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Human rights of women


This course is engaging and fascinating. Many of the issues and examples you will explore on this course are contemporary human rights issues, such as female cutting (female genital mutilation), global domestic violence, rape and sexual assault and the role international human rights law and international criminal law can play in addressing these atrocities. This subject largely investigates international human rights law as it applies to women’s lives. It is important to consider the language used in this course - the focus is on women and women’s lives, the course is not called ‘gender and human rights law’, however you are encouraged to reflect on this and consider issues of gender and sexual violence that may affect not only women. Everyone is encouraged to take this subject, if you haven’t studied human rights before there will be enough material to work on which will allow you to gasp the topic.

Module A: Is the theory underlying human rights law male?


  • Introduction to Human Rights, what is Human Rights law?
  • Analysis of the history and philosophy of Human Rights discourse
  • Who is included in the “human” of Human Rights?

Module B: Feminist critiques of human rights


  • Feminist theories and critiques of Human Rights law
  • The problems and/or virtues of Human Rights law for women on a global scale
  • Feminist reconstructions of Human Rights, aiming to ensure the inclusion of women

Module C: Institutional framework, institutions and documents relating to the human rights of women


  • Examination of Human Rights documents and their institutional framework, including: the UN Charter, the “three Generations of Rights”, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women
  • International Courts, human rights and humanitarian law

Module D: Sovereign governments, non-state actors and individual responsibility for human rights violations: linking theory to practice


  • Consideration of the work of non-governmental organisations set up for/by women
  • Interrelationship between sovereign governments, non-state actors and a developing international jurisprudence on Human Rights law investigating how these impact on the lives of women
  • Case studies on sexual violence and rape including the International War Crimes Tribunals at The Hague
  • Reconnecting feminist legal theory to the Human Rights of women


Each module is assessed by a 45-minute unseen written exam.


Students are advised to attempt the modules in order but students may, if they wish, attempt modules in the following order: module C, module A, module B and module D or module C, module D, module A and module B.

How to apply

You can apply to study a module individually as a standalone unit or as part of a Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma or Master of Laws qualification. (In either scenario, they must be studied in order.)

These modules also contribute towards the following specialist pathways for Laws:

  • Family Law
  • Human Rights Law
  • Law and Development
  • Legal Theory and History
  • Public International Law
  • Public Law

Apply via Postgraduate Laws.

Study Material

Academic Co-ordinator

Professor Jill Marshall

Professor Jill Marshall

Professor Jill Marshall is a Professor of Law in the School of Law at Royal Holloway and a qualified lawyer in England and Wales (admitted as a solicitor 1992). Her work focuses on the relationship between law and living well, human flourishing, what it means to be free, and women’s human rights. This includes analysis of conceptions of privacy, freedom, care, belonging and recognition and how they relate to the purpose of law, including human rights and anti-discrimination law purporting to protect aspects of our personal freedom and identities. Current projects include analysing secrecy and confidentiality in pregnancy and childbirth, ‘children born of conflict’, freedom of religion, expression, identity and autonomy. She is the author of three books including Human Rights Law and Personal Identity and has written widely on these topics. She is Royal Holloway’s human rights research cluster lead for Global Challenges Research Fund work.