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IWD 2022 – Women’s legal landmarks

The FLAG research cluster marks this year’s International Women’s Day by showcasing selected women’s legal landmarks.

In principle, law applies equally to everyone – a notion so commonly conveyed through depiction of Lady Justice wearing a blindfold and a principle so firmly embedded in numerous legal instruments. However, as highlighted by the work of many feminist legal scholars, both law and justice are gender biased. This is reflected in the way women and women’s rights are positioned within the law (both historically and contemporarily) and impacts on women’s experiences within the legal system. It is therefore essential to challenge and #BreakTheBias of law – especially in its gendered forms.

Some of the women’s legal landmarks featured here were originally published in Women's Legal Landmarks: Celebrating the History of Women and Law in the UK and Ireland (edited by Erika Rackley and Rosemary Auchmuty).

If you are a student or a member of staff at the OU, you can access the whole book via the OU Library.

Alternatively, shorter versions of all landmarks featured in the book can be viewed here:

Content warning

Due to the nature of some of the issues within these legal cases, these pages may contain content that may be triggering or upsetting. 


DPP v Jonathan Cape and Leopold Hill (the Well of Loneliness trial), 1928

This case is a landmark because it marked a high point of legal and cultural visibility for lesbianism. It therefore set the tone of legal understandings of relationships between women for much of the twentieth century.

Sexism and misogyny in the legal profession: the case of Craven v BSB

The case of Craven v Bar Standards Board (“Regulator”) serves as a reminder of the persistent, permanent, and ever-present existence of the deeply rooted discriminatory and sexist mentality of the legal profession towards women.

R v Nimmo & Sorley (2014)

This case changed the perception of social media offences in England and Wales.

Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015

The Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015 (VAWDASV) is the first piece of legislation in the United Kingdom to explicitly and specifically address violence against women as opposed to ‘domestic violence’ generally.