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76081 Gender and Law

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2018 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Law
Credit points: 6 cp
Result type: Grade and marks

Requisite(s): (70120 Legal Method and Research OR 70102 Foundations of Law)) OR (70110 Introduction to Law AND (76006c Public International Law OR 70108c Public International Law)
The lower case 'c' after the subject code indicates that the subject is a corequisite. See definitions for details.
These requisites may not apply to students in certain courses.
There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.


This subject explores how understandings of gender are embedded in the law and legal system, often in imperceptible ways. It considers a range of key feminist legal theories to examine how law constructs and regulates individuals by reference to gender. The subject starts with key concepts including the public/private divide, the sexual division of labour and equality/inequality. It then focuses on the way law shapes areas of human experience including work and the economy, family and relationships, sexuality and reproduction, and violence and bodies.

The subject provides students with skills to understand and critically apply feminist legal theories to contemporary gender issues. Knowledge of theory is valuable in helping to think about the law in new and different ways. A critical lens allows law to be reimagined and developed in new directions to address gender inequalities in society.

Students apply skills of analysis, research, communication and critical thinking – learning to not only evaluate and synthesise information, but also to critique legal and academic arguments. Students engage in a rigorous process of reading and discussion that deepens their capacity to communicate complex concepts and their critical responses to these.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

Upon successful completion of this subject students should be able to:

1. Analyse and evaluate a range of feminist legal theories.
2. Identify, analyse and synthesise theoretical questions and insights about the gender of law and consider these in relation to current social issues.
3. Develop and apply skills to hear and engage with other points of view with respectful attitudes.
4. Locate and synthesise primary and secondary legal and interdisciplinary research relevant to the topic of gender and law in order to creatively and analytically evaluate the factual, legal and theoretical issues.
5. Construct clear, original and persuasive written and oral arguments that are supported by research and textual readings.

Course intended learning outcomes (CILOs)

This subject also contributes specifically to the development of the following graduate attributes which reflect the course intended learning outcomes:

  • Critical Analysis and Evaluation
    A capacity to think critically, strategically and creatively including an ability to identify and articulate legal issues, apply reasoning and research, engage in critical analysis and make reasoned choices. (3.0)
  • Research skills
    Well-developed cognitive and practical skills necessary to identify, research, evaluate and synthesise relevant factual, legal and policy issues. (4.0)
  • Communication and Collaboration
    Effective and appropriate communication skills including highly effective use of the English language, an ability to inform, analyse, report and persuade using an appropriate medium and message and an ability to respond appropriately. (5.0)

Teaching and learning strategies

Strategy 1: Preparing for class activity

Students will be expected to read prescribed materials posted on UTSOnline prior to coming to class. This preparatory reading will be guided by a series of critical discussion questions. Students will be expected to think about their answers to the questions before coming to class and are encouraged to bring further questions and thoughts for discussion. Additional readings will be listed on UTSOnline for students who wish to pursue topics further. Students will be encouraged to use the UTSOnline Discussion Board to ask questions or share ideas throughout the subject.

Strategy 2: Engaging in seminars

Classes will be run as seminars. Teaching staff and invited guest lecturers will deliver presentations in some of the seminars on various aspects of the subject. Seminars cover a range of feminist theories and consider how these shape our understanding of the law. The theories are applied to the law’s treatment of social and legal issues in a range of countries and situations.

Students will be required to engage in class and within small group discussions. Seminar leaders will ask questions of the students to ensure understanding of the topics and students will bring their own questions into the discussions. Students will be expected to discuss the implications of particular theories and engage in critical analysis. By engaging in seminar discussion, students deepen their conceptual understanding of the ways in which law is ‘gendered’ and deepen their critical analysis of the various roles and functions of law in shaping gender relations. Students build on their preparation and engagement in seminars by formulating and debating interpretations of the theories and applying these to contemporary issues.

The seminar leader will model critical thinking, including the development of argument and close textual analysis. The aim is to understand the theories, test them out through application and critically evaluate their usefulness and coherence. The seminars model the analytic, critical and methodological skills that students develop throughout the subject. The class discussions allow students to gauge how successful they have been in their critical reading, by testing their knowledge and learning from others.

Strategy 3: Critical media journal

The critical media journal involves two short pieces of writing spaced early in the subject (week 2), and later in the subject (week 9). The aim of the journal is to encourage students to look for media coverage on issues relevant to the subject of gender and law. This enables students to apply a critical ‘gender lens’ to their examination of current issues in society that implicate law, legal regulation or legal processes. Students are able to test their understandings of the theories covered in the subject by applying these critically to the issues arising in the media. Students are able to consider the practical application of the feminist theories they are studying to contemporary issues. Students receive regular feedback on their understanding, application and engagement with the theoretical ideas covered in the subject. The feedback provides students with the opportunity to develop their ability to construct arguments, write clearly, and engage effectively with complex concepts.

Strategy 4: Preparation and support for writing theoretical essays

As part of the assessment, students are required to write an essay on a topic of their own choice that relates to gender and law. The aim of the essay is to identify a particular issue concerning gender and law and to apply the student’s choice of feminist legal theories to an analysis of the chosen issue. The essay requires in depth analysis of theory applied to a specific legal issue. This requires research of that theory and issue, communication of understanding, critical evaluation and application of the theory. A workshop on essay writing will be held mid-way through the subject during seminar time to assist students with their essay assessment task. Students are required to submit their essay topic and research proposal to the seminar leader during week 4. Students will receive written feedback that assists them to refine their chosen topic to ensure that it meets the objectives of the assessment.

Strategy 5: Applying research skills

Students undertake independent research relevant to class discussion and assessment tasks. Class discussion is based on a list of readings, some of which students are required to locate using the UTS Library and databases. The research essay requires students to identify and research a relevant legal issue, appropriate theory and secondary material on their own. Being able to use the library and legal databases to find relevant material is a key skill for a legal professional. Critical reading and analysis of judicial and scholarly material are also crucial skills in law. In this way, students develop and refine skills in identifying and synthesising relevant material and deploy it to make reasoned, logical, justifiable and persuasive written and oral arguments. They apply these skills in the written assessment tasks for which they receive feedback.

Strategy 6: Feedback

Detailed guidance as to the assessment criteria and the provision of timely feedback are an important part of the learning process. Students receive ongoing feedback in seminars from the seminar leader as well as their peers. Students should use class participation as a means to test their understanding of theories and their critical application of these theories to various legal examples. This feedback is available from week 2 and provides students with opportunities to develop their capacity to present oral arguments. Students receive written feedback on the first media journal early in the session via UTSOnline. Feedback provides students with the opportunity to reflect upon and develop their ability to construct an effective argument, write clearly and persuasively and communicate complex concepts. Students further develop these skills in the process of writing the further journal report and essay. Students will receive written feedback on their essays that will assist them in improving their research essay writing in the future.

Subject delivery

Teaching will be based on weekly 3-hour seminars. At times, guest lecturers will be invited to present on specific topics and engage in discussion with the students.

Content (topics)

  1. Introductory concepts
  2. Equality
  3. Intersections
  4. Gendered Harms
  5. Work/economy
  6. Violence
  7. Global subjects
  8. Family/relationships
  9. Subjects of the state
  10. Reproduction


Assessment task 1: Class Participation


This task is designed to allow students to practise and develop their critical analysis and oral communication skills, and to gain feedback throughout the subject regarding their understanding of core subject materials and themes. It also encourages collaboration with peers in vigorous class discussion and small group work.


This task addresses the following subject learning objectives:

1, 2, 3 and 5

This task contributes specifically to the development of the following graduate attributes:

4.0 and 5.0

Weight: 20%

1000 words equivalent


Students should be able to demonstrate:

  • sustained participation across the teaching period (SLO 3; GA 5);
  • engagement in class and evidence of preparation as demonstrated by discussion and examination of relevant theory in class (SLO 1, 2; GA 4, 5);
  • quality of preparation demonstrating evidence of critical thinking in relation to the theory and issues discussed in class (SLO 1, 2; GA 4, 5);
  • reflective, responsive and respectful attitudes towards other perspectives Participation demonstrates willingness to consider and engage with alternative viewpoints and, where relevant, to admit to lack of understanding or areas of confusion (SLO 3; GA 5).;
  • clarity of expression, use of appropriate language and a demonstrated ability to formulate responses in clear and succinct terms; and taking initiative in generating discussion, encouraging others to participate and raising pertinent questions, that contributes to a collaborative learning environment. (SLO 3, 5; GA 5)

Assessment task 2: Reflective Journal


The aim of this two-part task is to provide students with an opportunity to analyse the treatment of gender in the law as covered in the media using the theoretical tools covered in the subject.


This task addresses the following subject learning objectives:

1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

This task contributes specifically to the development of the following graduate attributes:

3.0, 4.0 and 5.0

Weight: 30%

Journal 1: 600 words (10%)

Journal 2: 1000 words (20%)


Students should be able to:

  • identify relevant news stories that highlight issues discussed in the subject (SLO 2, 4; GA 4);
  • critically apply the theories covered in the subject to the issues covered in the news stories (SLO 1, 2; GA 3);
  • articulate a clear and coherent argument that is logically structured and supported by evidence (SLO 3, 5; GA 5);
  • use clear written expression with correct grammar, punctuation and spelling (SLO 5; GA 5);
  • demonstrate accurate, consistent and complete referencing according to the AGLC that demonstrates judgment and responsibility in terms of academic integrity, in particular honest and complete acknowledgment of sources (SLO 5; GA 5).

Assessment task 3: Research essay


This task enables students to demonstrate research skills, critical evaluation of scholarly texts and to develop clear, well-reasoned and persuasive arguments.


This task addresses the following subject learning objectives:

1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

This task contributes specifically to the development of the following graduate attributes:

3.0, 4.0 and 5.0

Weight: 50%

2000 words


Students should be able to:

  • identify relevant theory and legal approaches and demonstrate insight into the issues raised (1, 2; GA 4);
  • critically analyse and evaluate theoretical propositions and arguments (SLO 3, 4; GA 3);
  • demonstrate coherent and logical analysis of the contemporary issues being discussed (SLO 4, 5; GA 3, 5);
  • demonstrate comprehensive and appropriate consideration of relevant authorities and literature (SLO 4; GA 4);
  • articulate a clear and coherent argument which is logically structured and supported by evidence (SLO 5; GA 5);
  • use clear written expression with correct use of grammar, punctuation and spelling (SLO 5; GA 5); and
  • use accurate, consistent and complete referencing according to AGLC that demonstrates judgment and responsibility in terms of academic integrity, in particular honest and complete acknowledgment of sources (SLO 5; GA 5).

Minimum requirements

Students are required to attend at least 10 out of 12 seminars (the essay writing seminar is compulsory) and complete all assessment tasks to pass this subject.

Required texts

Students will be provided with a reading list and links to the readings through the library via UTSOnline.

Recommended texts

Joanne Conaghan (ed) Feminist Legal Studies: Critical concepts in law (Routledge 2009), vols 1-4

Margaret Davies and Vanessa E. Munro (eds) A Research Companion to Feminist Legal Theory (Ashgate 2013)

Heather Douglas, Francesca Bartlett, Trish Luker and Rosemary Hunter (eds) Australian Feminist Judgments: Righting and rewriting law (Hart Publishing 2014)

Reg Graycar and Jenny Morgan, The Hidden Gender of Law (Federation Press, 2nd ed, 2002)

Jackie Jones, Anna Greer, Rachel Anne Fenton and Kim Stevenson (eds) Gender, Sexualities and Law (Routledge 2011)

Diane Otto (ed) Gender Issues and Human Rights (Edward Elgar 2013)

Carole Smart, Feminism and the Power of Law (Routledge 1989)

Margaret Thornton (ed), Public and Private: Feminist Legal Debates (Oxford University Press 1995)