Home > Women > Summary notes on women and the legal system

Summary notes on women and the legal system

The summary note below can also be downloaded (pdf) here.

1) Historical disadvantages that women faced

  • Traditional roles and attitudes
    • characteristics and behavior: women were expected to meek and mild.
    • expected role: daughters, wives, mothers
    • seen as property of the patriarchal figure
  • Marriage
    • Consortium
    • Unito caro: the notion that when a woman is married to a man, she is joined together with him.  This has implications for property rights and legal rights to enter into contract.
  • Political and Legal Constraints
    • Not entitled to vote
    • Denied tertiary education
    • Restricted to certain professions deemed appropriate for ‘ladies’
    • Not allowed or required to do jury service
    • Women’s employment did not receive equal pay
    • Women did not receive social security benefits
    • Married women not allowed to enter into contracts or open bank accounts without husbands’ approvals.
  • Particular disadvantages for migrant and indigenous women
    • Migrant: Cultural alienation, lack of English
    • Aborigines: Cultural alienation, double discrimination

2) Landmark cases and legislation

  • Tertiary education
    • Ada Evans v Sydney University 1902
      • Women were not guaranteed admission into the legal profession
    • Women’s Legal Status Act 1918 (NSW)
  • Right to vote in state and federal elections
    • 1902 legislation, granting the right to vote to adult women
  • Women allowed to own property and enter contracts
    • Married Women’s Property Act 1893 (NSW)
  • Custody of Children
    • Guardianship of Infants Act 1934 (NSW)
  • Jury Duty
    • Jury Act 1947 (NSW): giving women the right to serve as jurors, but did not make it a compulsory.
    • Jury Act 1977 (NSW): making compulsory for women to to serve as juror if called upon (which is what men have been required to do for decades.)
  • Access to equality in education
    • Leves v Haines 1986 (Equal Opportunity Commission)
  • Equal pay for equal work
    • 1969 Equal Pay Case, but not for work performed mainly by women
    • 1972 Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, which removed restrictions
  • Sexual harassment
    • Hall & Ors v Sheiban 1989 (EOC)
  • Domestic violence
    • Crimes (Sexual Assault) Amendment Act 1981 (NSW)
      • made marital rape a crime
    • Crimes (homicide) Amendment Act 1981 (NSW)
      • allows for lesser penalties for women who kill violent men (battered women’s syndrome)
    • Crimes (domestic violence) Amendment Act 1982 (NSW)
      • introduced Apprehended Violence Order (AVOs)
  • Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)
    • Introduced no fault divorce, making it easier to divorce
    • Often useful for women who seek to escape unhappy or abusive marriages
    • allowed for non-financial contribution in property settlements
  • Discrimination
    • Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW)
      • protects women against discrimination based on sex, race, marital status, homosexuality, age
      • sexual harassment in workplace a crime
      • established NSW Anti-Discrimination Board, Equal Opportunity Tribunal
    • Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth)
      • A ratification of the CEDAW (Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, 1979)
      • Covers discrimination based on bender, marital status and pregnancy
      • protects access to educational services, accommodation, goods and services, clubs
      • Established Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC), now called Australian Human Rights Commission
  • Affirmative Action
    • Affirmative Action (Equal Opportunity for women) Act 1986 (Cth)
      • Principle of equal employment opportunity (EEO)
      • Established Affirmative Action Agency
      • programs for workplaces with 100 employees
      • improve access to promotion
      • the glass ceiling
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  1. Aakash
    September 23, 2010 at 11:03 am

    Yo, Kwokie. any hint as to the layout of the prelim paper (aside from the essay at the end)?

    • Aston Kwok
      September 23, 2010 at 12:49 pm

      My reply is probably late, but basically, multiple-choice, short answer on individuals and the law, a medium length answer on technology. you’ll need to read the question carefully, lest you write irrelevant answers.

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