Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Theory & method’ Category

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. (more…)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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…)

Read Full Post »

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?

(more…)

Read Full Post »

SKDr Sarah Keenan teaches and writes on property, feminist and critical race theory at SOAS School of Law.

This piece was originally posted on halfinplace and is reproduced here with permission and thanks.

This is the text of a speech I gave at the SOAS teach-out as part of the UCU strike on October 31, 2013:

It’s great to see you all here at the teach-out today.  As you know, a strike is one strategy in trying to fight the neoliberalisation of higher education, but any political campaign that aims to fight or destroy something needs to also actively think about and start creating what it wants to build instead.  By working together to make this teach-out happen the SOAS SU and UCU haven’t just helped to protest against unfair pay for university staff, but have actually created an open, free and diverse space where students and lecturers can discuss ideas, which is exactly the kind of space that we want our universities to be.

By doing that and being here at the teach-out today creating our own space, we are resisting the politics of inclusion.  Those of us who are trying to achieve real social change need to be careful that we aren’t just asking or fighting to be included in systems and institutions that are already broken.  That means for those of us who occupy marginal identity categories, that we need to avoid political campaigns that aim for our inclusion in systems and institutions that are elitist, and/or that are sexist, racist, homophobic, ableist or otherwise violent.  Those systems and institutions weren’t built by or for marginalised and oppressed people, and inclusion in those systems won’t end structures of power that produce gross social and economic inequality. (more…)

Read Full Post »

kathrynElizabethSharpProfessor Kathryn Hollingsworth with Dr Elizabeth Sharp

During periods of rapid social change we are presented with opportunities to alter the status quo: to move towards a more equal society, to address the oppressive conditions experienced by those lacking economic, social, political, and cultural power and to engender social renewal (that is, to encourage individuals and communities to thrive).  However, times of change also generate new contexts for the power structures of the past to be perpetuated and further entrenched, creating more – not less – oppression.  This we can see when we consider the position of women in the UK, in 2013.   

Think about the economic crisis.  In June 2013, a report entitled The Impact of Austerity Measures on Women: A Case Study of the North East was published by the Women’s Resource Centre and the NE Women’s Network.  The report, which was presented later in the summer to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), found that women are disproportionately affected by unemployment (especially in the North East), by welfare cuts, and by the closure or reduction of services that help prevent or respond to the problems (including sexual and domestic violence) that women experience.

And what about developments in technology? (more…)

Read Full Post »

vulnerablebodies%20003PECANS WORKSHOP 2013

CALL FOR PAPERS

Encounters with vulnerability:

The victim, the fragile, the monster, the queer, the abject, the nomadic, the feminine, the shameful, and the rest 

An interdisciplinary conference for postgraduate and early-career academics in the area of law, gender and sexuality

 

Nov 22nd, 2013

Venue: Newcastle University

Host: Gender Research Group, Newcastle University

This one-day conference seeks to bring together postgraduate and early-career scholars from across the UK and beyond to explore the general theme of ‘Encounters with vulnerability: the victim, the fragile, the monster, the queer, the abject, the nomadic, the feminine, the shameful, and the rest’. This interdisciplinary conference in the field of Law, Gender and Sexuality’ will investigate what lies beneath vulnerability, how it is deployed, what it calls for, and how it is denied, among other. Despite its ubiquity, the concept of vulnerability has been fine-tuned in the last decade or so. It has been used to explain and counteract the different dimensions of how the ‘subject’ and the body that it inhabits are deployed – represented, regulated, normalised – through atomistic notions, without relations. To the extent that normative orders, from politics to law, assume or idealize disembodied subjectivity, it encourages us to re-encounter and re-think the different forms of relating to embodiment, with vulnerability as one of its aspects. (more…)

Read Full Post »

The following blog post by Dr. Aoife O’Donoghue, Durham Law School, has been reprinted courtesy of IntLawGrrls blog (http://www.intlawgrrls.com/2012/10/the-female-academy-in-international-law.html). The blog forms part of the IntLawGrrls celebration of the 21st anniversary of Hilary Charlesworth, Christine Chinkin and Shelley Wright’s ground-breaking “Feminist Approaches to International Law.”  Blog contributions were invited from feminist international lawyers on the impact of the article on their work, or any theme related to the article and its continued relevance today.  

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »