A graduate of New York University School of Law (LL.M) and the University of New South Wales (Ph.D, LL.B/B.A), Dr Vijeyarasa is a Chancellor's Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the Faculty of Law at UTS. She is the Chief Investigator behind the Gender Legislative Index. Dr Vijeyarasa's research pivots around gender and human rights. Her current research focuses on strengthening accountability for women’s rights at the domestic level. It particularly seeks to advance the gender responsiveness of domestic legislation by providing benchmarks for the drafting of new laws and for evaluating existing ones based on global human rights commitments.
In 2019 Dr Vijeyarasa piloted the Gender Legislative Index in Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka evaluating laws passed under the leadership of women in executive office, with the goal of exploring the legislative footprint of women presidents and prime ministers. It is currently being piloted on laws enacted during the tenure of former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Before joining UTS, she held several positions on women’s rights issues in international organisations, non-profits and international NGOs. Dr Vijeyarasa’s international human rights activism has included advancing anti-trafficking victim reintegration networks in Vietnam and Ukraine, filing briefs before the European Court of Human Rights, the Supreme Court of Moldova and the Supreme Court of the Philippines, making submissions to UN treaty bodies and overseeing research and programming on women and youth in urban spaces. This rich experience informs her impact-driven approach to research, where sound methodologies are created to deliver tangible societal change in order to improve lives through the law.
Dr Vijeyarasa is the author of Sex, Slavery and the Trafficked Women: Myths and Misconceptions about Trafficking and its Victims (2015) and more than twenty other peer-reviewed publications on law and gender issues. She has appeared on the media in several countries (TV and radio) and was one of the leading contributors to the Reproductive Health Reality Check blog, sponsored by the United Nations Foundation.
Ramona has won a number of academic awards and fellowships. This includes an NYU International Law and Human Rights Fellowship and the United Association of Women Prize in the School of History. Her research has been supported by the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia (2020-2021), the UTS Center for Social Justice and Inclusion Social Impact Grant (2020), the inaugural UTS Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research Outcomes to Impact Grant (2020), with Rapido Social, and a UTS Law Research Seed Grant (2018). She is currently co-Chief Investigator on a new project (grant to be announced) studying the ‘Pathways to politics for grassroots and development-sector women in Sri Lanka and Indonesia’. Ramona has lived and worked on every inhabitable continent.
- Member of the Australian and New Zealand Society of International Law (2020–)
- Admitted to the New York State Bar Association (2008-)
- Admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of New South Wales (2006–)
In the Media
“The Modern Slavery Act: Did Australia get it right?” Australian Outlook, Australian Institute of International Affairs, 10 December 2018 https://www.internationalaffairs.org.au/australianoutlook/modern-slavery-act-did-australia-get-it-right/
“The internet and radicalised misogyny," Think: Digital future 2SER Radio 107.3, 29 May 2018 https://2ser.com/shows/thinkdigitalfutures
"When hero worship turns sour," New Matilda, 3 June 2009 https://newmatilda.com/2009/06/03/when-hero-worship-turns-sour/
Can supervise: YES
- International Law
- International women’s rights law
- Feminist Legal Theory
- Migration and human trafficking
Vijeyarasa, R 2021, International Women's Rights Law and Gender Equality: Making the law work for women, Taylor and Francis, UK.
Vijeyarasa, R 2015, Sex, Slavery and the Trafficked Woman Myths and Misconceptions about Trafficking and its Victims, Routledge, UK.
Overall, this text provides readers of migration and development, gender studies, women's rights and international law a comprehensive and multidisciplinary analysis of the concept of trafficking.
Tobalagba, A & Vijeyarasa, R 2020, 'Engendering regulation of artisanal and small-scale mining: participation, protection and access to justice', Third World Quarterly, vol. 0, no. 0, pp. 1-18.View/Download from: Publisher's site
This article argues that adopting a gender perspective when regulating artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) is both necessary and achievable. The authors analyse women's often-ignored needs and experiences as workers, decision-makers and affected community members in the ASM sector. To address these concerns, this article sets out standards for regulating ASM to guarantee women's access to services and information and women's decision-making and representation; to address the specific risks women face in the sector; and to provide access to effective remedies. The authors use international instruments to identify good practice benchmarks from which legislators and policymakers can draw. The article also notes where global norms fall short of addressing women's rights in ASM. Some of the limitations of this approach are also acknowledged, notably the challenge of establishing gender-responsive laws that can be feasibly and effectively implemented. Nonetheless, the proposed approach should be favoured to better respond to the highly masculinised nature of the sector and the differentiated impacts of ASM on men and women while recognising women's roles as beneficiaries and productive agents of the sector.
Vijeyarasa, R 2020, 'CEDAW's General Recommendation No. 35: A quarter of a century of evolutionary approaches to violence against women', Journal of Human Rights, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 153-167.View/Download from: Publisher's site
This article analyzes the contribution to international human rights law of the third and latest General Recommendation on gender-based violence issued by the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Described as an "update" on General Recommendation No. 19 (1992), this article examines the extent to which General Recommendation No. 35 (2017) makes a more fundamental contribution toward accountability for women's human rights. This analysis is motivated by the quarter-century gap since the previous recommendation but also the obvious limitations of the two earlier recommendations. An expansive document that reaffirms global commitments toward ending gender-based violence, General Recommendation No. 35 makes some significant conceptual advancements in how it frames gender-based violence and the scope of the issues brought within its ambit. Yet the Committee falls short when it comes to depth of analysis and in its ability to guide states on the implications of present-day concerns.
Vijeyarasa, R 2020, 'Women, work and global supply chains: The gender-blind nature of Australia's modern slavery regulatory regime', Australian Journal of Human Rights, vol. 26, no. 1.View/Download from: Publisher's site
In 2018, the Parliament of Australia enacted the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth), which – despite its misleading and expansive title – primarily requires medium- and large-scale businesses to undertake due diligence to identify the risks of exploitation in their supply chains. This article argues that, despite its attempt to enhance the accountability of businesses, the Act is "gender-blind", as it fails to acknowledge and address the divergent experiences of men and women with supply chains – either as workers or affected stakeholders. The shortcomings in the Act can be traced back to the limitations of the Joint Standing Committee's inquiry, which called for submissions from interested stakeholders in the lead-up to the Act's adoption. Although that inquiry received submissions from a broad cross-section of individuals and organisations, including civil society, it offered legislators few potential solutions for incorporating a gender perspective into the law. The lack of gender-responsive, good practice modern slavery laws in other jurisdictions further undermined the legislative drafting process. As a result, the Act largely disregards systemic gender inequality, and thereby fails to effectively prevent Australian companies from perpetuating or benefiting from it. At a minimum, the Act should have required companies to conduct gender-sensitive due diligence and collect gender-disaggregated data. If it had done so, the Act could have been regarded as a "gender-responsive" law that helps to address the gendered implications of global modern slavery.
Vijeyarasa, R 2020, 'Women's absence in Sri Lankan politics: Lessons on the effectiveness and limitations of quotas to address under-representation', Women's Studies International Forum, vol. 81.View/Download from: Publisher's site
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd After decades of resistance to quotas – or reserved seats – as a means of addressing women's lack of representation in politics, Sri Lanka introduced a highly complicated and little-understood series of electoral laws to establish a quota for women at the local government level (LGL). Local government elections in February 2018 marked their inaugural implementation. Drawing on nearly five decades of global academic literature analysing quotas and utilising a five-pronged framework for understanding the goals that quotas are designed to achieve, this paper assesses the LGL quota against those objectives. Based on key-informant interviews and data from the 2018 election, I consider (i) the extent to which we might expect an increase in the space and respect for women politicians in Sri Lanka; (ii) the likelihood that elected women can deliver a gender-responsive political agenda for their female constituents; and (iii) the extent to which the quota can help redefine political norms in Sri Lanka.
Vijeyarasa, R 2019, 'A missed opportunity: How Australia failed to make its Modern Slavery Act a global example of good practice', Adelaide Law Review, vol. 40, no. 3, pp. 857-865.
The internationalisation of supply chains is an inevitable part of modem production. Despite being the subject of extensive debate globally, including at the UN-level, accountability for exploitation in those supply chains remains a challenge. Over the last few years, several countries have enacted legislation to regulate and hopefully eradicate associated exploitation, often referring to 'modern slavery'. There is some degree of agreement that 'modem slavery' encompasses forms of forced labour, debt bondage and forced marriage, but it is frequently - and often loosely - used to encompass broader forms of exploitation GBP36 million - around 13,000 corporations - to report on the steps they have taken to identify instances of slavery and trafficking in their supply chain or in any part of their businesses, or to disclose a failure to undertake such due diligence.
Meanwhile, in 2016, the Netherlands introduced the child labour due diligence law which will take effect on 1 January 2020, while the French adopted their 'Duty of Vigilance Law' in February 2017. The French law has a wider scope but establishes concrete obligations to prevent exploitation within the supply chains of large multinational firms carrying out a significant part of their activity in France. The European Union is governed by both the EU Non-Financial Reporting Directive, which requires the management of around 8,000 large European companies to disclose their policies, risks and responses related to respect for human rights, as well as an EU Regulation laying down supply chain due diligence obligations in mining.
Vijeyarasa, R 2019, 'A move in the right direction? The Model Law against Trafficking in Persons and the ILO Operational Indicators', International Migration, vol. 57, no. 1, pp. 177-191.View/Download from: Publisher's site
This article is premised on the fact that every area of law needs a gender perspective. It discusses the prospects for a Gender Legislative Index, a tool to enable us to evaluate and score legislation, by placing laws on a scale from gender-regressive to gender-responsive, when set against global benchmarks from international law – primarily CEDAW. In doing so, this article defines and defends the need for gender-responsive legislation, showing how a common set of standards for global good practice can be developed and the shortcomings, but also advantages, of an online tool to benchmark, score and rank laws.
Bello Villarino, J-M & Vijeyarasa, R 2018, 'The indicator fad: How quantifiable measurement can work hand-in-hand with human rights - A response to Sally Engle Merry's The Seductions of Quantification', New York University Journal of International Law and Politics, vol. 50, no. 3, pp. 985-1020.
Vijeyarasa, R 2013, 'Stigma, stereotypes and Brazilian soap operas: road-blocks to ending human trafficking in Vietnam, Ghana and Ukraine', GENDER PLACE AND CULTURE, vol. 20, no. 8, pp. 1015-1032.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Vijeyarasa, R 2013, 'Women at the Margins of International Law: Reconceptualizing Dominant Discourses on Gender and Transitional Justice', International Journal of Transitional Justice, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 358-369.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Vijeyarasa, R & Bello Y Villarino, JM 2013, 'Modern day slavery? A Judicial Catchall for Trafficking, Slavery and Labour Exploitation: A Critique of Tang and Rantsev', Journal of International Law and International Relations, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 36-61.
Slavery and trafficking in persons continue to draw global attention,
fostering debates in sociological, political, academic and legal circles.
Governments, in particular, value being seen on the global stage as working
to combat the trafficking of human beings to and from their territories. With
prosecution of traffickers difficult in many jurisdictions, civil society
organizations and others always welcome efforts by regional courts to hold
governments accountable for their failure to fulfil their counter-trafficking
international obligations, or those by domestic courts to find traffickers
Vijeyarasa, R 2012, 'The Cinderella syndrome: Economic expectations, false hopes and the exploitation of trafficked Ukrainian women', WOMENS STUDIES INTERNATIONAL FORUM, vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 53-62.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Vijeyarasa, R 2011, 'Trafficking and human rights: European and Asia-Pacific Perspectives by Leslie Holmes and The international law of human trafficking by Anne T. Gallagher', Australian Journal of Human Rights, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 139-143.
Vijeyarasa, R 2010, 'Exploitation or expectations? Moving beyond consent in prostitution, trafficking and migration discourse', Women's Policy Journal of Harvard, vol. 7, pp. 11-22.
Ramona Vijeyarasa explores the issue of gender equality in Vietnam and argues that the picture is far more complex than one of rapid advancement towards attainment of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 3. She shows that when data is disaggregated and progress is measured against other international standards - including those set out in the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and global commitments made at the United Nations (UN) Conference on population and development in Cairo and women in Beijing - greater investment, both financial and human resources, and increased political will, are needed well beyond 2015. Vijeyarasa examines Vietnams achievements and shortfalls as measured against the MDGs with an eye to the potential for institutional reform of gender machinery at the national and international levels in order to create stronger accountability for the rights of Vietnamese women and progress towards womens empowerment.
Vijeyarasa, R 2010, 'The impossible victim: Judicial treatment of trafficked migrants and their unmet expectations', Alternative Law Journal, vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 217-222.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Vijeyarasa, R 2010, 'The State, the family and language of 'social evils': re-stigmatising victims of trafficking in Vietnam', CULTURE HEALTH & SEXUALITY, vol. 12, pp. S89-S102.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Vijeyarasa, R & Stein, RA 2010, 'HIV and Human Trafficking-Related Stigma Health Interventions for Trafficked Populations', JAMA-JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION, vol. 304, no. 3, pp. 344-345.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Vijeyarasa, R 2009, 'Putting Reproductive Rights on the Transitional Justice Agenda: The Need to Redress Violations and Incorporate Reproductive Health Reforms in Post Conflict Development', New England Journal of International and Comparative Law, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 41-62.
Bello y Villarino, JM & Vijeyarasa, R 2008, 'The international implications of the European consensus against the death penalty: The obligation of the EU to protect European citizens abroad from execution', Journal of European Studies, Universitas Indonesia,, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 58-73.
Vijeyarasa, R 2014, 'Hidden Data, Hidden Victims: Trafficking in the context of globalisation and labour exploitation-the case of Vietnam' in Rawlinson, MC, Commers, RMS & Johnston, T (eds), Labour and global justice: Essays on ethics of labour practices under globalisation, Lexington Books, USA, pp. 141-164.
Vijeyarasa, R 2014, 'Roadblocks to counter-trafficking: A comparative analysis of Vietnam, Ghana and Ukraine' in Zina, M & Abreu, GD (eds), Women Past and Present: Biographic and Interdisciplinary Studies, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, UK, pp. 266-282.
The exploitation of migrant women abroad through trafficking and
trafficking-like conditions is a global phenomenon. The purpose of this
chapter is to highlight similarities and differences in the main barriers that
exist to counter the traffic of women through a comparative study of
Vietnam, Ghana and Ukraine. This chapter is based on fieldwork carried
out in the three countries from July 2009 to November 2010, including 52
interviews with key informants and first-hand data collected from 109
returned victims of trafficking. This research identifies the political, legal,
socio-cultural and economic road-blocks that continue to hinder efforts to
counter trafficking using a human rights and migration-centred framework
in all three research countries.
Governments, NGOs and other stakeholders have been engaging in
counter-trafficking activities for years, particularly since the enactment in
2000 of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in
Persons, Especially Women and Children (Trafficking Protocol). The
Protocol specifically calls for a "comprehensive international approach" to
"prevent and combat trafficking in persons" (Preamble). Nonetheless, an
array of barriers to combating trafficking exists, ranging from
shortcomings with national trafficking laws and access to justice for
victims, to the reality that some governments fail to play an active and
positive role in the countering of trafficking. In other instances, negative
perceptions held about individual victims or their own unwillingness to self-identify as a trafficked person, present obstacles. An on-going
emphasis on a criminal justice rather than human-rights centred approach
is an overarching challenge.
In this chapter, I focus on three key issues:
(a) The impact of criminalisation of sex work and stigma associated with
both sex work and trafficking;
(b) Stereotypes concerning who constitutes a victim of trafficking; and
(c) The role of cultural attitudes and myths concerning the "...
Vijeyarasa, R 2020, 'In pursuit of gender-responsive legislation', Tackling Gender-Inequality Through the Law: Improving Accountability for Gender-Responsive Laws at the Domestic Level, University of Technology Sydney.
Vijeyarasa, R 2019, 'A 20 year struggle: The outcomes of a 25% quota for women in local government in Sri Lanka', Women in Asia Conference: Women in an era of anti-elitism, University of New South Wales.
Vijeyarasa, R 2019, 'Sex workers, sweatshops and seasonal pickers: How women's experiences and voices feature in Australia's modern slavery regulatory regime', UNSW Innovate Rights: New Thinking on Business and Human Rights, UNSW Sydney.
Vijeyarasa, R 2018, 'Australia's Modern Day Slavery Acts: How legal language can reinforce misconceptions about trafficking, sex work and labour exploitation', Law and Society Association of Australian and New Zealand: Inclusion, Exclusion, Democracy, University of Wollongong.
Vijeyarasa, R 2018, 'Political personas of Asia's women leaders and their failure to represent the women they led', https://sydney.edu.au/content/dam/corporate/documents/sydney-southeast-…, Biennial Asian Studies Association of Australia, Sydney, Australia.
As of August 2015, only 18 women leaders worldwide had reached the highest level of elected office. Contrary to expectations that women leaders will promote the interests of fellow women, it is a misconception and arguably an unreasonable expectation that a woman leader will necessarily want to promote the rights and interests of women. Moreover, many such leaders are plagued by an embedded culture of "institutional masculinity" in most parliaments, making it difficult to introduce a women's rights friendly agenda, resulting in claims of "western feminism" at play. Yet, despite the limited positive roles that they individually played in the lives of the women they led, all three women leaders – like many in Asia – have been framed as Asia's tigers. Analyzing the image of the tiger, this paper examines the question 'For whom and what did they fight?'
Vijeyarasa, R 2017, 'The legal legacy of women leaders in Asia: Ending violence against women in Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka', http://www.arts.uwa.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/3046620/WIA-prog…, Women in Asia Conference, University of Western Australia.
Vijeyarasa, R 2015, 'Trafficked and Silenced: How Mainstream Trafficking Discourse Stifles the Voices and Shapes the Stories of Victims', https://gvrnconference.arts.unsw.edu.au/conference-materials#concurrent, Inaugural Asia-Pacific Conference on Gendered Violence and Violations, University of New South Wales.
Vijeyarasa, R 2011, 'Roadblocks to counter-trafficking: A comparative analysis of Vietnam, Ghana and Ukraine', International Colloquium: Debating Women: Past and Present, Funchal, Portugal.
Vijeyarasa, R 2010, 'Vietnam's MDG report card: An assessment of progress on reproductive heath', Asian Conference on Social Sciences: East Meets West in Pursuit of a Sustainable World, Osaka, Japan.
Vijeyarasa, R 2020, 'Can an online platform increase state accountability on women's rights?', OpenGlobalRights.
Quantitative approaches such as the Gender Legislative Index offer advantages compared to using resource-intensive qualitative approaches alone.
Vijeyarasa, R 2018, 'The Modern Slavery Act: Did Australia get it Right?'.
Vijeyarasa, R 2018, 'Women leaders in a man's world: A glimpse into Australia's foreign policy under Gillard - Part I', Center for Feminist Foreign Policy.
Women make the world a better place for other women. Or do they? Some maintain that a woman in the top job will mean a brighter future for fellow women. However, we cannot even accept at face value the assumption that women leaders are good for women. This two-part series explores the case of Julia Gillard, Australia's first and thus far only female Prime Minister (from 2010-2013), regarding the issue of women's rights in her domestic and foreign policy agenda. Vijeyarasa discusses.
Vijeyarasa, R 2018, 'Women leaders in a man's world: Does a feminist foreign policy require a woman leader at the top? - Part II', Center for Feminist Foreign Policy.