Current Issues In Gender,Sexuality & Law

Subject LAWS50079 (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 5 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2016.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 27 hours of seminar classes delivered as 9 weekly 3 hour seminars, as well as a 4 hour student-organised colloquium in week 12.
Total Time Commitment:

139 hours.

Study Period Commencement:
Credit Points:
Semester 1
Semester 1
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

The Melbourne Law School welcomes applications from students with disabilities. It is University and Law School policy to take all reasonable steps to enable the participation of students with disabilities, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the School’s programs.

The inherent academic requirements for the study in the Melbourne Law School are:

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

Students must possess behavioural and social attributes that enable them to participate in a complex learning environment. Students are required to take responsibility for their own participation and learning. They also contribute to the learning of other students in collaborative learning environments, demonstrating interpersonal skills and an understanding of the needs of other students. Assessment may include the outcomes of tasks completed in collaboration with other students.

Students who feel their disability will prevent them from participating in tasks involving these inherent academic requirements are encouraged to contact the Disability Liaison Unit:


Phone: +61 3 8344 4475

Subject Overview:

This subject enables students to explore in depth current issues of particular interest in the field of Gender, Sexuality and Law (GSL).

In the first 9 weeks of semester, students will undertake a program of study and interactive seminars. The first weeks of the course will introduce various theoretical approaches and research methods that scholars have developed to analyse the relations between law, gender and sexuality. Students will then analyse a number of current issues in the GSL field, drawing on the expertise and research of scholars resident in and visiting the Law School. Students will be expected to read the prescribed materials in advance of class, and to participate actively in the weekly seminar discussions.

The topics investigated in the first section of the course will vary from year to year, but may include:

  • The regulation of abortion and motherhood;
  • Legalising gay marriage;
  • Improving legal recognition of transgender and intersex people;
  • Legal frameworks regulating sex work and trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation;
  • Gendered understandings of family law;
  • Criminal law regulation of sexual violence, including rape;
  • Protections against gender/sexuality discrimination in international human rights law;
  • Legal developments related to recognising intersectional (race and gender) forms of discrimination eg in indigenous communities.

In any given year, topics will be chosen that require students to engage with a range of approaches to and applications of theory and method in the GSL field. This will provide a strong foundation for students’ independent research in the GSL field.

In the final three weeks of the course, enrolled students will organise and participate in a public Colloquium on Gender, Sexuality and the Law to which all JD students and Faculty will be invited. The Colloquium will explore issues of particular interest to students, and may involve events such as a key-note address, an interactive roundtable, a film screening or collaboration with relevant community projects. Students will be responsible for designing the colloquium program each year, in consultation with the subject coordinator.

Learning Outcomes:

On successful completion of this subject, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an advanced and integrated understanding of the variety of concepts, theoretical frameworks, and analytical and interdisciplinary methods developed and employed by feminist and/or queer legal scholars in their study of GSL;
  • Apply highly developed analytical, critical, theoretical and evaluative skills to various legal, ethical and social policy issues that are the subject of GSL theory, research and advocacy;
  • Demonstrate a specialised understanding of the gendered/sexed and hetero-sexed dimensions of law and its applications in practice, synthesised across a number of areas of law; and
  • Demonstrate a sophisticated awareness of the intersections between GSL theory, research and advocacy and other critical approaches to law, including postcolonial and critical race theory.
  • Participation in the GSL colloquium (hurdle requirement);
  • Presentation of research at the GSL colloquium (20%): students will be required to present a brief work-in-progress outlining their research project at the colloquium. The presentation may take the form of either an A2 poster or a 10 minute oral presentation;
  • Research assignment (80%): students will be required to submit a 6,000 word research assignment, due in accordance with the assessment schedule. The assignment will be in a form appropriate to the student's research (for example, a research essay, government/law reform submission or a theoretical analysis) and approved by the subject coordinator.
Prescribed Texts:

Specialist printed materials will be made available from Melbourne Law School.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

On completion of the subject students should have developed and demonstrated specialised knowledge and skills in the following areas:

  • Critical attitudes towards legal knowledge, informed by specialist knowledge of the interrelationships between gender, sexuality and law and including ethics associated with knowledge creation and usage;
  • Expert capacity for the application of feminist and/or queer analysis in close reading of materials from a range of legal and quasi-legal sources;
  • Advanced capacity for critical and independent thought and reflection on the law and its role in the social construction of gender and sexuality norms;
  • Highly developed capacity to conduct independent research, including the ability to identify key research questions relating to gender, sexuality and law, and locate and evaluate the range of relevant primary and secondary sources;
  • Advanced capacity to communicate legal problems and their possible solutions clearly and effectively, both orally and in writing, to specialist and non-specialist audiences;
  • Advanced proficiency in planning and time management; and
  • Highly developed intercultural sensitivity and understanding with respect to normative differences relating to issues of gender and sexuality.

In addition, by completing this subject, students will have the opportunity to practice and/or be assessed in the following skills specific to the discipline of law:

- Advanced legal research and writing skills, including an ability to:

  • Locate and evaluate the full range of primary and secondary legal sources;
  • Use case law, statutes, secondary sources and international legal materials as part of sophisticated and critical legal analysis;
  • Formulate a feasible and cutting edge research question (under general direction);
  • Develop and substantiate a well-reasoned argument of high quality (thesis); and
  • Prepare a substantial specialised piece of legal writing, at a standard suitable for submission to a refereed law journal.

- Advanced legal advocacy skills, including an ability to:

  • Articulate complex ideas in accessible and persuasive language;
  • Present sophisticated analysis and argument succinctly; and
  • Respond confidently to immediate feedback and questions.
Related Course(s): Juris Doctor

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