top of page
  • Writer's pictureLegal Outreach Project

Feminism in Law; Patriarchy in the Courtroom

Updated: Mar 24

Written by Hira Ahmed

Discrimination in the legal system has long been an issue, particularly in regards to race, gender and socio-economic status. In ‘Misjustice: How British Law is Failing Women’, Helena Kennedy explores how women are treated throughout the legal system, in regards to the treatment of women working in the legal industry, the treatment of women on trial and the treatment of women in prisons. The book, published in 2019, is intended as a follow up to Kennedy’s earlier book, ‘Eve Was Framed: Women and British Justice’, published in 1993 on the same topic - throughout, Kennedy weighs up evidence, including many examples of real cases, surrounding the treatment and discrimination of women, to determine how it has changed since then.

Kennedy breaks down her investigation by looking at different types of crime, such as rape and domestic violence cases, and the victim blaming that is still prevalent within these cases. She also looks at the disadvantages faced by women from the BAME community, including the fact that black women are more likely to be refused bail or given longer sentences than white women, as well as the effect that communicating through a translator can have on testimony in the courtroom.

Kennedy’s ultimate conclusion is that though things have improved since 1993 - she references the positive impact of the Human Rights Act on the law throughout the book - changes still need to be made for women in the legal system.

Kennedy’s discussions throughout the book highlight the importance of challenging discrimination in the legal system, and the reform that is still needed. Although big steps have been taken, for example the recognition of coercive control as a form of domestic abuse in the Serious Crime Act 2015, it is clear that there are still issues that need tackling, including the large culture of victim blaming in sexual assault cases, the difficulties women often have in being taken seriously when reporting domestic situations and the racism still present both within the industry and courtroom.

One of the key takeaways, is not only the need for reform in the way that women are treated in many of these cases, but also the need for more female practitioners - though the proportion of female solicitors has increased to 53% in 2015 according the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), they report that there are still fewer women in senior positions within firms. It is also reported by the SRA that though the proportion of BAME solicitors has increased, the proportion is lower at larger firms. Increasing the diversity within the legal industry could be considered a key part of improving the treatment of women and BAME communities in the courtrooms; by having solicitors and barristers who identify with defendants, there may more understanding of gender and cultural issues within the courtroom.

Overall, Kennedy truly gives a wider understanding of the issues faced throughout the legal system by women, giving a deeper understanding of the legal system and its flaws as a whole. Her urge for reform does not undermine the progress that has been made since 1993, but highlights the importance of continuing the process of change, to achieve a just system.


Hira Ahmed is a second year Law student attending King’s College London. She is aiming to pursue a career as a solicitor in the future, and has a specific interest in IP law.

12 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page