of law. The course will, then, proceed with the study of various cases to determine how factors such as gender, race, religion and analogous forms of “otherness” are treated under the law. The course will examine contemporary examples from legal systems in various countries addressing equality issues arising in areas such as the free exercise of religion, employment, marriage and education. The case studies may include cases under, for example, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in the United States or a study of the Indian Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act designed to prevent “female feticide” and similar provisions of China's one-child policy. Further case studies may include the Norwegian law imposing quotas for women on corporate boards of directors, judicial decisions under South African, Indian and Canadian laws relating to marriage and Irish laws restricting abortion. Through the examination of such cases and similar cases affecting women, racial minorities or other identity groups, the course will explore rationales for deliberate differential treatment under the law as well as explanations for how seemingly neutral laws may result in differential treatment.


HENDERSON, Felicia A. (Business Development Consultant, Member of NY Bar)

Pedagogical format

The course consists of 12 two-hour sessions, each of which will be structured principally around group discussion.

Course validation

Class attendance, completion of reading assignments and participation in class discussion are essential. Accordingly, a portion of each student's grade will be based on the extent to which the student's class participation demonstrates a thoughtful review of the assigned reading materials. The remaining portion of each student's grade will be based on an oral presentation and on two or three brief (two-page) writing assignments and a short final paper.

Required reading

David B. Oppenheimer, Sheila R. Foster and Sora Y. Han, Comparative Equality and Anti-Discrimination Law: Cases, Codes, Constitutions, and Commentary (Foundation Press 2012)