Creator of landmark sex equality laws and crusader against sex trafficking to close out Assembly Series’ fall program

Catharine MacKinnon to speak on 'Trafficking, Prostitution and Inequality'


A principal architect of landmark sex equality laws in the United States will wrap up the fall 2013 programs of Washington University in St. Louis’ Assembly Series and the School of Law’s Public Interest Law & Policy Speakers Series.

Catharine MacKinnon, JD, PhD, who holds distinguished professorships at both the University of Michigan and Harvard University, currently is focusing on her work as an internationally successful litigator against sex crimes and human trafficking. Her talk, “Trafficking, Prostitution and Inequality” will be at noon Thursday, Nov. 14, in Anheuser-Busch Hall’s Bryan Cave Moot Courtroom.

The event is free and open to the public, and is co-sponsored by the Law, Identity and Culture Initiative of the School of Law; the Brown School; the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies program in Arts & Sciences; and the Association of Women Faculty, with support funding from the Office of the Provost.

One only has to summon visions of the television show Mad Men to understand that sexual harassment in the mid-20th century workplace was a fact of life for many women. Without legal recourse, women were vulnerable to sexual assault by their bosses and co-workers.

Recognizing the need for such laws, MacKinnon helped form a groundbreaking legal theory that sexual harassment and sexual abuse violate equality rights, a theory the U.S. Supreme Court accepted in 1986, thus pioneering the legal claim that harassment in the workplace constitutes actionable discrimination.

She is also known, with Andrea Dworkin, for developing the legal argument that pornography can be construed as a violation of one’s civil rights under the law.

The Nov. 14 lecture will address her more current focus on the litigation, legislation and policy development on women’s human rights in the international arena. In addition, she has served as special gender adviser to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and she successfully represented Bosnian survivors of sexual atrocities, winning legal recognition of rape as an act of genocide and securing a $745 million settlement on their behalf.

Information on spring 2014 Assembly Series programs will be available in late January by visiting here.