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Archive for the ‘Rape’ Category

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. (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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10689909_1016854768344392_8793741729286128967_nAlex Sharpe is Professor of Law at Keele University.

Over the last couple of years, I have written a series of articles addressing the issue of so-called ‘gender fraud,’ and opposing criminal prosecution on this basis. As recently as December of last year, I sought to take this prosecutorial practice to task in the context of the conviction of trans man, Kyran Lee, and before that Gayle Newland, whose eight year sentence shocked the nation.

I concluded the Kyran Lee piece with an ethical call, a plea for cisgender people to protest more vociferously regarding state intrusion into the lives of trans and gender queer people on the basis of a deception claim. I entertained the hope that the next witch hunt waiting to happen might be averted. Sadly, that hope has proved forlorn. Instead, it would seem that we are, much like Bill Murray, caught in a perpetual Groundhog Day – a cis and heteronormative ground zero. (more…)

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10689909_1016854768344392_8793741729286128967_nAlex Sharpe is a professor at Keele University School of Law.

Yesterday, the government’s Women and Equalities Commitee released its long-awaited report on transgender equality[1] The report is generally very positive in identifying a range of serious problems faced by transgender people and in making some important recommendations (especially in relation to healthcare provision, prison reform, depathologisation, and legal recognition of trans youth (16/17 year olds) and non-binary people). However, the committee side-stepped the important issue of prosecutions for ‘gender fraud,’ despite receiving written submissions on this subject. Accordingly, an important opportunity to address the travesty of such prosecutions has been missed.

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10689909_1016854768344392_8793741729286128967_n

Alex Sharpe is a professor at Keele University School of Law. She has been involved in transgender law reform and activism for over twenty years, and has written extensively on the criminalisation of so-called ‘gender fraud’ under the Sexual Offences Act. Alex has recently been interviewed by CBC Radio Canada on the Gayle Newland case, together with Professor Madden Demsey. Her interview can be found here.

On 15th September, Gayle Newland was convicted of three counts of sexual assault under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. She is currently awaiting sentence, though a custodial term has been indicated. The case is the latest in a series of so-called, and so far successful, ‘gender fraud’ based prosecutions that have come before English (R v Barker [2012] (unrep); R v McNally [2013] EWCA Crim 1051) and Scottish (R v Wilson [2013] (unrep)) courts. Barker and McNally received significant custodial sentences[1] and all convicted defendants have been placed on the Sexual Offenders Register for life.

Most of the media and legal coverage of the Newland case, like the cases of Barker, McNally and Wilson before it, has tended, unproblematically, to reproduce a fraud narrative, rather than challenge the ideological underpinnings of a worldview that makes fraud such an easy conclusion for courts and juries to draw. Of course, prosecution for ‘gender fraud’ is deeply troubling for other reasons. In the first place, prosecutions can be viewed as a significant example of criminal law overreach. That is, and irrespective of where we determine consent to end or deception to begin, the use of the criminal law to regulate deceptive, as opposed to coercive, sexual relations, can be viewed as an overly draconian and counter-productive measure. (more…)

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Kate FitzGibbonKate Fitz-Gibbon

In October 2010 the British government abolished the controversial partial defence of provocation and simultaneously introduced a new partial defence of loss of control. Provocation had long caused controversy in the English courts because of its perceived inability to accommodate the experiences of women who killed a long-term abusive male partner while all too readily accommodating the unmeritorious contexts within which jealous and controlling men killed female partners who were leaving them or had allegedly committed infidelity.

The new partial defence of loss of control was introduced as part of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 and retains many of the features of the former provocation defence, including the requirement for there to have been a loss of control. However, notably in an attempt to distance the English law of homicide from the injustices associated with provocation, the new loss of control defence includes a provision to exclude the defence from reducing murder to manslaughter in cases where a person’s loss of control resulted from a situation of sexual infidelity. At the time of implementation, the Ministry of Justice commented that:

‘The Government does not accept that sexual infidelity should ever provide the basis for a partial defence to murder’.

The new partial defence has now been in operation in England and Wales for nearly four years, begging the question: to what extent has the new offence allowed the English law of homicide to distance itself from the problems previously associated with the heavily discredited provocation defence?

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