A FEW CHOICE WORDS …
In an eventful first half of the month, some pearls of wisdom have hit the newswires …
In the third ever sexual harassment claim against a male employer in Russia, the presiding judge offered this insight: “If we had no sexual harassment we would have no children”.
Meanwhile, upon joining the campaign calling for a rethink of the legal aid cuts, Joanna Lumley observed that: “Justice is only justice if it is available to everyone” … truer words have ne’er been spoken.
THE MONTH TO DATE
Marriage, Same-Sex Marriage and Civil Partnership
Topical coverage from the BBC on 14 February reported that proposals before the coalition government to implement s202 of the Equality act 2010 are being discussed. The amendment, passed in the Lords last year, would remove the ban on civil partnerships carried out in religious locations. It is noteworthy that religious organisations will not be forced to allow the civil partnerships ceremonies to take place within their religious places. The tension arises again on whether the religious bodies’ rights and beliefs can override the right of civil partners to exercise their choice. The discussion promises to be rich in light of the Equality Act 2010.
Shortly before publishing this fortnight’s edition of Inherently Brief, Lynne Featherstone said that the government is now consulting on equal marriage for all. It is hoped that the aim will be achieved by extending the definition of marriage. A consultation on this plan, together with plans to open up civil partnerships to heterosexual couples is expected to launch later in the year.
On 11 February, the government introduced the Protection of Freedoms Bill. Under s 82 , people who were previously convicted for consensual gay sexual intercourse under sections 12 and 13 of the old Sexual Offences Act 1956 will be able to erase their convictions from police records. These convictions previously had to be declared when applying for employment and for a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) certificate. This means that people who were convicted of what is now legal, consensual sex will not have to make disclosure in the future. The press report can be found here.
In the second week of the month, the news feeds were on fire. First up was Deutsche Bank CEO Josef Ackerman, who provided a stinging reminder of the discrimination that persists at the top of City institutions. When questioned on his views on Germany’s proposed quota for gender balance on boards, he replied that he was supportive of seeing more women at the top of Germany’s big companies, adding that the increasing presence of women would make it “more colorful and prettier.” Apparently, men do notice women’s efforts when it comes to appearance. Who knew?.
Sadly, women in the city were dealt another blow when Lord Davies’ commission rejected proposed quotas for women in top positions, reported in the Telegraph on 12 February. He is expected to recommend clear target setting by FTSE 100 companies, but how easy would it be for these targets to be dismissed, when no obligation arises for companies to make or meet such targets, in light of the onerous provisions of the Companies Act 2006 and the increased responsibility that it has already placed on directors. It has been mentioned that if the target oriented initiative fails, more stringent quota requirements may be discussed in the future.
Also on 12 February, the Telegraph reported that women taking time out of work to raise children can expect to receive £40 a week less in their state pension as a result, over the next ten years. The DWP has published research that shows the detrimental effect of maternity leave on women under the current structure.
Reproduction & Parenthood
The challenge by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service to allow women having a medical abortion to take the final pill in a location of their choosing, to include the privacy of their own home, has failed. The challenge aimed to widen the legal definition of treatment, but the High Court ruled that the definition of treatment was correct. However, the court stated that the health secretary had the power to change the rules if an advance in medicine justified such a change being made. Read Inherently Human’s Chantell Burrows’ commentary here.
Rape, Sexual Assault & Harrassment and Domestic Violence
MSP Bill Aitken has made disturbing comments about a rape case in Glasgow in an interview with the Scottish paper, the Sunday Herald. Bill Aitken has been a District Court Judge, Justice of the Peace, and is currently the convenor of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee, which inter alia assists in formulating rape laws. Mr Aitken inferred prior judgement by saying that “Renfrew Lane is known as a place where things happen, put it that way” referring to the area in which the rape took place as being a red light district.
The DPP has announced that new measures are being considered to prevent the unfair prosecution of claim retractions. The guidance arises after a series of cases where women were sent to jail for ‘perverting the course of justice’ because they had retracted their rape or domestic violence claims or refused to give evidence against the accused. The guidance, which came into effect on 10 February, pays credence to the psychological complexities that riddle the victims of these crimes and the difficulties faced by victims bringing bona fide claims. It requires prosecutors to ‘consider whether there is a background of domestic violence’ and to consider the impact of pressure and fear of violence.
And more from afar…
In the US, two starkly contrasting pieces of legislation came into being this week. A petition in Utah introduced a bill that would require the law and public programmes to be read in light of the ‘family’, which refers to “legally and lawfully married man and woman and their children”. Whereas a bill passed by the legislative committee in Hawaii will allow civil unions for gay couples; it is the second attempt to introduce a legal framework for gay relationships in the state.
In handing down judgment on a work-place sexual harassment claim in Russia, a judge has commented that “If we had no sexual harassment we would have no children”. In light of this statement, the fact that this was only the third ever sexual harassment claim in Russia seems less surprising.