Human Rights, Women and Development

Subject LAWS70171 (2012)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2012.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 7 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2012:

June, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: The total class time is between 24 and 26 hours.
Total Time Commitment: Not available




Recommended Background Knowledge:

Applicants without legal qualifications should note that subjects are offered in the discipline of law at an advanced graduate level. While every effort will be made to meet the needs of students trained in other fields, concessions will not be made in the general level of instruction or assessment. Most subjects assume the knowledge usually acquired in a degree in law (LLB, JD or equivalent). Applicants should note that admission to some subjects in the Melbourne Law Masters will be dependent upon the individual applicant’s educational background and professional experience.

Non Allowed Subjects:


Core Participation Requirements:

The Melbourne Law Masters welcomes applications from students with disabilities. The inherent academic requirements for study in the Melbourne Law Masters are:

  • The ability to attend a minimum of 75% of classes and actively engage in the analysis of complex materials and debate;
  • The ability to read, analyse and comprehend complex written legal materials and complex interdisciplinary materials;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate in writing a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate orally a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to work independently and as a part of a group;
  • The ability to present orally and in writing legal analysis to a professional standard.

Students who feel their disability will inhibit them from meeting these inherent academic requirements are encouraged to contact the Disability Liaison Unit:


Prof Cheryl Saunders


For more information, contact the Melbourne Law Masters office.

Email or phone +61 3 8344 6190.

Alternatively, visit our website:

Subject Overview:

The fields of human rights and development have both provided an important focus for the promotion of women‘s equality and empowerment in the United Nations (UN) era. Yet women‘s inequality has persisted. This subject will trace the history and examine the impact of the strategies adopted to promote women‘s equality in both fields and the links that have been forged between them, as well as the tensions between these developments and the consolidation of the market-led development model. The limitations as well as the potential of law in promoting equality and social justice for women will be evaluated. Students will be challenged to consider how impediments might be overcome, including conceptual inadequacies relating to ‘equality’ and ‘gender‘, gender bias in the law, fears of cultural imperialism and the failure to involve men in change strategies. The lecturer has an international reputation for combining a critical and practical engagement with issues of gender and the law.

This subject will trace the history and examine the impact of the strategies adopted by advocates for women‘s equality in the fields of international human rights and development law and policy.

Principal topics will include:

  • The links between human rights and development strategies in improving women‘s economic and social status
  • The tensions between these strategies and the consolidation of the marketled development model during the 1990s
  • Impediments to the realisation of women‘s equality and how these might be overcome, including conceptual inadequacies, institutional marginalisation, gender bias in the law, the limits of legal liberalism, threat of cultural imperialism and lack of political will
  • The work of post-colonial feminists, uncovering some of the hidden histories of women‘s resistance to colonial laws and policies
  • The limitations and potential of law in promoting women‘s equality and social justice.

A student who has successfully completed this subject should understand:

  • The key international human rights instruments and development policies and programs that have sought to promote women's equality since 1945
  • The interrelationship between women's enjoyment of human rights and their equal participation in, and benefiting from, economic development
  • The theoretical debates about how best to conceptualise sex/gender [in]equality, the different legal conceptions of sex/gender equality, and the problems associated with measuring and assessing substantive equality
  • The contributions by postcolonial legal scholars to understanding the diversity of women's experiences of inequality and the role played by customary and colonial laws as well as international economic institutions
  • The significant contributions of women's movements and nongovernmental organisations to advancing women's equality
  • The strategies used to promote women's advancement in the human rights and development fields and be able to propose alternative approaches
  • The role of men in achieving gender equality
  • How to utilise the many international institutions and mechanisms that have a role to play in advancing women's equality.

Take-home examination (100%) (12 pm 21 September to 5 pm 24 September)


10,000 word research paper (100%) (22 October) on a topic approved by the subject coordinator

Prescribed Texts:

Core subject materials will be provided free of charge to all students. Some subjects require further texts to be purchased. Visit the Melbourne Law Masters website for more information about this subject.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Links to further information:

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