Cambridge scholar to teach #MeToo and the Law at ANU

Dr Sarah Steele FRSA, FHEA
Dr Sarah Steele FRSA, FHEA is a senior research associate at the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge. 

I am looking forward to helping to promote discussion amongst students, practitioners and experts around the social and legal implications of discrimination and gender-based violence.

It’s the movement that has driven social change and given a voice to sexual violence survivors around the world. It’s reshaped our culture and even changed laws in some jurisdictions.

Now, the #MeToo movement is making waves in legal education with a new course at The Australian National University (ANU) College of Law.

Launching in Semester 2 2020, #MeToo and the Law (LAWS8403) is a postgraduate intensive to be taught 3-6 August by Dr Sarah Steele FRSA, FHEA, an internationally renowned public health and law scholar at Jesus College, the University of Cambridge.

"I am looking forward to leading the new ANU module on #MeToo and the Law, helping to promote discussion amongst students, practitioners and experts around the social and legal implications of discrimination and gender-based violence in all their forms," said Dr Steele.

The course, the first of its kind offered by an Australian law school, examines important legal issues surrounding the #MeToo movement.

Listen to ANU alumna Grace Souter and Juris Doctor student Molly Tredinnick discuss #MeToo and the Law on ABC Canberra here (segment begins at 44:07).

Founded in 2006 by social activist Tarana Burke, the movement gained global attention in 2017 when several female celebrities accused film mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault. He was convicted of rape and sexual assault by a New York jury on 25 February.

The course is available to students enrolled in the Juris Doctor, Master of Laws and recently launched Master of International Law and Diplomacy programs.

It covers legal concepts related to the #MeToo movement including spoliation, statutes of limitation, due process, wrongful termination, libel, non-disclosure agreements, backlogs of evidence, and sexual harassment and abuse in legal workplaces.

Dilan Thampapillai, a senior lecturer at ANU College of Law and expert on contracts and intellectual property, will teach into the course on the issue of non-disclosure agreements.

“I’ll be teaching contract law and non-disclosure agreements, specifically how an employer can’t use a contract to silence someone when you, or someone associated with you, violates civil or criminal law,” he explained.

Students will consider the theoretical underpinnings of the #MeToo movement, exploring violence, intersectionality, marginalisation and access to justice. Next, they will explore the role of social media in the movement and the legal issues raised by such activity.

Finally, they will consider how the legal profession itself has come into focus as a site of sexual harassment and abuse, raising issues for courts, law firms and the profession more broadly. This issue was examined in-depth at a 2019 seminar at ANU College of Law led by alumnus and visiting fellow, Kieran Pender (BA (Hons) ’16, LLB (Hons) ’18).

The #MeToo movement has raised important legal issues including due process, wrongful termination, libel, non-disclosure agreements and sexual harassment in the legal profession. Photo: Mihai Surdu/Unsplash. 

Dr Steele will also teach two other postgraduate electives in Semester 2 at ANU College of Law: Global Health Law (LAWS8582), 10-13 August; and Health Law and Bioethics (LAWS8237), 17-20 August.

#MeToo and the Law is one of several intensives taught by top international experts available to ANU College of Law postgraduate students. Others include Intellectual Property Law (LAWS8422), taught by Dr Henning Grosse Ruse-Khan from the University of Cambridge, and Cyber Warfare Law (LAWS8035), taught by Dr William Boothby, a retired UK Air Commodore.

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Updated:  10 August 2015/Responsible Officer:  College General Manager, ANU College of Law/Page Contact:  Law Marketing Team