Activists, jurists and academics from 9 European countries discuss opportunities and challenges at the International Institute for the Sociology of Law in Oñati

Institute for the Sociology of Law in Oñat

05 June 2023

Bilbao Campus

On 25 and 26 May, an international workshop entitled "Feminist Engagements with the Law in Contemporary Europe: Perspectives from Activism, Legal Professions and Academia", co-organised by the University of Deusto was held in Oñati.

The workshop proposal was selected following a competitive call launched by the International Institute for the Sociology of Law in Oñati, which holds annual workshops on topics related to the sociology of law.

Elena Caruso (Kent Law School), Elena Ghidoni (researcher at the University of Deusto’s Human Rights Institute) and Stefanie Pletz (Huddersfield Law School) were in charge of organising the roundtable, which brought together feminist experts from different professions (lawyers, judges, activists and academics) and backgrounds (Germany, Spain, France, England, Italy, Latvia, Poland, and Chile, among others).

The roundtable was opened with a presentation by Justyna Wydrzynska, an activist from the Women Help Women organisation.

The two working sessions addressed the issue of the relationship/tension between law and feminist demands, particularly in relation to reproductive rights and gender-based violence. The difficulty of "translating" certain transformative concepts (such as intersectionality, gender perspective, or the fight against stereotypes) into legal language was pointed out from different perspectives, both as regards law teaching and the law-making process, and the application and interpretation of norms from a gender perspective. The need to build transnational alliances to prevent the criminalisation of women seeking protection of their rights and the women defenders and activists who support them, as well as all human rights abuses, was also highlighted.   

The difficulties that can arise when advancing feminist demands in legal systems of different traditions (civil law and common law) were also addressed.

Rosemary Hunter, Dean of the University of Kent Law School, ended the roundtable with a presentation on the challenges ahead from the perspective of academia, the legal professions and activism.

The outcome of the roundtable discussion will be published in an open access publication.