POL S 327 A: Women's Rights as Human Rights

Meeting Time: 
TTh 8:30am - 9:50am
THO 101
Joint Sections: 
LSJ 327 A
Rachel A. Cichowski

Syllabus Description:

POLS/LSJ 327:  Women’s Rights as Human Rights


 This course is an elective course for the comparative legal institutions and human rights track of the Law, Society and Justice Program.  There are no pre-requisites for the course.  The course is both interdisciplinary and comparative rather than having a United States focus. The purpose of the course is to expose students to the complex issues - social, political, economic and legal - that characterize women’s rights around the globe. Students will be asked to think critically about women’s rights while thinking comparatively about the varying domestic and international settings that can alter the meaning and practical application of these rights. The course will focus on various substantive areas of rights - from health rights to land rights - at the domestic level.  And we will also focus on women’s rights at the international level - in such areas as the issue of rape as a war crime and sex trafficking.

Further, students will be asked to conduct research on a women’s human rights topic of their choice and to present their findings to class participants. The course will provide students with an introduction to and assistance in utilizing the web as a tool for conducting research on women’s rights.


  • Analyze and examine global women's right issues
  • Assess policy approaches to women’s rights issues and provide policy recommendations
  • Critically assess policy approaches and solutions for global women's rights issues
  • Construct and conduct an independent research project on a global women's rights issue of your choice
  • Acquire and apply skills to share your research analysis including writing a Research Paper and designing and presenting a Research Presentation.

 Tentative Course Topics (subject to change)

 Lesson 1: Women’s Rights as Human Rights: History and Theory

This lesson introduces women’s rights as human rights: it’s origins as both a movement and a policy approach.  The lesson identifies the key historical developments of the women’s human rights movement and also a set of pre-requisite factors for attaining women’s human rights.  The lesson also describes the theoretical approaches to studying women’s human rights.  This discussion will provide a basis for questions and approaches we will continue to engage as we examine substantive areas of women's human rights throughout the course.

 Lesson 2: Women’s Rights as Human Rights: Legal Instruments

This lesson focuses on the international and transnational dimensions of women’s human rights.  In particular, we will explore international laws and conventions governing women's human rights and the movements that mobilized for these reforms.  The last fifty years is marked by significant international legal reforms supporting women's rights, yet Millennium Development Goal 5 of Gender Equality emphasizes there is still much work to be done.  This lesson enables us to critically reflect on past reforms so we might better understand the conditions necessary for future policy success. 

 Lesson 3:  Women’s Rights, Culture and Customs 

This lesson turns to the ways in which women, the status of women and women’s bodies are often a site for tensions between varying cultural and religious practices and customs.  We will explore the ways in which this shapes their experience with women’s rights.  As we begin to grapple with the power of culture and its effects on women's rights, we also can see the ways in which culture is not static.  This more dynamic understanding of culture will enable us to explore reforms and policy developments that will continue to raise the status of girls and women in societies throughout the world.  We will also examine Western concerns about women in Islam and I will emphasize the need to be wary of reducing women's issues, advocacy and identity to their religion.  There are many recent equality and justice trends in Muslim societies fueled by the work of feminists and this lesson provides the foundation to evaluate how this may empower women now and in the future.

Lesson 4: Women Rights and Health

This lesson examines the ways in which women's health and access to healthcare can affect the status of women's rights.  If girls are not surviving childhood and women are not surviving childbearing years, civil and political rights are meaningless.  

Lesson 5: Women’s Rights and the Environment

This lesson explores the connections between the environment, natural resource management, access to clean water and women's empowerment.  Building on our discussion in the previous lessons, we focus on the basic needs and infrastructure and how these provide the foundation for women’s attainment of rights and equal status.  Clean water and sanitation are inextricably linked to women's empowerment.  This lesson puts in stark relief the need to ground rights reforms firmly in a larger discussion of access to basic life needs. We cannot build one without the other.

 Lesson 6: Women’s Rights and Global Trafficking

This lessons focuses on the issue of global trafficking and the effects on women’s rights.  We will cover labor trafficking and sex trafficking and explore this phenomenon at the local, state and international level.  Trafficking victims are all around us, we just might not know it.  This lesson will provide the foundation to begin developing policies to bring change.

 Lesson 7: Women’s Rights in Times of War

This lesson will cover the ways in which war time has created rights violations that are particular to women.  The lesson is both historical and contemporary covering major innovations in international laws governing women's rights violations during war.  Gender violence has always played a role in wartime atrocities, but we are beginning to open the chapter on justice as both perpetrators and victims are better understood.

 Lesson 8: Women’s Rights and the Global Economy           

This lesson examines women in the global economy.  In particular, we will learn about the impact of global economic mechanisms such as structural adjustment programs have on the status of women.  We will also cover micro credit programs and artisan cooperatives critically examining the way in which they can empower, but also present new challenges for equality.  Together this lesson gives a basis for critically examining the global economic processes with an eye for women's rights.

 Lesson 9: Research Project and Presentations

This final lesson of the course will focus on the research that students have conducted throughout the quarter.  Social science analysis is an important component of this course and this gives all students the opportunity to share their findings and receive feedback as they complete the final research paper assignment.  Whether in the book stacks or online, your research projects brought together various sources and perspectives.  You will have the opportunity to showcase your research and also learn from the hard work of your classmates.  As this course has emphasized, the future of women's human rights is firmly connected to this sharing of perspectives and dissemination of new approaches and


Catalog Description: 
Women's rights in comparative perspective, focusing on varying settings that alter the meaning and practical application. Domestic level: areas including abortion politics to trafficking in women. International level: areas including equality claims before European supranational judicial bodies, rape as war crime in international law. Offered: jointly with LSJ 327.
Department Requirements: 
Comparative Politics Field
International Relations Field
GE Requirements: 
Diversity (DIV)
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
October 17, 2018 - 9:10pm