Category Archives: Featured Colleague

Loujayn Alhokail: Male Guardianship in Saudi Arabia

Last fall, Postdoctoral Research Fellow Adelina Iftene kicked off what I hoped would be a series of guest posts featuring the work of  graduate and postdoctoral scholars at Osgoode who are engaging with feminist perspectives  (see Adelina’s post here).  In this second guest post, I’m very pleased to introduce PhD student Loujayn Alhokail, who studies the male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia through a lens of legal consciousness.

-Dana

Male Guardianship in Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia it is legally required that Saudi women, of all ages, must have male guardians. Under this legal rule, women are not allowed to travel, continue their education, or have access to certain medical procedures without the consent of their male guardians. Theoretically, women are allowed to have access to most of their other rights that are recognized by the state. However, in reality, the guardianship rule is one part of a multi layered system of laws, policies, and traditions that, combined, puts most of women’s legally recognized rights under the discretion of their male guardians. Such system includes policies such as the ban on women’s driving and gender segregation.

The male guardianship system is historically supported by traditional interpretations of Islamic texts that Saudi Arabia recognizes. Saudi Arabia, as an Islamic state, gains its political legitimacy from enforcing Islamic law, and thus, according to traditional interpretations, enforcing male guardianship over women. The reality is that the male guardianship system is based on very narrow interpretations of Islamic texts. Furthermore, the existence of the male guardianship system causes many negative effects for women. Some Saudi women are unable to access some of their basic Islamic law rights that are recognized by the state because of cultural obstacles that are supported by this system. Such rights include access to marriage, divorce, and inheritance.

Witnessing some of the recent changes that the Saudi state is leading in favor of women’s rights, and observing how the state is limited in its ability to enforce fundamental changes in favor of Saudi women’s rights, have encouraged me to analyze some of the historical and socio-political reasons underlying women’s disadvantaged status in the Kingdom. My current research focuses on the cultural context that leads to normalizing and legitimizing the male guardianship system through a legal consciousness lens. Most Saudi citizens shape their legal consciousness under a culture that explicitly supports the existence of the male guardianship system. In this research, I am particularly interested in the individual experiences that have shaped the legal consciousness of citizens who recognize the negative effects of this system. By analyzing these experiences, I am hoping to move the male guardianship system debate forward while aiming to unblock social change in favour of Saudi women’s rights.

Loujayn Alhokail 

I am currently a Ph.D. student at Osgoode Hall Law, York University. I earned my law degree from King Saud University, Saudi Arabia. I have since then completed my LL.M. in law at Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University where my Thesis looked at the use of marriage contracts to hasten the wheel of change in favor of Saudi women’s rights. I am hoping to use the knowledge that I gain in Canada to help strengthen legal education in Saudi Arabia.

 

 

Adelina Iftene: Women Aging Behind Bars – Villains or Victims?

AdelinaI am very pleased to introduce this guest post by Osgoode Postdoctoral Research Fellow Adelina Iftene.  Adelina’s research on elderly women in prison exposes the human struggles of a heavily stigmatized and largely unseen cohort at the intersection of age, gender and incarceration.  Her work ties in with other recent Osgoode projects looking at the treatment of criminalized women in Canada, such as PhD student Andrea Anderson’s research on police violence against Black women (see this Huffington Post article), and a new experiential learning course being developed by Professor Janet Mosher in collaboration with the Barbra Schlifer Clinic that addresses the  trend of women charged with domestic violence in Canada. My hope is that this will be the first in a series of posts featuring the work of graduate and postdoctoral researchers engaging with feminist perspectives at Osgoode!

-Dana

Continue reading Adelina Iftene: Women Aging Behind Bars – Villains or Victims?

Recently Published: “Nonpracticing Female Lawyers: Why Did They Leave and Where Are They Now?”

Check out this recently published paper, co-authored by Ellen Schlesinger, the current Student Success and Wellness Counsellor at Osgoode:

Ellen V Schlesinger & Lee Butterfield, “Nonpracticing Female Lawyers: Why Did They Leave and Where Are They Now?” (2015) 14:2  The Canadian Journal of Career Development/Revue canadienne de développement de carrière 47.

pic of EllenFrom the abstract:

Since a greater proportion of female lawyers leave the law profession, the present study investigated women lawyers’ decisions to transition from the practice, their feelings at the time they decided to leave, and the characteristics of their current careers. Thematic Analysis of the interviews with nine female participants highlighted the nature of legal work and family responsibilities as the main reasons participants left the legal profession. Most participants reported experiencing anxiety, depression or burnout at the point they decided to change careers. Participants described their transition into new careers, the characteristics of their new work, and reflected on their decision to leave. Implications for career counsellors are considered.

The full article is freely available online on the Canadian Journal of Career Development website.

Ellen worked as a lawyer and legal research consultant for 8 years prior to becoming a counsellor. She specializes in working with professionals, lawyers and law students. As a counsellor, she has worked at Vancouver’s Downtown Community Court, Sheway, and the Adler centre.  See her website here for more information about her impressive work experience and current practice.

Natasha Bakht on the Niqab

photo of Natasha BakhtUniversity of Ottawa Law Professor Natasha Bakht has recently published a pair of op-eds critiquing the view that religious face coverings such as the niqab are “anti-woman.” They are well worth a read and can be found here (Ottawa Sun), and here (TVO).

The federal ban on wearing a face covering while taking the Oath of Citizenship has become an important election issue in recent days, following a Federal Court of Appeal decision (Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) v Ishaq, 2015 FCA 194) which dismissed the government’s appeal from a Federal Court decision finding that the ban was unlawful (Ishaq v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2015 FC 156).

The case was brought by a Muslim woman named Zunera Ishaq who has competed all of the steps towards becoming a Canadian citizen except the ceremony.  Ishaq says that she is unable to comply with the requirement to remove her niqab at the ceremony due to her faith.

A few favourite quotations from the op-eds:

Zunera Ishaq, the woman at the centre of the niqab-citizenship controversy has specifically said “It’s precisely because I won’t listen to how other people want me to live my life that I wear a niqab. Some of my own family members have asked me to remove it. I have told them that I prefer to think for myself.”

A central tenet of modern feminism is that we listen to the voices of women. We do not assume that we know what is better for them. The prime minister has made up a fictitious threat to women’s equality, essentially suggesting that niqab-wearing women have been duped. But there are real issues involving vulnerable women that need our government’s attention. In the past two decades, more than 1,000 Indigenous women have gone missing or have been murdered in Canadian communities.

(Ottawa Sun)

We could learn some things from niqab-wearing women and their quiet, determined conviction. I imagine it is not easy to wear a full-face veil in a country where the prime minister distorts facts in order to rile up public resentment. But they have persevered in their daily lives, going to work, raising their children, explaining their choices when asked and speaking out, as all Canadians should when faced with discrimination.

(TVO)

Professor Bakht has written extensively on the rights of niqab-wearing women. Her work was cited by the Supreme Court of Canada in the 2012 case about a sexual assault complainant who sought to testify while wearing the niqab (R v NS, 2012 SCC 72). She’s also an Indian contemporary dancer and choreography, which is just so cool.

 

 

 

 

 

Introducing Dana Phillips: IFLS Graduate Student Coordinator

picture of Dana PhillipsThe IFLS has hired a graduate student coordinator for 2015-16! Dana Phillips  completed her J.D. at the University of Victoria, and articled at the National Judicial Institute in Ottawa.  She is currently completing her master’s thesis in criminal law and feminist legal theory at Osgoode Hall Law School, under the supervision of Professor Benjamin Berger.

In her doctoral work beginning this fall, Dana will continue to explore the themes of her master’s research under Professor Berger’s supervision, with an added focus on evidence and epistemology.

Her work with the IFLS will focus on connections between the IFLS and students (both JD and graduate students), social media and a few other projects.  Got ideas on what the IFLS could offer students? Let us know! More on these initiatives later – when the summer writing blitz slows down.