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Ever wondered why more women don’t report upskirting to the police? Here’s one possible reason – some police simply do not take this form of harassment seriously. Indeed, some seem to think it’s funny.

Aoife O’Donoghue and Clare McGlynn

 

A couple of days ago, UK Cop Humour re-posted a piece from the Bexley Gazette containing images of upskirting. The photo is of two women in the process of being arrested by two police officers – taken presumably by a member of the public – and shows them in a humiliating and degrading position. Held down by police over the bonnet of a police car, with their skirts raised and underwear showing, they cannot adjust their clothing and must suffer the glare of the public on their bodies. The decision of UK Cop Humour to re-post this image is seriously troubling.

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

Female-only Cambridge University college allows transgender students

Arizona Hart, University of Manchester

A female-only College at the University of Cambridge has changed its admission policy to allow applications from transgender students who identify as female. The change was made following a decision by the Council of Murray Edwards College, one of three female-only Colleges at the prestigious university.

Prior to the decision, the College only admitted students who were legally recognised as female. In the UK, a person’s legal gender may be proved by a Birth Certificate or by a ‘Gender Recognition Certificate,’ a legal document that was introduced in 2005 by the Gender Recognition Act.

Under the change, the College will now admit students who are not legally female, but who identify as female and have “taken steps to live in the female gender.” What exactly will be required to prove this is unclear. In effect, it means that transgender persons who identify as women but who have not legally changed their gender under the Gender Recognition Act – a process which is lengthy, complicated, and cannot begin until a person turns 18 – will be allowed to apply to the College for the first time. Continue Reading »

Feminist Legal Studies celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2018.  The Editorial Board invites new members to join us as we look to the future in sustaining and regenerating feminist legal studies.  Since the new editorial board was established in 2013, we have continued to operate as a feminist collective committed to publishing interdisciplinary, theoretically engaged feminist scholarship relating to law and legal phenomena. Editors have consolidated FLS investment in critical approaches through, for example, stronger engagement with critical race perspectives.  We are also interested in the practical development of our field through encouraging documentation and analysis of exciting new engagements, including feminist legal activisms, decolonizing techniques, and governance adaptations.  We have started a dialogue about how best to ‘mix FLaK’ and draw on feminist commitments to openness, dissent and experience as we engage with new methods of inhabiting difficult spaces while sustaining the legacy of gender based critique of doctrine, policy and institutionalism.  Members of Feminist Legal Studies are committed to the journal as a living thing, which enables collaboration with others in trying to make our multiple worlds – of research, publishing and everyday life – more habitable.

Would you like to join us?    If you think you might be interested:

  • Read more about what is involved (e.g. here and here);
  • Check out our statement of principles;
  • Fill in the form overleaf, telling us a bit more about yourself; and
  • Send the form to Harriet Samuels (H.Samuels@westminster.ac.uk) by 4pm on Friday December 16th.

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Kyle L Murray & Tara Beattie are both PhD candidates at Durham Law School.

The Case

Gayle Newland’s case is likely not news to many – her retrial and conviction for sexual assault of a female friend has attracted wide-ranging media coverage. This is perhaps no surprise, given the numerous case-elements which challenge typical expectations of the nature of sexual assault, and the profile of an offender. As the Telegraph reports, “a woman who preys on another woman confounds expectations” – the public often picturing sex offenders “as seedy men who lie in wait for strangers.” But so too does the nature and extent of the deception surrounding the assault. The victim believed that she was in a romantic, sexual relationship with a man named ‘Kye’ – a false persona created by Newland. Although the two met, ‘Kye’ was never seen in person, with the victim being requested to wear a mask during their meetings, on account of supposed embarrassment at a disfigurement. When together, Newland carried out sexual acts using a prosthetic penis, and forbade the victim from touching her.

The case raises ethical and legal considerations surrounding deception, identity and consent. For some, Newland’s conviction is a worrying reflection of the state of gender and consent in criminal law, and something which could have repercussions for the LGBTQ community. For others, those voices do not fully acknowledge the damage caused by building a relationship upon lies.

For two law researchers, with respective backgrounds in moral scepticism and sexual privacy, this was the topic of an afternoon conversation which proved troubling to both parties. Our full commentary is provided in in dialogical form here. A summary of the issues discussed is provided below.

Trans rights, deceit, and bodily autonomy Continue Reading »

Guest editor: Dr Angela Dwyer and Dr Olivia Rundle

Abstracts due September 8, 2017. Final papers due February 5, 2018.

The Journal of Lesbian Studies, a peer-reviewed academic journal published by Taylor and Francis, invites proposal submissions for a special issue on the subject of Lesbians and the Law. The Journal of Lesbian Studies examines the cultural, historical, and interpersonal impact of the lesbian experience on society, keeping all readers – professional, academic, or general – informed and up-to-date on current findings, resources, and community concerns. The journal is interdisciplinary in scope and is essential reading for independent scholars, lay people, professors, and students.

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kaushikKaushik Paul, Durham University

The European Court of Human Rights (hereinafter “the ECtHR”) delivered a judgment in the case of Belcacemi and Oussar v Belgium (application no 37798/13) on 11 July 2017. In this case the ECtHR, in line with its previous decision in SAS v France (application no 43835/11), upheld the ban on wearing Islamic full-face veils (e.g. the niqab and the burqa worn by Muslim women) in public places in Belgium on the grounds of living together. In Belcacemi, the ECtHR unanimously said that “the wearing in public of clothing that partly or totally covers the face” can be prohibited to “guarantee the conditions of ‘living together’” and for the “protection of the rights and freedoms of others”. The ECtHR also maintained that Belgium’s ban on full-face veils was “necessary in a democratic society” under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Before moving to offer a critique of Belcacemi ruling, it is worth elaborating on the concept of ‘living together’. This concept was established and accepted by the ECtHR in SAS. However, the ECtHR has never clearly defined the notion of living together. In upholding the full-face veil ban in France on the basis of the living together principle, the Grand Chamber held in SAS that “the voluntary and systematic concealment of the face is problematic because it is quite simply incompatible with the fundamental requirements of living together in French society and that the systematic concealment of the face in public places, contrary to the ideal of fraternity, … falls short of the minimum requirement of civility that is necessary for social interaction” (para. 141-142). The Grand Chamber also held that allowing women to wear the full-face veils in public spaces might breach “the right of others to live in a space of socialisation that makes living together easier” (para. 122). Continue Reading »

Alex Shar10689909_1016854768344392_8793741729286128967_npe, Professor of Law at Keele University and barrister at Garden Court Chambers, London. Twitter handle: alexsharpe64

We are familiar with opposition to rights acquisition by sexual and gender minorities, at least when it comes from socially conservative and/or religiously moral quarters. Yet, in our topsy-turvy world, it is elements of the liberal or libertarian left that increasingly appear to block the way. In this article, I will consider this disturbing tendency through the example of the recent announcement of the Equalities Minister Justine Greening that the government intends to liberalise legal arrangements governing legal recognition of gender identity.[1]

This reform proposal has led to sustained criticism from several leading liberal or libertarian political journalists. Thus it has been criticised by Brendan O’Neill, editor of Spiked Magazine,[2] and by Helen Lewis, the deputy editor of the New Statesman.[3] In this article, I want to take to task the central objection each raises. O’Neill objects to what he views as the re-writing of history regarding the ‘facts’ of gender. For her part, Lewis imagines all manner of harmful consequences that reform may produce for cisgender women. In O’Neill’s case, existing legal arrangements, as well as proposed reform, appear to represent an affront, while Lewis focuses on potential harms which she links to expanding the pool of people able to receive a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).

I will argue that O’Neill’s objection is based on a mistaken view of history, of historical analysis, of the doing of history. Conversely, Lewis’ claim is an empirical one, but one utterly lacking in evidence. What unites both is fantasy. Lewis’ imagination runs amok, sensitising the public to the possibility that one of the most marginalised and vulnerable groups in society (trans women) might, if permitted to pee in female bathrooms, have recourse to female refuges and/or be allocated to a gender-appropriate prison, prey on cisgender women. In a different register, O’Neill invokes the cultural power of Orwell and points to the dystopia he believes reform will inevitably deliver. Continue Reading »