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Human Rights in Asia: Current Issues (LAWS90122)

Graduate courseworkPoints: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2018
Subject levelGraduate coursework
Subject codeLAWS90122
Availability(Quotas apply)
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

This subject examines current human rights issues in Asia, with particular attention to East and Southeast Asia. Human rights is a deeply contested concept, particularly in the countries of East and Southeast Asia where there is ongoing debate over which rights are to be recognised and the ways in which these rights might be given effect.

In this subject we will investigate the way human rights issues are named, framed, and contested within – and sometimes across – Asian states. We will examine domestic institutions, rules, policies and practices concerning human rights, and investigate how rights claimants and their advocates (including lawyers and civil society groups) seek to challenge and broaden the state understandings of human rights, which often give priority to security and development. All subject materials will be in English and no knowledge of an Asian language is required, but of course students are encouraged to use non-English research materials as appropriate.

Principal topics for class discussion will include:

  • The ongoing debates about the meaning and scope of human rights
  • Domestic institutions for the promotion and protection of rights
  • Mobilisation for human rights: the role of civil society and the legal profession
  • Struggles over socio-economic rights
  • Environmental rights claims in developing states
  • Gender and sexuality rights
  • Expressive rights and control of the media
  • The contested meanings of freedom of belief

Student research papers may investigate additional or different topics.

Intended learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete this subject should:

  • Possess an integrated and advanced understanding of the tensions between rights, development and security within select Asian jurisdictions
  • Possess a deep and sophisticated understanding of the influences of political, social, cultural and economic factors upon the recognition of human rights in specific Asian jurisdictions
  • Have a sophisticated understanding of the capacity of domestic institutions to defend, enforce or extend human rights in specific jurisdictions, and the reasons for difficulties they encounter in doing so
  • Have a detailed and advanced understanding of role and limits of civil society organisations and other non-state actors in engaging the state over human rights, and be able to critically asses the reasons for their successes or failures
  • Possess the cognitive and technical skills necessary to work with a high degree of autonomy, and to produce both critical and creative ideas concerning the tensions between competing rights claims, and between rights claimants and specific Asian states
  • Have developed the communication skills to clearly and convincingly articulate complex information and lucidly argued propositions about human rights issues in specific social, cultural and legal contexts to specialist audiences.

Eligibility and requirements





Non-allowed subjects


Recommended background knowledge

It would be most helpful for students to have an understanding of the basics of International Human Rights Law.

Applicants without legal qualifications should note that subjects are offered in the discipline of law at an advanced graduate level. While every effort will be made to meet the needs of students trained in other fields, concessions will not be made in the general level of instruction or assessment. Most subjects assume the knowledge usually acquired in a degree in law (LLB, JD or equivalent). Applicants should note that admission to some subjects in the Melbourne Law Masters will be dependent upon the individual applicant’s educational background and professional experience.

Core participation requirements

The University of Melbourne is committed to providing students with reasonable adjustments to assessment and participation under the Disability Standards for Education (2005), and the Assessment and Results Policy (MPF1326). Students are expected to meet the core participation requirements for their course. These can be viewed under Entry and Participation Requirements for the course outlines in the Handbook.

Further details on how to seek academic adjustments can be found on the Student Equity and Disability Support website: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/student-equity/home


Additional details

  • Class participation (10%)
  • 7,500-9,000 word research paper (90%) (3 October) on a topic approved by the subject coordinator

A minimum of 75% attendance is a hurdle requirement.

Quotas apply to this subject

Dates & times

  • July
    CoordinatorsSarah Biddulph and Amanda Whiting
    Mode of deliveryOn Campus — Parkville
    Contact hours24-34 hours
    Total time commitment150 hours
    Pre teaching start date13 June 2018
    Pre teaching requirementsThe pre-teaching period commences four weeks before the subject commencement date. From this time, students are expected to access and review the Reading Guide that will be available from the LMS subject page and the subject materials provided by the subject coordinator, which will be available from Melbourne Law School. Refer to the Reading Guide for confirmation of which resources need to be read and what other preparation is required before the teaching period commences.
    Teaching period11 July 2018 to 17 July 2018
    Last self-enrol date18 June 2018
    Census date11 July 2018
    Last date to withdraw without fail24 August 2018
    Assessment period ends 3 October 2018

Additional delivery details

This subject has a quota of 30 students.

Enrolment is on a first come, first served basis. Waitlists are maintained for subjects that are fully subscribed.

Students should note priority of places in subjects will be given as follows:

  • To currently enrolled Graduate Diploma and Masters students with a satisfactory record in their degree
  • To other students enrolling on a single subject basis, eg Community Access Program (CAP) students, cross-institutional study and cross-faculty study.

Please refer to the Melbourne Law Masters website for further information about the management of subject quotas and waitlists.

Further information

  • Texts

    Prescribed texts

    Specialist printed materials will be made available free of charge from the Melbourne Law School prior to the pre-teaching period.

  • Available through the Community Access Program

    About the Community Access Program (CAP)

    This subject is available through the Community Access Program (also called Single Subject Studies) which allows you to enrol in single subjects offered by the University of Melbourne, without the commitment required to complete a whole degree.

    Entry requirements including prerequisites may apply. Please refer to the CAP applications page for further information.

Last updated: 29 March 2019