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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. (more…)

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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. (more…)

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

H&M’s 2016 Autumn Collection: a step forward for feminism?

Begüm Elif Yılmaz, University of Manchester

A recent H&M film advertisement for the fashion company’s 2016 Autumn Collection has been the centre of attention for feminists on the web in recent weeks. The ad seems perfect on the surface. With the song “she’s a lady” playing in the background, it is made up of footage of a host of ‘real’ women enjoying their lives. The apparent aim of the advert is to challenge people’s understanding of what being a lady really means and to celebrate those women who do not conform to the gender standards of society. In short, the advertisement highlights the important idea that all women are still women regardless of what they look like, where they come from, what they do and how they do it. It includes a trans woman, a woman in a restaurant picking her teeth with her fingers, a curvy woman in her underwear comfortably admiring herself in the mirror, a woman with an unshaven armpit enjoying junk food, a woman with a shaven head, a strong executive directing a meeting, a proud androgynous woman who would traditionally be ridiculed for her so-called “masculinity”, an older woman and a woman in an empty subway spreading her legs. These women come from various backgrounds, making the advertisement not just a feminist one, but also one that adds a broader diversity element to the conversation. Challenging the societal norm that women can and ought to only have a specific look and possess a certain collection of traits, this advertisement seems to reflect a deeply progressive presentation of modern women. Almost all women have been warned at least once in their lives for doing something “inappropriate” because it is “unladylike”, and as such the new advert’s overarching theme seems to be largely positive.

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

Civil Partnerships Denied to Opposite Sex Couples

Catherine Ravenscroft, Durham University

The High Court has decided against a couple seeking judicial review to extend civil partnerships to opposite sex couples.A civil partnership is a relationship between two people of the same sex, formed when they register as civil partners of each other. It was originally intended to remedy a perceived gap in the law which denied formal legal protection to same-sex couples in long-term, committed relationships. Yet, since the enactment of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, the status has been a contentious issue. Primarily, as identified by the Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign, this is because same-sex couples are now perceived to be granted additional protection beyond that available to heterosexual partnerships. A same-sex couple can choose to either marry or register their civil partnership, yet a heterosexual couple is limited only to marriage.

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IB imageUK Should ‘Degender’ Passports

Aidan Bull, Durham University

Maria Miller, chair of the Commons Women and Equalities committee, is calling on the government to make passports and driving licences gender neutral to end discrimination against transgender people.

The former culture secretary said more needs to be done to recognise the ‘damaging’ impact of gender stereotyping for the 600,000 people in the UK who are ‘gender dysphoric’ and do not identify as either male or female. In a recent interview, Miller claimed that ‘it can cause problems for individuals who have decided to transition, but haven’t necessarily got the right documentation’. This problem becomes all the more apparent given reports of transgender people suffering extra security checks at airports when the gender on their passports does not match with their presented gender (i.e. how they dress/act). One transgender person claimed they suffered added checks due to a body-related ‘anomaly’, which seems highly discriminatory.

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

Minister for Women Is Axing Feminism from A-Level Politics

Ella Dodd, Durham University

Nicky Morgan, education secretary and minister for women has drafted a curriculum dropping feminism from the A-level Politics syllabus. What’s more, the proposed new syllabus only features one female political thinker, Mary Wollstonecraft, heightening the ‘insulting and misguided’ actions of the Education department. This move has prompted individuals such as Jacquelyn Guderley to ask if feminism is removed from the syllabus, ‘how can we learn from them and progress? How can we be thankful but hungry for more?’

Perhaps the drafters of the change to the politics syllabus should read Mary Wollstonecraft’s first book, “Thoughts on the Education of Daughters”, which promotes female education and encourages mothers to teach their daughters. The removal of the feminist voice from the syllabus may mean the silencing of lessons passed down from generations before who struggled for equality.

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

World’s first male rape centre

Aidan Bull, Durham University

A hospital in the Swedish capital, Stockholm, is believed to be the first rape centre for male sexual violence victims.

Sweden has the highest rate of rape in Europe, but this is partly because the country records allegations in a different way to most countries, tracking each case of sexual violence separately. For example, if someone says they were raped every day by their partner for a week, officers will record seven potential crimes. In contrast, many other countries would simply label it as a single incident. This wide reaching tracking system has helped to uncover the hidden statistics of male rape.  In 2014, some 370 cases of sexual assault on men or boys were reported across Sweden, according to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, although experts believe that the actual figure is much higher.

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