Gender & Law

Gender & Law

In parallel to the projects on the feminization of the legal profession and academy, a forthcoming strain of research investigates the relationship between gendered inequalities and the law. I’m particularly interested in the role of law in creating gendered enclaves and assumptions while seemingly being protective and emancipatory in its approach. Gendered tropes, of course, have always been central to dictating the course of judicial decision-making. And, as other feminist scholars have suggested, even in cases where gender has not directly been called into question, lawmakers and interpreters alike invoke its implicit framework. Across sites, this line of research attempts to unpack these textured processes that laws and its resultant social institutions are mired in.

+ Key Projects

In a forthcoming book project with Kalpana Kannabiran (currently under contract with Zubaan Books), we trace the gendered politics of India’s privacy jurisprudence, especially in the context of the recent Supreme Court judgment of Puttaswamy v. Union of India and others. Using a critical historical analysis, we unpack the impact, usefulness, and potential threat to using a constitutional privacy framework for enabling individual freedoms (e.g., with regards to the gendered body and sexual personhood) and collective institutional regimes (e.g., the hetero-patriarchal family).

A second project analyzes the temporality of global social movements for legitimizing the rights of sexual minorities. Using a comparative framework, this project problematizes the assumption that “progressive countries” have better LGBTQI laws from the perspective of countries like Pakistan and India where trans and third-gender friendly laws are adopted and championed despite differently regressive LGB legal regimes. In doing so, it sheds light on the culture of legal rights in these comparative political economies and the ways in which historic rights consciousness around the individual and collective social contracts may influence legislative and legal change.

A third emerging field of scholarship pays attention to the relationship between transnational migration and family law. Following recent fieldwork on the families of Gulf migrant workers in Kerala, India, this project aims to reveal the complicated implications these labor processes have for transnational families, especially against the increasingly complicated backdrop of conflicting secular and personal laws that govern them. Particularly, I am interested in the role of law in the queering of the traditional family contract. As families around the globe begin to look increasingly different, how does law offer them adequate power and protection?



Ballakrishnen, Swethaa. 2018. "Ratna Kapur: Gender, Alterity, and Human Rights: Freedom in a Fish Bowl." | Feminist Legal Studies Vol. 27

Ballakrishnen, Swethaa and Kalpana Kannabiran. 2018. Gender Regimes and the Politics of Privacy: Constitutional Negotiations of Sociality in India. | Under contract at Zubaan Books

Ballakrishnen, Swethaa and Rupali Samuel. 2018. “India’s Women Legal Academics: Who They Are and Where You May Find Them.” | Gender and Careers in The Legal Academy. Eds. Ulrike Schlutz, Gisela Shaw, Margaret Thornton, and Rosemary Auchmuty. Hart Publishing. In Press

Research & Empirical Analysis of Labor Migration (REALM). 2016. Co-PI with Hannah Brückner, Migration and Kerala’s Gender Paradox ($31,820)