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German Law Journal Student Editors Convene Symposium on Sexual Violence and the Law The event will bring together scholars from around the globe to consider the problem of sexual violence and examine how law can help.

RangitadeSilvadeAlwis_0001-800x533 German Law Journal Student Editors Convene Symposium on Sexual Violence and the LawProfessor Rangita de Silva de Alwis will deliver the keynote address for the German Law Journal Symposium.

On Friday, Oct. 6, the German Law Journal will host a day-long symposium at W&L Law titled “Sexual Violence and the Law.” The free event will begin at 10:00 a.m. in the Millhiser Moot Court Room, Sydney Lewis Hall.

In explaining the purpose of the event, student organizers note that a major function of the law is to prevent the use of violence in society, largely by giving the government a monopoly on the use of physical force. But that promise of security has never been perfectly realized.

“We are living under a darkening cloud of unsanctioned violence, in homes, at schools, in workplaces, and in battle zones. This especially involves sexual and gender-based violence, which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees defines as ‘any act that is perpetrated against a person’s will and is based on gender norms and unequal power relationships, whether that involves physical, emotional, or psychological force.’  Men can experience sexual violence. But, as the news-cycle repeatedly confirms, it is women, transgender, and gender-non-conforming people who are particularly vulnerable to this kind of harm.”

The symposium will bring together scholars from around the globe to consider the problem of sexual violence more deeply and to reflect theoretically and from a comparative perspective on how law can help to combat the problem.

“This profound conversation builds on a recent special issue published by the German Law Journal,” W&L Law Professor Russell Miller explained.  Miller, the J.B. Stombock Professor of Law, is the co-founder and co-Editor-in-Chief of the German Law Journal.  “The special issue focused on sexual violence and criminal law, but I’m extremely proud of how the student editors expanded the perspective on this topic to include new voices and new concerns.”

One new issue that demanded the students’ attention as they planned the symposium was the reports of sexual violence from the Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine. The program will feature a keynote lecture titled “Reconceptualizing Sexual Violence in Theaters of Conflict” from Professor Rangita de Silva de Alwis.  Prof. de Silva de Alwis, a globally recognized expert on women’s rights, is Associate Dean for International Affairs at the Penn Carey School of Law where she directs Penn’s Global Institute for Human Rights.  De Silva de Alwis is a member of the treaty body to the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

In addition to the keynote lecture, the symposium will feature two panel discussions.  The first panel, to be moderated by W&L History Professor Sarah Horowitz, will consider the theoretical challenges raised by the law’s attempts to prevent sexual violence.  The second panel, to be moderated by W&L/GLJ Global Teaching Fellow Professor Clara Rigoni, will reflect on legal frameworks for combatting sexual violence around the world.  Panelists will participate in-person or virtually from six countries, including the U.S., U.K., India, Germany, Switzerland, and Sweden.  Topics covered will encompass the conceptualization of consent, as well as rape law reforms in various countries.

“The students have done an amazing job preparing this program,” said Miller.  “They dug into the theory and doctrine on a broad scale, but they also made the effort to ensure that our community’s engagement with this sensitive issue is thoughtful and safe.”  The student editors consulted with W&L’s Counseling Services and they arranged to have the local Project Horizon group on hand during the program.  Project Horizon provides confidential support and services to women victims of violence in Rockbridge County.

The German Law Journal is the world’s leading forum for the publication of legal scholarship from a transnational perspective, including comparative law, European law, and international law.  The Journal pioneered the online and open-access format that has come to be the standard for the publication of legal scholarship.  Now, publishing in partnership with the prestigious Cambridge University Press, the German Law Journal is ranked as the #1 journal in the world in the area of European law by the Google Scholar Journal Rankings.  W&L law students have assisted with the editing, production, and management of the Journal since 2008.  Some of the W&L/GLJ student editors publish notes in this respected, peer-reviewed journal.  The Journal also provides a framework for study and work opportunities for W&L students in Europe.