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Going global

January 28, 2011 Leave a comment

The Gender Justice Observatory is the rare site that includes actual case law.  Its focus, as its name suggests, is on women and the law, ranging from reproductive rights to discrimination to violence against women.  It has a fairly extensive database of cases having to do with women’s issues from mostly international courts, like the European Court of Human Rights, and some national-level courts.  Most cases are accompanied by a brief summary of the case holding along with a pdf file of the decision itself.   The summary of the case can be very helpful because it saves a lot of time so that lawyers don’t have to read through the entire case in order to find out if a particular decision will be helpful or relevant or not.  It’s possible to search or sort through the cases by the deciding court, the country, the particular issue (e.g. abortion), or the particular law/statute/treaty that the case is based on (e.g. the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.)

The drawbacks of the site are several.  The site itself is a little frustrating to use because the search function is rather limited, at best, and requires a lot of browsing rather than simply entering in any keywords.  The case summaries are usually in English but the actual decisions are in the native language of the country, which can limit the site’s usefulness as a resource for lawyers in the U.S.   It is also rather heavily Euro-centric in the case law it has, although that may have more to do with the fact that it is significantly easier to find cases from European countries/courts than it is in other parts of the world.   (The site also doesn’t include any cases from the U.S.)

There is a plethora of other websites dealing with international women’s rights and many places where lawyers can find the main human rights documents, like the texts of the various international Conventions on human rights, but finding case law is much harder.  The Gender Justice Observatory, for all its flaws, is one of the few case law sources out there.   And, on a positive note, some of its gaps and omissions are filled in by the Legal Resources page of Cornell’s very own Avon Center, although the Avon Center is somewhat more narrowly focused on violence against women specifically, where the Gender Justice Observatory is broader in its scope.  Put together, both websites provide a very useful resource for anyone interested in researching the law of international women’s issues.