Gender, Sexuality and Law - LAWS5960

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2023 to 2024.


The media is full of gender controversies: there's same-sex marriage (or now divorce) in California, violence against women pretty well everywhere, and a whopping 17% gender pay gap in the UK. What do you think about these issues? How do you think the law should respond?
This module focuses on how law interacts with gender and sexuality. It examines, and encourages you to discuss, the interconnections between law, policy, gender, and sexuality. We will start by focusing on key concepts in feminist and queer legal theory, such as heteronormativity (the dominance of heterosexual family and social structures). We will then relate these theories to current dilemmas: same-sex marriage; transgender rights; diverse family formations. Finally, we tackle the really big questions. Should we use the law to change the law? Are rights really any use? What is neo-liberalism and how does this relate to gender?


Contact hours

Total study hours: 150
Contact hours: 20
Private study hours: 130


All single and joint honours Law programmes

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods

The module will be assessed by 100% Coursework as follows:
Essay of 3,300 words (60%)
Presentation (20%)
Chairing another student's presentation (20%)

Reassessment methods

The module will be reassessed by a reassessment instrument of an essay for 100%.

Indicative reading

Brown, W (1995) States of Injury: Power and Freedom in Late Modernity, Princeton University Press.
Butler, Judith (1990) Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity London: Routledge.
Butler, Judith (1993) Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex London: Routledge.
Carabin, Sexualities, (Policy Press, 2004)
Davies, M., and Munro, V., The Ashgate Research Companion to Feminist Legal Theory (Ashgate, 2013).Dean, Mitchell (1999) Governmentality: Power and Rule in Modern Society, Sage.
Fortier, Anne-Marie (2008) Multicultural Horizons: Diversity and the limits of the civil nation Routledge.
Foucault, Michel (1991) 'Governmentality' in Colin Gordon et al eds The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality University of Chicago Press, pp 87-104.
Grabham et al (eds) Intersectionality and Beyond, Routledge.
INCITE! Women of Colour Against Violence (2007) The Revolution will not be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex South End Press.
Kenny, S.J. Gender and Justice Why Women in the Judiciary Really Matter (Routledge, 2013)
Puar, Jasbir (2007) Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in queer times Duke University Press.
Stychin, Carl (2004) Governing Sexuality: The Changing Politics of Citizenship and Law Reform Hart Publishing, Oxford.
Williams, P (1991) The Alchemy of Race and Rights, Harvard University Press.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.

This module builds on critical approaches to law summarily addressed in A Critical Introduction to Law. It develops key themes about law's social and political effects also addressed in Law and Political Theory and Law and Social Change.

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate a critical awareness of the complex relationship between law and dominant structures of gender and sexuality
2. Demonstrate a thorough understanding of the significance of feminist and queer theory for understanding the contemporary formation of
legal and political issues
3. Demonstrate a critical awareness of the significance of, critiques of, and alternatives to, rights-based claims by activists and other social
actors in gender and sexuality mobilising
4. Critically analyse the relationship between right-based claims, claims for sexual citizenship, neoliberal approaches to rights and social
inclusion, and the 'not for profit/industrial complex' within legal discussions of gender and sexuality
5. Critically identify the wide range of influences on legal discourse, policy, and law-making in relation to gender and sexuality, including
concepts from political theory, the social sciences, contemporary culture and the humanities, and dominant ideas from the sciences
6. Demonstrate a thorough understanding of the intersection of concepts of gender and sexuality with concepts of race, religion, disability
and class both historically and contemporaneously, and the effects of those intersections on legal theory, practice, and activism

The intended generic learning outcomes.
Students who complete the module successfully will be able to demonstrate the following legal abilities:

1. Demonstrate an awareness of, and sensitivity to, the economic, political and/or social implications as they arise.
2. Demonstrate interdisciplinary approaches to their studies.
3. Construct well-reasoned and well-structured arguments about theoretical and practical issues.
4. Deploy critical and self-reflexive modes of analysis in relation to concepts under consideration.
5. They will also be able to demonstrate the following general abilities:
6. Demonstrate the ability to efficiently utilise both legal and non-legal texts.
7. Demonstrate argumentation skills that relate to both legal and non-legal texts.
8. Critically engage with legal and non-legal sources.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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