Ius Gentium

University of Baltimore School of Law's Center for International and Comparative Law Fellows discuss international and comparative legal issues



 Roman Msaki 

The history of women and high heels is very interesting. Our early ancestors they didn’t care about putting shoes leaving alone high heels. In all likelihood, they went barefoot. Shoes in the form of sandals emerged around 9,000 years ago as a means of protecting bare feet from the elements (specifically, frostbite).

The Greeks viewed shoes as an indulgence—a means of increasing status, though it was a Greek, actually Aeschylus, who created the first high heel, called “korthonos” for theatrical purposes. His intent was to “add majesty to the heroes of his plays so that they would stand out from the lesser players and be more easily recognized”.[1]

Greek women adopted the trend, taking the wedge heel to new heights that the late Alexander McQueen would have likely applauded. The adoption of shoes, and the heel, for Greeks appears to coincide with Roman influence, and ultimately Roman conquest. Roman fashion was viewed as a sign of power and status, and shoes represented a state of civilization[2].


The widespread popularity of the heel is credited to Catherine de Medici who wore heels to look taller. When she wore them to her wedding to Henry II of France, they became a status symbol for the wealthy. Commoners were banned from wearing heels, although it’s doubtful that they would have been able to afford them anyway. Later, the French heel predecessor to the narrow, tall heel of today would be made popular by Marquise de Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV. These shoes initially required women to use walking sticks to keep their balance until the height of the heel was reduced[3].

In the United States the campaign “Walking a Mile in her Shoes” was designed to raise male awareness and condemn rape, sexual assault and gender violence[4]. The main aim of the drive was to enable men to experience a day on “heels”.


But, the story of Nicole Thorp, a secretary of the London big accountancy firm “PWC”[5]  in United Kingdom tells us another story, a different perspective on wearing high heels. In her firm, high heels are mandatory. She was sent back home in December 2015 for wearing flats instead of high heels[6]. She refused to obey the then rules of her employment agency, Portico, that she should wear shoes with heels that were between two and four inches high. Ms. Thorp argued that wearing them all day would be bad for her feet.[7] She started a petition in 2016, which attracted about 150,000 signatures[8] far beyond the required number of signatures needed to trigger a response by the government.

“This may have started over a pair of high heels, but what it has revealed about discrimination in the UK workplace is vital, as demonstrated by the hundreds of women who came forward via the committees’ online forum…………… (words omitted for emphasis); The current system favors the employer, and is failing employees,” she said in reflection of what really going on in employment sector in United Kingdom.[9]


The United Kingdom passed the Equality Act in 2010 in order to ensure equal treatment at work for all genders. However, dress code regulations have been solely left within employers’ hands. As a result, two House of Common committees, (the Petition committee and the Women and Equality Committee) invited the public to send in their own examples of discriminatory dress codes. As a result, they were inundated with examples. The committee heard from women who were asked to wear shorter skirts, to unbutton blouses, and of dress codes that specified shades of nail varnish and hair color choices.[10]

The committees report[11] revealed evidence dating from 1880 to the present day which showed a “direct causative relationship” between the protracted use of high heels and serious conditions including stress fractures bunions, lower back pain and posture change and increased energy demand, as energy consumption and heart rate increases with heel height. The Government response was positive, and it has agreed to review equality issues in a forthcoming parliamentary session in March 2017.


Despite the long-term health effects resulting from wearing high heels, some women still believe that wearing high heels at work should be required. For them, wearing high heels give a woman source of power and a higher status at work. Yet should it be REQUIRED or just recommended?

What is happening in the U.K reminds me of the Louisiana Law on “separate but equal” which had existed for decades, until it was declared unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education[12]. Is it fair to subject women to harsh and stringent dress code rules than men? They are equal because they got a chance to be employed, but treated separately because of sex. Here, women are clearly held to a separate and unequal treatment than their male counterparts.

Roman Msaki is currently a 2L student at University of Baltimore. He has a LL. B from the University of Dar-es-Salaam (Tanzania), a post-graduate diploma in legal practice from the Law School of Tanzania, and a LL.M in the Law of the United States from the University of Baltimore. He has an interest in international law due to participating in the Philip C. Jessup International Moot Court Competition in 2012 for his university in Tanzania. Since then, he has regularly served as a Jessup judge in both regional rounds (Kenya, Uganda and Ghana) and the international rounds, held annually in Washington D.C. Last semester, he was a research assistant to Prof. Nienke Grossman. He is a member of the International Law Society, Immigration Law Society, International Law Student Association and American Bar Association. His main areas of interest in international law are: International humanitarian law and use of force.

[1] Smith, E.O. High Heels and Evolution: Natural Selection, Sexual Selection and High Heels; Journal of Psychology, Evolution and Gender pg. 254, December 1999. Available at: eosmith.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/JournalArticle30.pdf. (Last visited January 29th).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4]  See for instance: www.walkamileinhershoes.org/ ; www.walkamileinhershoes.org/calendar.html accessed on 29th January 17.

[5] PWC stands for “Pricewaterhouse Coopers”.

[6] For her short interview see: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-38737300 accessed on 29th January 17.

[7] Ibid.

[8]  See: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/129823; Accessed on 29th January

[9] Supra: note 4

[10] See: www.forbes.com/…/high-heels-and-workplace-dress-codes-urgent-action-needed-say..  Last viewed on 29th January.

[11]The report can be viewed at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/petitions-committee/news-parliament-2015/high-heels-and-workplace-dress-codes-report-published-16-17/?utm_source=petition&utm_campaign=129823&utm_medium=email&utm_content=reportstory, Accessed on 29th January 17.

[12] 347 U.S. 483 (1954).

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Like a Girl – Yeah, So What!?

Ali Rickart

The “Like a Girl” was a campaign started by the company, Always, as a way to boost self-confidence, equality, and empowerment.[1] The campaign began as an advertisement depicting the term “like a girl” and showing various people (men, women, boys, and girls) explain what they think the phrase means. The powerful messages shows that young girls view “like a girl” as a representing strength and equality, yet all other persons meant or understood the phrase as indicating weakness, inequality, and even as an insult. Since this campaign launched, Always has begun other campaigns such as #BanBossy, another phrase directed at girls and women that is meant as an insult, even though their male counterparts are praised as leaders when they display similar attitude and behavior. Always has partnered with the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality through education around the globe.

International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on March 8. This year’s theme: Make It Happen.[2] We must make greater equality happen by having more women in senior leadership roles, equal recognition of women in the arts, growth of female owned businesses, increased financial independence of women, more women in science, technology and engineering, fairer recognition of women in sports. We must make wage equality amongst the sexes a reality instead of an aspiration. Just like the company, Always, organizations and women around the world are working to make equality happen. This day is celebrated as an official national holiday such countries as Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia.[3] The United States dedicates the entire month of March to Women’s History. As Gloria Steinem stated, “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization, but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”[4]


Feminism, also known as the women’s liberation movement, is a movement to support the equality of women. The movement began, primarily, with legal issues such as women’s suffrage and property rights. This movement soon spread to include things like equal pay, protection against domestic violence, reproductive rights, and more. Feminist scholars have divided the feminist movement into three ‘waves’, each wave gaining momentum in the fight for equality.[5] Each wave has started in the Western World, specifically the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, before spreading across the globe. The second and third waves of feminism deal with many more social, political and legal issues than the first wave of feminism. The third wave of feminism is slightly more nuanced and refers to the inclusion of sexuality as another category involving women that is lacking in equality.[6]

One of the most prevalent tools regarding women’s rights arose out of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The Convention was negotiated and adopted by the General Assembly (vote: 130 to 0, with only 10 abstentions) in 1979. Through special presentation at a world conference and subsequent fast state signing, CEDAW entered into force on September 3, 1981.[7] This was the fastest a human rights convention had ever entered into effect.[8] While CEDAW is widely ratified, it has one of the largest numbers of reservations. Although reservations are not allowed to be incompatible with the object and purpose of the Convention, there are often conflicts between the reservations and the states own national constitutions or laws. A majority of reservations are made on grounds of potential conflict with national laws, traditions, religion or culture. Ironically, some states that are parties to CEDAW and have made reservations have not entered such reservations to corresponding provisions in other human rights treaties.


In an effort to gain more unity between the sexes, UN Women has launched the HeForShe campaign. This campaign promotes feminism generally and is intended to bridge the gap between women and men activism for women’s rights. The campaign describes itself as “bring[ing] together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity, for the benefit of all.”[9] Men from all over the world have agreed to take a stand for gender equality. An interactive map on the HeForShe website shows the number of men in each country that have signed the pledge, totaling 232,188. The only states that didn’t seem to have any men that signed the pledge was French Guinea in South America and the autonomous province of Kosovo.[10] Some of the African countries such as Guinea, Lesotho, Chad, Burkina Faso, Congo, and a few others have fewer than ten men that have signed. Yet, that’s still a start.

Another important movement occurring in women’s rights is the Girl Rising movement. This movement is attempting to establish education for women around the world, as many countries either do not allow girls to attend school or may not have sufficient resources for them to attend school.[11] In 2013, the movement released a powerful film, titled “Girl Rising”, which documented the lives of nine different girls in nine different areas of the world. The movie is a powerful representation of the inequality of something that seems so open to developed countries yet so inaccessible in most of the world – education. The facts that the film brings to light are astounding, including the fact that educating girls can break cycles of poverty in just one generation.[12]

One person cannot fix the world, but as Girl Rising states, “one girl with courage is a revolution.”[13] Yet, women cannot do it alone. I challenge men to have courage and help further the momentum of the revolution by joining the HeforShe movement. Everyone should get involved to fight for both equality and the right of access to education. If we start small and work towards attainable solutions within our own country, when we ban together we can gain enough momentum that we can change the world. Let’s make it happen in 2015.

Alexandra Rickart is a second-year student at the University of Baltimore School of Law, planning to graduate in May 2016 with a concentration in International Law. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 2013 with a B.A. in Communication and a minor in Business. Her primary interests include international law, international criminal law, and domestic criminal law.
In addition to being a CICL Fellows, she is the Secretary of the International Law Society and a Staff Editor for the University of Baltimore Journal of International Law. She competed in the 2014-15 Jessup International Moot Court Competition, Mid-Atlantic Region. During her first year of law school, she was a tutor for Baltimore elementary students as part of the Truancy Court program through the Center for Families, Children and the Courts. Alexandra is currently a law clerk for a criminal defense firm in Baltimore.

[1] Like a Girl: Boost Your Self-Confidence #likeagirl, Always, http://www.always.com/en-us/likeagirl.aspx.

[2] About International Women’s Day, http://www.internationalwomensday.com/about.asp#.VPyYiUKTRUQ.

[3] About International Women’s Day, http://www.internationalwomensday.com/about.asp#.VPyYiUKTRUQ (China, Madagascar, and Nepal have this national holiday for women only).

[4] About International Women’s Day, http://www.internationalwomensday.com/about.asp#.VPyYiUKTRUQ.

[5] Linda Nicholson, Feminism in “Waves”: Useful Metaphor or Not?, New Politics (Winter 2010), http://newpol.org/content/feminism-waves-useful-metaphor-or-not.

[6] Rebecca Walker, Becoming the Third Wave, Ms. (January/February 1992).

[7] Short History of CEDAW Convention, United Nations, http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/history.htm.

[8] Id.

[9] HeForShe Campaign, UN Women, http://www.heforshe.org.

[10] Id.

[11] Girl Rising, Girl Rising, http://girlrising.com.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.