Maira Hassan

 
Placing Muslim Women within the Affirmative Consent Standard in Canadian Sexual Assault Law
 
I first attended UBC for my Master in Laws (LLM) and then decided to stay for my PhD. In my PhD, I wanted the opportunity to work and contribute to the Centre for Feminist Legal Studies (CFLS) at the law school. The Vancouver campus was also a huge draw. Having traveled for school before, I wanted to entrench myself in the city a bit more and continue some of the community work I had started.
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

For me, research and writing have always had a special place. During my law degree, I had the opportunity to participate in a number of community-based and academic endeavors that served as building blocks for my path into academia. Some of these included volunteering at a legal advice center, working on a research project and report with a women’s center, and collaborating on a journal article with my criminal law professor, which was later published, centered around gender and international policing. Being involved in both community-based initiatives, practical application of the law, and legal research, I found that I had the perfect amalgamation of purpose and intellectual vigor. With the joy that research and writing bring for me coupled with my drive for social justice and community, pursuing a graduate degree seemed like the cup of tea I had been dreaming about and working towards for a long time.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

I first attended UBC for my Master in Laws (LLM) and then decided to stay for my PhD. Although I did focus on Feminist Legal Theory in my LLM, in my PhD, I wanted the opportunity to work and contribute to the Centre for Feminist Legal Studies (CFLS) at the law school. The Vancouver campus was also a huge draw. Having traveled for school before, I wanted to entrench myself in the city a bit more and continue some of the community work I had started.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

One of the reasons I chose the PhD program was because of its focus on research and providing a more traditional PhD in Law. The other reason of course was the opportunity to work closely with some of the faculty members in CFLS and work in an environment where more was starting to be done with Indigenous laws and traditions.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

The best surprise by far was the amazing communities I found in Vancouver and at UBC. I feel incredibly lucky to have found faculty members both at the law school and in other departments who have supported me and continue to do so. Such mentorship was particularly important for me as a woman of colour and I am grateful to these individuals who make me feel like I belong.

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

Reflecting back, I think every experience, both professional and personal have brought me and prepared me for my graduate studies. The encouragement from high school teachers to the support from my criminal law professor in law school, to the wisdom from my peers and women of colour faculty at UBC that have supported me, all provide me with the strength to persevere. Perhaps one more aspect that has prepared me my whole life for my PhD in law and a career in academia is the continued intellectual discussions I have had since infancy until today with my family and friends. They show me the importance of my work and its impact on our lives.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Don't give up and find your community(ies). If graduate studies and research make you happy, then know that you are in the right place. If you are struggling, reach out for help. It can feel lonely as a graduate student sometimes, so make sure you find people that can support you both intellectually and emotionally.

 
 
 

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