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Professor Alex Sharpe, Keele University10689909_1016854768344392_8793741729286128967_n

Today, at Manchester Crown Court, Gayle Newland was, after a second trial, convicted of three counts of the sexual offence of assault by penetration,[1] on the basis of ‘gender identity fraud.’[2] After serving eleven months of an eight year sentence, the Court of Appeal set aside her original conviction in 2015[3] because they found it to be ‘unsafe’ due to the summing up of trial judge, Roger Dutton.[4] In my view, prosecutions of this kind should not be commenced. My reasons for taking this stance include, but are not exhausted by, opposition to criminal law overreach (criminalisation of non-coercive, desire-led intimacy constitutes a step too far), and concern over legal inconsistency (contrast prosecution of gender non-conforming people for sexual fraud with the fact that deceptions, for example, as to wealth, social status, drug use, criminal convictions, religious belief and/or ethnic status produce no legal consequences), and discrimination (‘gender history’ is not only singled out for special legal attention, but it is the gender histories of LGBTQ kids, rather than people at large (for we all have gender histories), that appears to exhaust state interest in historical facts about gender). Continue Reading »

 

Kate Gleeson

Dr. Kate Gleeson, Macquarie University, NSW, Australia

The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is in its closing stages, preparing its final report due at the end of this year. The Royal Commission was established in 2013 in response to allegations of cover-ups of child sexual abuse in religious and secular institutions.

The Commissioners have since embarked on an extensive project of truth recovery and restorative justice, investigating the organisational practices of institutions ranging from dance schools, swim schools and yoga ashrams, to schools, Churches and orphanages of different denominations, although most allegations concern the Catholic Church.

Throughout the past four years the Royal Commission has held public hearings into more than 40 investigatory case studies, and conducted over 6700 private hearings for survivors to tell their stories unchallenged. Another 2000 private sessions are scheduled before the end of the year. Information gathered in hearings is believed to have led to at least 120 prosecutions of historical child sex offences across the country. Continue Reading »

Neil Cobb and Nikki Godden-Rasul, Campus Feminisms: Engaging the University with Feminist Agendas – A Conversation with Jess Lishak, Women’s Officer, University of Manchester Students’ Union, 2014-2016 (free link to article in Feminist Legal Studies).

Neil Cobb, University of Manchester

As Shakira Martin is elected this week as the next president of the National Union of Students (NUS), it is clear that NUS has received some bad press of late.

Durham student Tom Harwood’s challenge to Malia Bouattia for the NUS presidency on an ‘anti-NUS’ platform is the latest in a line of attacks in recent years criticising the NUS for being “moribund” and unrepresentative of mainstream students’ interests and concerns.

These criticisms – levelled both within and outside the student movement – are said by the NUS’s opponents to reflect a broader disaffection among today’s students with the union’s progressive left agenda.

Much of this comment has tended to simplify the NUS’ work, as well as drawing attention away problematically from the organisation’s undoubted and significant achievements in a range of important policy areas.

For those who remain supportive of the NUS’ broad commitment to a progressive left concern for social justice there is a particular need to keep front and centre the organisation’s tangible contributions to equality and diversity concerns, including some real success stories in the sphere of feminism and women’s rights. Continue Reading »

10689909_1016854768344392_8793741729286128967_nAlex Sharpe is Professor of Law at Keele University

Let’s begin by recognising that women, as a collective group, face many serious problems in today’s society. These include, but are not exhausted by, sexual and physical violence, workplace harassment, a domestic division of labour, sexist media representation and slut shaming. There are also a range of other important issues that affect particular groups of women, such as, and perhaps most notably, female genital mutilation. In view of these issues, and at least in relation to some, their obvious urgency, one would think that who counts as a ‘real’ women would be low down, very low down, on any list of feminist priorities.

Any yet, it is precisely this issue of who counts as a woman that continues to preoccupy us. Most recently, Jenny Murray, host of the radio 4 show, Woman’s Hour, has helpfully reminded us that, although she is not “transphobic or anti-trans,” trans women “are not ‘real’ women.” Murray is the latest in a long-line of privileged cisgender media personalities to use their privilege, and considerable media platform, to take it upon themselves to be the arbiters of which women count as ‘real’ and which  do not.

Let’s focus on this question of ‘realness,’ and not allow ourselves to be distracted by issues of free speech and censorship which inevitably arise in the wake of twitter storms and the weighing in of those keen to defend Jenny’s right to tell the ‘truth,’ or at least to express her opinion. For my concern here is not to become embroiled in an argument over whether celebrities like Jenny Murray, Germaine Greer, Julie Bindel, Ian McEwan or Barry Humphries have a right to express their (usually ill-informed) opinions, or embarrass themselves publicly. That is, it is not the said or the sayable with which I am concerned, but the politics and ethics of claims about ‘realness’ itself.

Continue Reading »

IB imageSnapshots of law, gender and sexuality news from the past couple of weeks.

The LGBTQ+ Community and “Gay Conversion Therapy”

William Lee, University of Manchester

Malta made history on the 7th December 2016 when the Maltese Parliament unanimously approved the Affirmation of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression Bill. Among other things, the Bill criminalises “gay conversion therapy”, giving legal recognition that for the position that “no sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression constitutes a disorder, disease or shortcoming of any sort”. This thereby relieves the LGBTQ+ community of potentially being subjugated to any “deceptive and harmful” act designed to change their sexual behaviour or gender identity.

The new Act in effect positions Malta as the first European country to ban “gay conversion therapy”.

The Business Insider states that Malta has been at the forefront of progressive social reforms in Europe since the Labour government was elected in 2013. For that, Malta quite comfortably deserves its ranking of being the best European country for LGBTQ+ rights as deemed by the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA- Europe).

In light of such radical progress in Malta, this post will look briefly at the origins of “gay conversion therapy”. It will also briefly outline the United Kingdom (UK) and American’s current stance in regard to this practice. Continue Reading »

IB image

Twitter Clamps down on Abuse and Hate Crime

Ama Williams, Newcastle University

Online abuse on social media platforms is endemic. The majority of people who frequent social media will have either seen or been the victim of some form of abuse. Last week Twitter introduced provisions to try and tackle online abuse and instances of hate crime – that is, abuse targeted toward someone because of their membership of a particular social group. It has now added ‘Advanced Muting Options’ to the previous option to mute accounts. This means that a user can block certain words or phrases from appearing in their personal notifications, in the hope that this will shield the user from abuse being targeted specifically at them. However there is some concern that these measures do not actually stop hate speech being posted and due to the anonymity Twitter affords to its users, abuse may continue to be prolific.

Recent reports have shown that abuse online is on the increase. Pink News reported that there has been an online spike of homophobia since Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential race. In one instance a homophobic word increased from being tweeted 8,000 times to 32,000 times in the day after his win. In England, abuse of women in positions of power is inherent on many platforms but social media seems to breed particularly depraved forms of hatred. Continue Reading »

robyn-emerton

Robyn Emerton is a PhD candidate at Keele University.  She is researching legal and policy development relating to transgender prisoners in England and Wales and is a qualified solicitor. Mia Harris is a PhD candidate at the University of Oxford and researches the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in prison.

This time last year, the cases of Tara Hudson, Vikki Thompson and Joanne Latham sparked public concern regarding the treatment of transgender prisoners.  On Wednesday, 9 November 2016, the government published its revised policy, and its first official statistics, on transgender offenders. This welcome development was unfortunately eclipsed by media coverage of the US election results.  Indeed, cynics might say that this was the government’s intention, given the sensationalist headlines that accompanied the announcement of the original policy five years ago.  This is a shame, as there is much to be celebrated in its revised policy, as well as in the public’s increased understanding of the plight of transgender prisoners over the last year.

Continue Reading »