81802 - Gender and the Law

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

This course’s aims are: • to make students familiar with feminist and queer theories and critiques of liberalism and liberal legal systems to the extent that they incorporate biases relating to gender and sexual orientation; • to show them how seemingly neutral legal norms are shaped by particular conceptualizations of gender, sexuality and sexual orientation; • to introduce them to the debate concerning the partnership of feminism and multiculturalism and prompt them to reflect on what constitutes gender (in)equality in a culturally diverse world; • to make them familiar with the ways in which the law has contended with sexual difference, sexual orientation, gender-based stereotypes and the meaning of sexuality in European, transnational and international contexts.

Course contents

This course is designed to provide students with a critical understanding of the gendered structure of the law. Feminist and queer critiques of liberalism have challenged traditional ways of thinking about law and legal systems, and have called into question some of the fundamental tenets of liberal democracy, such as equality, neutrality, justice, non-discrimination and universalism. These theories have highlighted how the law has created and reinforced gender roles, and how gender- related social and cultural constructs have shaped the balance of power and privilege in a liberal society. In this light, we will address a wide range of both theoretical and institutional problems, as well as thematic issues, pertaining to different areas of law, including citizenship, reproductive rights, marriage, sexuality, and violence. We will highlight how legal norms reflect gender-based stereotypes and how these impact the lives of people of different genders and sexual orientations. We will also focus on the increasing difficulties that multi-cultural societies experience in conceptualizing gender equality, examining contentious issues such as the regulation of religious marriage, and other gender-related “cultural clashes”.

Module II will tackle these issues in the context of Muslim societies, with a particular focus on Islamic feminism and Muslim women theologians, family law and women's political participation in predominantly Muslim countries.


Course contents do not vary for Erasmus/Exchange students


The syllabus will be provided online

Teaching methods

Course requirements include regular class attendance, active participation in class discussion, a group presentation and one paper (BELOW YOU CAN FIND DETAILED INSTRUCTIONS CONCERNING YOUR PAPER). Students are expected to have read the assigned materials before each class. Class time will be divided between lectures and discussion. Each topic will be introduced by the instructor. It is a requirement that students attend at least 70% of class meetings during the semester. A student who does not meet this requirement will have to take an oral exam covering all materials in the syllabus in addition to completing the course paper.

Given the sensitive nature of most of the issues that we will tackle, it is critical that during class discussion each participant carefully chooses her/his words, and acts respectfully towards those who hold different views. Offensive utterances and behaviors will not be tolerated.

Words matters: there is a relationship between our language use and our social reality. This course should be an occasion to learn to use non discriminatory expressions and a gender-sensitive language. Please, avoid using masculine nouns and pronouns in situations where the gender of their subject(s) is unclear or variable, or when the group to which they are referring contains members of both sexes; alternate gendered pronouns and/or include both pronouns in each sentence by writing “her/his” or “her/him;” use gender-neutral nouns (e.g. "persons" instead of "men", "police officer" instead of "policeman" etc.). You might also want to use gender-neutral pronouns that do not specify whether the subject of the sentence is female or male. 'They', for instance, is a third-person pronoun that is gender neutral. Other gender-neutral pronouns include 'them', 'this person', 'everyone',. If you're not sure which pronoun to use, you can also use that person's name.

Assessment methods

Assessment methods

The final grade will be determined in the light of the paper (4000 words including footnotes but not including bibliography) (70%) and of participation in class and a presentation (30%). Please note that I check ALL papers for plagiarism and report all plagiarism cases to the Dean. The deadline for the paper is DECEMBER 10. Grades will be lowered by 2 points for each day of delay. Students will then be able to check for grade on the School website, and enroll for the "appello" of January or February. Students don't need to actually come to the "appello" as grades will be registered as long as you register.


NO STUDENT WILL BE ABLE TO SUBMIT A NEW PAPER OR A REVISED VERSION OF THE PREVIOUS PAPER. Students may by sign up for an oral exam (NOT BEFORE January of February) on a day on which it is officially scheduled by the Law School. Please note that no student will be able to schedule an exam or have a paper graded after their departure from Bologna.




Final Paper

The wordcount for the paper is 4000 (papers will be accepted so long as they are no more 10% below or above that figure).

Students will be able to choose among three topics, which will be made public early in October. You should use the coversheet provided on Online Materials. Papers should contain different Sections, with titles, starting with an Introduction. Papers should not consist in a mere juxtaposition of cases and/or legislation, and should be analytical. You are welcome to provide your personal opinion on your topic, as long as it relies on a robust analysis and on a solid bibliography. Papers should not simply list different countries' legal frames (e.g. Gender Quotas Italy, France, the UK and Belgium, with a description of the different laws regulating gender quotas in each country), and should rather engage in a fruitful comparison (comparing the rationale of different laws and different judicial approaches).

You should rely mainly on books, law journal articles and cases (NEVER on Wikipedia). In order to conduct your research, you should go to the Law School library and in case you have difficulties, schedule an appointment with a librarian who can teach you how to access databases. I expect a paper to have a bibliography consisting as a minimum of 20 entries.

Papers should be written in English (spelling must be consistent and can be American or British) in a clear, correct, idiomatic and comprehensible manner.

Papers should include a bibliography at the end, listing all cited works and cases, and should include footnotes (not endnotes). Papers with no footnotes and/or no bibliography will be given a failing grade. Below you see how to quote your entries according to the Chicago Manual of Style. You should strictly follow these rules, unless you prefer to quote according to the Oxford style (Oscola). No other citation system is accepted. Please bear in mind that your grade will be determined also in the light of how accurately you quote your entries.

How to quote different entries:



(up to two authors): Liam P. Unwin and Joseph Galloway, Peace in Ireland(Boston: Stronghope Press, 1990), 193.

(more than 3 authors): Charlotte Marcus et al., Investigation into the Phenomenon of Limited-Field Criticism (Boston: Broadview Press, 1990), 163-165.

(edited books): Anthony B. Tortelli, ed., Sociology Approaching the Twenty- first Century (Los Angles: Peter and Sons, 1991).


Cartright C. Bellworthy, “Reform of Congressional Remuneration,” Political Review 7 , no. 6 (1990): 93-94.



(up to two authors): Unwin, Liam P., and Joseph Galloway. Peace in Ireland. Boston: Stronghope Press, 1990.

(more than 3 authors): Marcus, Charlotte, Jerome Waterman, Thomas Gomez, and Elizabeth DeLor. Investigations into the Phenomenon of Limited-Field Criticism . Boston: Broadview Press, 1990

(edited books): Tortelli, Anthony B., ed. Sociology Approaching the Twenty-fi rst Century . Los Angeles: Peter and Sons, 1991.


Bellworthy, Cartright C. “Reform of Congressional Remuneration.” Political Review 7 , no. 6 (1990): 87-101.

For further clarification please visit the Chicago Manual of Style online at<http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html>


Assessment methods do not vary for Erasmus/Exchange students

Office hours

See the website of Susanna Mancini

See the website of Francesco Biagi