Women and the Law Program

Our Gender and Law Curriculum

Most schools boast one or two specialized classes in gender and law.  The Washington College of Law offers between twelve to fifteen classes each year, geared toward preparing students to take on the most pressing legal barriers to gender equality. 

Students in our JD program can take gender-related courses, clinics and journals as electives.

LL.M. students may matriculate in the Gender, International and Comparative Law LL.M. or Gender and Law Specialization within the Law and Government LL.M., or they may take gender and law electives to round out another area of interest. 

In addition to the LL.M. in Gender, International, and Comparative Law, students in the LL.M. in Law and Government may choose to specialize in Gender & the Law. To earn the specialization, students must complete at least 12 credits from approved courses in the Gender & the Law curriculum. Students will receive a certificate from the Law and Government Program indicating completion of the specialization.

SJD students may enroll in gender and law courses or may audit with permission of the instructor.

If you have questions about our curriculum, email us at womenlaw@wcl.american.edu

You can view our Gender, International, and Comparative Law LL.M. degree brochure here.

Advanced Legal Writing: Gender and Law (2 credits)

The course is for students who want to write a publishable-quality paper on a topic related to gender and law. Perfect for fulfilling your ULWR or LLM paper requirement. Students work through the process of selecting and researching a topic, developing a thesis, creating an annotated bibliography, drafting the paper, and, finally, revising. Students will engage in in-class exercises and weekly assignments to help them select an interesting and timely topic, develop a strong thesis, structure compelling arguments, write clear and lively prose, and get published. Students will receive extensive feedback from classmate and the instructor, as well as comment on other students’ work. Note that this upper level writing workshop is NOT an introduction to gender and law. The majority of course readings address the writing process, not feminist or queer jurisprudence per se.

Comparative Family Law (2 credits)

This seminar will explore the differences and commonalities in the conceptualization and legal treatment of families in different legal traditions.  It will focus on the relationship between blood and family, and sex and family, analyzing how different countries shape family law using those two concepts.  In addition to comparing how different countries or systems deal with different issues on family law, the seminar will also explore the role of international courts and international law in the shaping of family law in areas such as marriage and cohabitation, parenting, violence, and property, among others.

Domestic Violence  (2 credits)

This seminar will cover the theoretical, social, and legal implications of domestic violence. Students will examine the evolution of civil and criminal justice system interventions, the legal and psychosocial theory informing the state’s approach to domestic violence, and the future directions of domestic violence law and policy. We will consider the intersection of survivors’ experience of domestic violence with issues of race, gender, class, sexual orientation, and immigrant and indigenous status. The course will include simulation and practice exercises, court observation, written assignments, and a presentation to the class, which may be collaborative.

Gender, Cultural Differences and Human Rights (3 credits)

This course exposes students to the intricate protection of women’s rights at the UN and regional levels as well as its achievements and gaps. We will assess the notion of women’s vulnerability under human rights law, and conclude with a critical appraisal of the effectiveness of the international legal protection available to women and a reflection on current developments in women’s rights advocacy.

Gender, International, and Comparative Law (2 credits)

This course is an introduction to women’s rights and LGBTI advocacy in international and comparative legal contexts. We will explore recent developments and challenges in international organizations, such as the UN, World Bank or human rights treaty bodies. We will also highlight the diverse approaches taken by advocates for gender-based equality in countries and regions around the world.  Gender cuts across all substantive areas of the law and every aspect of legal systems- from the largest institutions to the most intimate of relations. Because we have to narrow it down somehow, this semester will explore in depth how international and domestic law address sexual and reproductive health, gender-based violence, women’s economic empowerment and development, caregiving and other domestic labor, political participation and power, and family life. Students will also develop expertise in the status of women and LGBTI persons in their home countries or states (within the US), and will share their findings with the group each week.

International Trafficking in Persons (3 credits)

This course provides an overview of international and U.S. law and policy responses to the problem of human trafficking.  We begin with an inquiry into the question of what trafficking is – a question that, despite the existence of legal definitions of trafficking – remains highly contested.  We will explore this question through three case studies, involving trafficking of women into the sex industry and domestic work, and the trafficking of men into forced labor.  We will then examine trafficking-specific international, regional, and U.S. laws, and explore the role of broader international and regional human rights regimes in addressing trafficking.  Having studied the role of law in the fight against human trafficking, we will step back and spend the second half of the semester examining the dynamics of anti-trafficking advocacy movement and assess its effectiveness in combating trafficking.

Labor Migration in the Global Economy (3 credits)

The course will examine and assess diverse law and policy interventions designed to maximize the potential benefits and minimize the related costs of labor migration for countries (or origin and of destination) and the migrants themselves. The course begins with an in-depth look at the patterns and practices of global labor migration into both formal and informal labor sectors, focusing on the emigration push and immigration pull factors that lead individuals to migrate and governments to facilitate and encourage the migration. Having established an understanding of the dynamics of global labor migration, the course examines international, regional, and national legal frameworks targeting migrant work, with an eye to identifying the gaps in coverage and implementation challenges, The course will include a strong gender perspectives on these issues, analyzing the causes of the increasing feminization of migration for work, including feminization of poverty and the social construction of demand for migrant women's labor.

Reproduction and the Law (3 credits)

The seminar will track regulation of human reproduction and sexuality in the United States, focusing on history, law and policy. The course will cover Supreme Court jurisprudence establishing the rights to privacy and reproductive freedom, as well as past and current legal and legislative efforts implicating reproductive freedom. The course will examine how reproductive freedom and oppression are experienced differently by different populations, as well as how the law has been used to regulate reproduction in different ways, including withholding public assistance and involuntary sterilization. The course will also look at how reproductive rights and justice are implicated in the current political environment.

Responses to International Law to Sex & Gender-Based Violence (2 credits)

Provides an overview and evaluation of international humanitarian law (IHL) and international criminal law relating to women and conflict. Specifically, the course will explore how women in times of conflict are treated under the various categories of the law of war, such as civilians, combatants, detainees, refugees, and internally displaced persons, but also question whether these are laws are sufficient to encompass the considerable variety of ways women are affected by conflict. In particular, the course will examine feminist critiques of IHL and consider the links between conflict and issues such as women's inequality and inequitable economic and social conditions, and query whether these conditions lead to new and different types of discrimination against women in times of conflict. The course will also look at the developing jurisprudence dealing specifically with gendered violence from the ad hoc international criminal tribunals  for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia and the "hybrid" or internationalized courts, as well as the provisions specifically relating to women in the Rome Statute and the practice of the International Criminal Court in implementing these provisions. The course will also examine from a feminist perspective, the consequences, both intended and unintended, of the prosecution of sex-based and gender-based crimes by these courts and tribunals.


Women and International Human Rights (2 credits)- Summer Only, Offered in English and Spanish

This course addresses the challenges of achieving the international legal protection of the human rights of women. It reviews how international and regional human rights convention, especially the American Convention on Human Rights, have been applied to prevent, punish and remedy the violations of women’s rights in different tribunals. It examines how the norm of the prohibitions of all forms of discrimination against women has been applied, and how it might be more effectively applied in particular sectors. It explores how feminist theories, empirical data, and narratives might be used to expose women’s experiences of injustice. The course aims to go beyond a formalistic understanding of international legal obligations in order to examine different approaches to fostering compliance with the human rights of women in different cultures and religious traditions.


Important Deadlines

International Student Fall application deadline (LL.M.)
Domestic Student Fall Application Deadline (LL.M.)
To apply for our Gender, International, and Comparative LL.M. degree, please visit the Office of Graduate Admissions website here
Apply for our JD programs with the Office of Admissions here

To apply to our SJD program, visit the Office of Admissions website here