Christine Chinkin is an Emerita Professor of International Law and the Director of the Centre on Women, Peace and Security at the LSE. She is a barrister and a member of Matrix Chambers, having won the American Society of International Law, 2005 Goler T. Butcher Medal ‘for outstanding contributions to the development or effective realisation of international human rights law.’ Christine was also the Scientific Advisor to the Council of Europe’s Committee for the drafting of the Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.
Please tell us about your best day at work?
Recently it was having 5 members of the CEDAW Committee -the monitoring body for the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women – and the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women at the Centre for Women Peace and Security for a two day event – one public and one private. As well as their being great people, it symbolised two things for me – one substantive and one about the Centre. Substantively, it emphasised the continuum between gender inequality and women, peace and security and the continuum of violence women face; for the Centre it was an instance of what we see as a prime objective – bringing together a range of people, who work on violence against women from London and abroad, including experts, advocates, activists, academics, policy makers for discussion and constructive debate on combating violence against women. Then to cap it, we had a wonderful evening presentation at a public event by Commissioner Khariroh Ali from Indonesia on Violence against Women and Islam: dispelling stereotypes and telling truths.
What do you think is the greatest challenge for women looking to access justice in the UK?
I am not expert on access to justice in the UK but I think some of the problems are the same as elsewhere. These include obstacles within the justice system (the cost of justice, the limits on legal aid and assistance, the off putting nature of law and legal processes, lack of knowledge of law and rights), social and economic obstacles (women are often too burdened simply with day to day survival to expend energy-seeking legal recourse, feeling shame and stigma about for instance violence committed against them and fearing secondary victimisation)
We have asked practising lawyers about gender parity in the legal profession. What is your assessment of gender parity in academia?
This could be a long answer! There are now far more women in academia than when I started nearly 40 years ago, but they still remain at the lower ends of the profession; while the situation is improving among the profession there remains a large gap and women are still very much the minority in subjects such as engineering, economics. I don’t know the figures but my guess is that the current emphasis on STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths – is an exacerbating factor. Then there are issues such as fixed term contracts, access to research monies, mentoring, pressures of publishing, all of which have significant gender dimensions. At the LSE there is a Gender Equality Forum which keeps watch over these and other aspects of academic life from this perspective, and it always has a weighty agenda.
Who, or what, inspires you most and why?
Women who fight for their rights in the most adverse circumstances – their bravery, determination and stamina are, in many instances, awe inspiring.
What have you discovered during your career which you would have benefitted from knowing as a student?
A great deal more law! And that law is both to be challenged for its entrenching of inequality, but also used as a tool for fighting that inequality.
Join us on 19 March 2016 for our Annual Student Conference to hear Andrea Coomber, Director of JUSTICE, in conversation with Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty. Sign up now.