Girlie Stands Up

Ann Arkie, May Hemm and Kay Oss

On Top of the Hill

Check out the papers from the Australian Women Lawyers (‘AWL’) 6th National Conference held in Perth in April 2016. Topics include, ‘Unintended consequence of government “metadata” legislation that enables domestic and family violence’ by Kylie Hillard, and gender equity in the law. AWL promotes the advancement of women in the legal profession and works to prevent discrimination against women and to make the legal system and the administration of justice more responsive to women’s needs. Its Patron is the Honourable Chief Justice Diana Bryant AO QC who told delegates in her Keynote Address, ‘In contemplating what this keynote should focus upon, I was struck by the thought that, as I approach my retirement (which is 18 months away), I feel as though I have quite a unique view of the Australian legal landscape and the place of women in it. From the top of the hill (not over it!) I can see both forward and back. I can see the past we have endured, the triumphs we have celebrated and the current challenges that will shape our futures’. Yes, women in the law have come a long way and have overcome many hurdles but there is still a long way to go, at home and internationally, before equality becomes a reality. Family, domestic and other violence, gender discrimination, unfriendly to families working conditions and men’s club attitudes still prevail in law and society in general.

Women in Law Awards

The annual Lawyers Weekly Women in Law Awards are now open for submissions. The awards recognise ‘the achievements of women who have challenged, influenced or changed the practice of law in Australia’ — across the legal sector including lawyers, students, academics and support staff. The Diversity Firm of the Year category recognises firms that have committed to the inclusion of women across their operations. ‘The winners will represent high achievers from the legal sector, from the most senior to the stars of tomorrow.’ Winners are to be announced at a gala black tie event at the Sofitel Melbourne on 27 October 2016. Nominations may be made via the Women in Law Awards website — https://www.lawyersweekly.com.au/womeninlaw.

Feminism Chinese Style

In March 2016 China passed its first national legislation criminalising domestic violence. For at least 10 years, supporters fought hard to get this law passed in response to a reported 25 per cent of Chinese women experiencing domestic violence but with only 40 000 to 50 000 complaints being registered annually. (Chen Tingting, ‘China’s First Law Against Domestic Violence’ — http://asiafoundation.org/2016/01/20/chinas-first-law-against-domestic-violence-its-no-longer-a-private-matter/.) China has also relaxed its one-child policy to allow all families to have two children. Unfortunately many women are too poor to have two children. China’s record on equality for women has been patchy with five young feminist activists arrested and bailed in March 2015. The criminal charges against them for planning an anti-sexual harassment protest ahead of International Women’s Day have still not been dropped. In early 2016 the women’s advocacy group Beijing Zhongze Women’s Legal Counseling and Service Centre was closed by authorities without explanation. 

Women invade IR

K&L Gates partner Christa Lenard has told Lawyers Weekly (1 August 2016) the number of women working in Industrial Relations in the legal profession and generally has recently increased. Lenard noted IR was traditionally a male-dominated area but its juridification has made it more of a legal discipline, and women with law degrees are choosing IR as an alternative to traditional legal practice. Lenard says IR ‘is a great field for somebody with a law degree because you can cut your teeth on so many interesting issues…’. Lenard is also quoted as saying women bring different skill sets to IR which employers want.

Dishonourable killings

The brother of Qandeel Baloch murdered her with drugs and strangling and has sought to justify his actions as being an honour killing for which he has no regrets. Qandeel was a social media star who posted risqué messages to try to change ‘the typical mindset’ of people in Pakistan. Qandeel, whose real name was Fauzia Azeem faced frequent misogynist abuse and death threats but refused to be cowed by them. Qandeel’s supporters have called for legislation to prevent the killings and to stop families from being able to ‘forgive’ the killer. More than 500 people, nearly all of them women, die in Pakistan each year from killings carried out by family members for bringing ‘shame’ on them. Qandeel had told her followers, ‘As women we must stand up for ourselves. As women we must stand up for each other’ (17 July 2016, Sydney Morning Herald). See also Honour Killings by Region on the Honour Based Violence Awareness Network — http://hbv-awareness.com/regions/.

ANN ARKIE, MAY HEMM and KAY OSS are feminist lawyers

(2016) 41(3) AltLJ 208
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