Conference: Democracy and Gender Equality in the Muslim World

Friday, May 8, 2009 - 10:00am - Saturday, May 9, 2009 - 12:00pm

This conference will bring together intellectuals, activists, and dissidents from the front lines who are working for a conception of democracy that includes a strong commitment to gender equality. The conference will consider the relationship between democracy and women's rights and will debate which theories and strategies, both secular and religious, best promote these values on the ground. Participants will discuss factors thwarting the realization of democracy and women's rights, from the legacy of colonialism, to weak civil society institutions, political challenges from parties favoring unlimited foreign investment and from parties seeking to exacerbate ethnic and religious hostilities, to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Participants from the University of Chicago Law School will include Emily Buss, Mary Anne Case, Rosalind Dixon, Tom Ginsburg, Aziz Huq, Brian Leiter, Martha Nussbaum, Laura Rosenbury, and Madhavi Sunder.

Public Schedule

Friday, May 8, 2009 

10 a.m. Welcome and Opening Remarks (audio)

  • Madhavi Sunder, Visiting Professor, University of Chicago Law School 

10:15am-12:15pm: Islam and Gender Equality: Historical Reflections (audio)

  • Moderator: Aziz Huq, Assistant Professor of Law-Designate, University of Chicago
  • Ziba Mir-Hosseini, Global Law Faculty, NYU School of Law
  • Martha Nussbaum, Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, University of Chicago
  • A. Holly Shissler, Director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Chicago
  • Kristen Stilt, Associate Professor of Law, Northwestern 

12:15 p.m-1:30 p.m. Lunch break

1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.: Family Law Reform: Global Dimensions (audio)

  • Moderator: Emily Buss, Fried Professor of Law, University of Chicago
  • Zainah Anwar, Project Director for the Global Movement for Justice and Equality in the Muslim Family
  • Janet Halley, Royall Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
  • Havva Guney Ruebenacker, Harvard Law School, S.J.D. Candidate
  • Sylvia Vatuk, Professor of Anthropology, University of Illinois, Chicago

3:00-3:30 p.m.:   Coffee Break

3:30-5:00 p.m.:   The Relationship Between Democracy and Women’s Rights (audio)

  • Moderator: Tom Ginsburg, Professor of Law, University of Chicago
  • Mahnaz Afkhami, Founder and President, Women's Learning Partnership for Rights, Development, and Peace
  • Professor Yakin Ertürk, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women
  • Yasmeen Hassan, Deputy Director of Programs, Equality Now
  • Suad Joseph, Professor, University of California, Davis

5:30 p.m.  Keynote delivered in the Weymouth Kirkland Court Room by Iranian Journalist and Dissident, Akbar Ganji; introduction by Martha Nussbaum, Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, University of Chicago. (audio | video)

Title: "Solutions to the Problem of Gender Discrimination in Islam"
Summary:  Gender inequality in a variety of forms exists in all religious traditions. Contemporary Muslims in order to solve this problem and reconcile their religious heritage with the modern world have proposed various solutions to this dilemma. This talk will examine these proposed solutions as well as assess the strengths and weakness of these approaches.

6:30 p.m.      Reception 

For further information contact Professor Martha Nussbaum,, or Professor Madhavi Sunder,

Martha C. Nussbaum