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Archive for the ‘Inherently Brief’ Category

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. (more…)

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

Supreme Court Decides on Fraudulent Divorce Case

Catherine Ravenscroft, Durham University

On 14th October 2015, the Supreme Court handed down judgement in the landmark case of Sharland v Sharland. This case concerned the division of assets upon divorce where one party, in this instance the husband, has fraudulently misled the court as to their future financial plans. Mr Sharland owned shares in a company which he told the Court he had no intention of selling. Mrs Sharland signed a consent order on the basis of this assertion. However, during the court hearing, it was discovered that Mr Sharland did indeed have plans to sell his shares, which would significantly affect the claim which Mrs Sharland advanced. She appealed to the Supreme Court on the basis that the consent order should be sealed. It was unanimously held that ‘fraud unravels all’ and the consent of Mrs Sharland was found to be vitiated by the fraudulent behaviour of her husband. The consent order was, thus, set aside.

The importance of this decision is to be found in its consequences. The decision of the Supreme Court has allowed Mrs Sharland to return her claim to first instance and have its value reconsidered by the courts. Although the full significance of this decision may not be felt for some time, it appears to create significant scope for the re-opening of divorce settlements on the basis of fraud. In contrast, there are also concerns that this decision may open the floodgates to couples attempting to revisit divorce agreements.

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IB imageSterilisation of Woman Lacking Mental Capacity

Charlotte Adamson, Durham University

On the 4th February, the Court of Protection ruled that a mother of six should be sterilised for her own safety. The woman concerned, known as DD, is a 36-year-old woman with Autistic Spectrum disorder and a mild to borderline learning disability, with an IQ of 70. She has a ‘tragic and complex’ obstetric history, and has no continuing contact with any of her children, who are all raised by permanent carers. She is currently in a long-term relationship, which includes a sexual relationship, with a male partner who has a significant learning disability and also displays some traits of an Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

The Court of Protection had previously been required to rule on welfare applications under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 in relation to DD’s capacity to make important decisions regarding her sixth pregnancy and short-term contraception. In this case, they had to consider whether DD had capacity to consider and make decisions concerning long-term contraception and/or therapeutic sterilisation, and if she lacked capacity, to determine what would be in her best interests with regard to these. Mr Justice Cobb came to the conclusion that DD does lack capacity to make these decisions, and that it is in her best interests to be sterilised. While this may be justified in extreme circumstances, Rebecca Schiller, the co-chairwoman of the human rights in childbirth charity Birthrights, has commented that ‘taking away a person’s ability to have a child is truly draconian’, and warned that immense care must be taken to safeguard the rights of people with mental conditions. (more…)

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