Book review: How Many More Women?, Jennifer Robinson and Keina Yoshida 

An examination of the sexual violence against women and the legal system that inhibits and denies justice.

How Many More Women? is deep dive into women fighting for their rights, and how the law innately tries to stop them. Jennifer Robinson and Keina Yoshida are human rights lawyers; both are well-qualified for this exploration into legal processes and outcomes and how perpetrators do everything to silence the victim, including deploying Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA).

This book has no narrative structure, it is a lengthy breakdown of case upon case of women being  silenced. It’s uncomfortably heavy and raw, but that is the truth of this discussion, and discretion is  advised when reading.  

How Many More Women? has an extra eight pages at the end just for the references. It’s most suited for scholarly purposes, rather than a general read, but Robinson and Yoshida make the case that these laws need to change, and the information within their work provides ample evidence.  

They utilise case studies from around the world to provide context and explore the numerous ways in which the law fails women. From the case of Christian Porter in Australia to Noriyuki Yamaguchi in Japan, women all around the world are being failed by the courts that exist to protect them. A lack of Western-centrism is crucial to reminding readers how women have varying levels of legal protection around the world. 

Robinson’s recounts of the Depp versus Heard trials are incredibly powerful and provide important insights into how Heard was treated by the public. The authors write with determination to humanise Heard and others like her, after other media has alienated them from the world.

The book is written very plainly, with language that’s easy to read, instead of being couched in legalese.

The standout statement is that most trials are ‘framed as contests between his right to reputation […] and her right to [free] speech’. This is one of the few facts that Robinson and Yoshida want all women to remember: that a simple conversation with friends can result in a gag order, writing about lived experiences without naming a perpetrator can even get you sued. 

The authors take their own advice: from the very first page most of the discussion of the Bruce Lehrmann and Brittany Higgins trial is blacked out on the basis of legal advice. These top lawyers themselves can’t talk about it freely until the trial is over, given the potential for defamation.  

Robinson and Yoshida lead a discussion of how to avoid the law silencing you – you must censor yourself, and refer to your lived experiences as alleged’ to avoid defamation.

It’s a sombre narrative, but an informative one and, remember, knowledge is power. 

Read: Book review: Fanatic Heart, Tom Keneally

On one hand, How Many More Women? could work better as a historical account of how the law failed women around and during the #MeToo movement. But on the other hand, the information is all incredibly current, and these laws need some kind of grassroots foundations to be built to start tearing them down. 

How Many More Women? Exposing How the Law Silences Women by Jennifer Robinson and Keina Yoshida

Publisher: Allen and Unwin
ISBN: 9781761066702
Format: Hardback
Pages: 424 pp
Publication date: 18 October 2022
RRP: $34.99

Ella Pilson is an author-in-progress based in Naarm (Melbourne). She was shortlisted for the  Hachette Australia Prize for Young Writers and is currently studying the Associate Degree of  Professional Writing & Editing at RMIT. Her opinion pieces have been published in RMIT’s Catalyst.  You can find her on Twitter at @EllaPilson.