Seeking ‘A Fair Field’ for Women in the Legal Profession: Pioneering Women Lawyers from Burma of 1924-1935

Li Chen, Yi Li

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Abstract

The enactment of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act in 1919 tore down a significant gender barrier and opened doors of the once exclusively male legal profession in the United Kingdom. This article focuses on its early beneficiaries in Burma, a less studied colony of the Empire in the late 1920s and early 1930s. It traces the first four women barristers from colonial Burma, and their odyssey to gain tradecraft and skills through seeking legal education at the Inns of Court in London. It evaluates their performances at the Bar Examination and explores the challenges they faced as they beat a path into the traditionally male-dominated legal profession. Finally, the paper shows how these pioneering women barristers were able to utilise the fruits of their legal education to further the cause of promoting gender equality upon their return to Burma. However, their professional success also reveals the persistence of gender and racial hierarchies across the Empire despite ongoing legal reformation and political activism, as they were subjected to confrontations and discriminations throughout their career.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-127
Number of pages23
JournalBritain and the World
Volume14
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sept 2021

Keywords

  • Burma
  • Colonialism
  • Female education
  • Gender equality
  • Inns of Court
  • Women lawyers

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