Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic Urges European Court to Recognize Intersectional Discrimination

The Columbia Law School Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic has urged the European Court of Human Rights to recognize and respond to intersectional discrimination.

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New York, Oct. 1, 2010--The Columbia Law School Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic has urged the European Court of Human Rights to recognize and respond to intersectional discrimination, a form of discrimination based on an individual’s combination of characteristics, such as race and sex together, rather than on a single trait.
The clinic submitted to the court a “third-party intervention,” a legal document similar to an amicus brief, in partnership with the Advice on Individual Rights in Europe (AIRE) Centre.
“Courts need to recognize that, for example, discrimination against black women differs from discrimination against black men or white women because it occurs at the intersection of race and gender,” said Larra Morris ’11, one of three students who participated in drafting the intervention.  
The case in which the intervention was filed, Solomon v. Spain, was brought by Beauty Solomon, a Spanish resident of Nigerian descent. In 2005, police in Mallorca, Spain physically and verbally attacked her twice while she was standing on a street where prostitution, which is not criminalized in Spain, is commonly practiced.
The police forbade her, but not white women in the vicinity, from standing on the street, according to a press release from Women’s Link Worldwide, a women’s rights organization that helped Solomon initially pursue her case in Spain.
When multiple Spanish courts dismissed her case, Solomon brought her case before the ECHR. Her plight highlights the discrimination that can occur at the intersections of race, sex, and social status, clinic students said. 
“To provide proper remedies, courts need to understand that intersectional discrimination is a form of discrimination in which the whole is more than the sum of its parts,” said Kinara Flagg ’11.
The intervention shows that intersectional discrimination is a recognized form of discrimination within Europe and also highlights American and Canadian cases in which the courts have identified and responded to such discrimination. 
 “We hope our intervention will help prevent the injustices likely to result when courts use a single-ground approach to analyze a case that involves discrimination on multiple grounds,” noted Erin Meyer ’11.
To read the intervention, click here.
Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic addresses cutting-edge issues in sexuality and gender law through litigation, legislation, public policy analysis and other forms of advocacy. Under the guidance of Professor Suzanne Goldberg, clinic students work on a wide range of projects, from constitutional litigation to legislative advocacy to immigration cases, to serve both individual and organizational clients in cases involving issues of sexuality and gender law.
For more information, please visit: To contact Goldberg: [email protected].

Columbia Law School, founded in 1858, stands at the forefront of legal education and of the law in a global society. Columbia Law School joins traditional strengths in international and comparative law, constitutional law, administrative law, business law and human rights law with pioneering work in the areas of intellectual property, digital technology, sexuality and gender, and criminal law.