Lessons from Voices: Empirical Findings on Domestic Violence and Legal Empowerment

By Dr. Julieta Marotta, Deputy Academic Director, MPP, UNU-MERIT/MGSoG

We approach the judicial system when facing problems. We assume that legal provisions and state organizations will serve us to find remedies to our problems. Violence against women is a global challenge. UNWomen estimates that 35% of women have experienced gender violence while less than 40% seek for help. For example, in the city of Buenos Aires (Argentina), a larger number of domestic violence complaints are being submitted daily by women.

Yet, how does access to justice legally empower victims of domestic violence? Legal empowerment uses the law as a tool for individual development, and affects legal provisions, providers, and victims. Qualitative empirical legal research is used to understand this given reality from the voices of actors.

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William A. Bull’s PhD Defense on “Optional Instruments of the EU”

WAB PhD Defense Invitation


  • Maastricht University – Minederbroedersberg (Aula)
  • 12 May 2016 at 14:00

Summary of the Thesis:

This rise of a particular kind of European Union legislation known as the ‘optional instrument’ is a novel trend in the context of EU law, and one that until now has not been comprehensively mapped or explored. This study examines and discusses existing and proposed EU Optional Instruments (OIs) in different fields of European law, including company law, intellectual property law and procedural law (such as the European Company, the Community Trade Mark and the European Small Claims Procedure, respectively), as well as contract law. The study identifies the core elements that define Optional Instruments of the EU and distinguish them from other kinds of EU legislation, especially so-called approximating measures. It provides a detailed overview of a total of twelve OIs in the aforementioned policy areas, charting their development, characteristics and (where appropriate) usage in practice. It investigates the case for and against the use of optional instruments as an alternative means of EU law-making, by analyzing and evaluating the principal arguments in the debate surrounding the use of this legislative method. Finally, it offers an explanation of the varied degree of ‘success’ of EU OIs already in existence, by identifying possible factors that play a role in this respect and testing the significance of these factors with reference to available empirical data. In doing so, the author provides a framework for future research into this developing phenomenon, as well as guidance for the elaboration of future Optional Instruments of the European Union.

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The Increasing Tension Between the Sharing Economy and Worker’s Rights: Law in an “Uberized” Economy


Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 04.18.30.pngAfter the most recent round of funding, the company behind the ride-sharing app, Uber, is now valued at over $50 billion, beating Facebook in the process to set a new valuation record for private, venture-backed startups.[1] While this news illustrates the strength of and the potential behind the sharing economy, the valuation also comes as a bit of a surprise given the number of legal battles that Uber is currently embroiled in around the globe.

For what it is worth, an unfinished section of my draft PhD thesis touches upon some of these legal battles so for the sake of soliciting some comments and possibly crowdsourcing the editing process, I am throwing out a tiny chunk of my unpublished draft here for your review.

Apologies in advance!

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How Do You Make Companies “Good”? Spank Them Less!

I was a little troublemaker in my more youthful days, and while I will spare the details here, suffice it to say that I have been on the receiving end of some good old fashion punishments (some corporal, some less biblical). As a result, from a relatively young age, I intuitively understood the concept of punishment as a mechanism to deter bad behavior. Psychologist B.F. Skinner refers to this as “operant conditioning”.[1] Operant conditioning – very generally speaking – is a method of behavior modification where good behavior is rewarded with positive reinforcements and bad behavior is punished through negative reinforcements.

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Sense and Sensibility (for Lawyers)

IMG_5707During the first lecture of the popular Comparative Contract Law course here at the Maastricht University Faculty of Law, MEPLI’s Jan Smits – the course coordinator – starts off by cautioning the first year students. He states that when one commences the study of law, they will inevitably start seeing the world through “legal goggles” where everything and anything we see could become a potential legal issue: A banana is no longer just a fruit, but a tort waiting to happen and every promise is a fundamental breach in disguise. Implied in his admonition is that as we embark on the study of law, it is important for us to maintain our sensibility and to hold on to our common sense with a kungfu grip.

The Harvard Professor v. The Chinese Restaurant

As we become more involved and intimate with the law, however, it is inevitable that some of us start to lose our grip on this notion of sensibility. A legal dispute that has received some viral attention recently illustrates this case and point.

The dispute is about a Harvard Business School professor (with a BA, JD and PhD all from Harvard) ordering some Chinese delivery. The restaurant’s website listed an old menu (with cheaper prices), which failed to reflect the increased price in their new menu. This meant that there was a $4 discrepancy between what the professor (who ordered online) expected to pay and what the restaurant charged him. The issue between the disputing parties, in essence, is about what the restaurant should do to remedy the situation.

My first question to the dear reader is, who do you sympathize with more: The “victim” (the Harvard law professor who was “cheated” out of $4 and is now on a vigilante crusade against the restaurant) or the “accused” (the family owned Chinese restaurant that is simply trying to make ends meet, but did not have the resources necessary to keep their website constantly up to date).

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#crossposting: Larry Catá Backer’s contribution to the MEPLI/HiiL workshop on CSR enforcement (Maastricht, 17 October)

I was fortunate enough to participate On October 17 in a “Workshop on research by the UM-HiiL-Chair on the Internationalisation of Law, the theme of which was “Enforcing Corporate Social Responsibility: Transforming voluntary corporate codes into private law obligations?”, held at the Theater aan het Vrijthof, Vrijthof 47, Maastricht, Netherlands under the sponsorship of the University of Maastricht, the Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law, and their UM-HiiL Chair.  The workshop description and program follow below. I spoke to the “Implications for the effective regulation of companies.”  My remarks, “A Lex Mercatoria for Corporate Social Responsibility Codes without the State?: On the Regulatory Character of Private Corporate Codes” also follows.
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