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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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Feminist Legal Studies celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2018.  The Editorial Board invites new members to join us as we look to the future in sustaining and regenerating feminist legal studies.  Since the new editorial board was established in 2013, we have continued to operate as a feminist collective committed to publishing interdisciplinary, theoretically engaged feminist scholarship relating to law and legal phenomena. Editors have consolidated FLS investment in critical approaches through, for example, stronger engagement with critical race perspectives.  We are also interested in the practical development of our field through encouraging documentation and analysis of exciting new engagements, including feminist legal activisms, decolonizing techniques, and governance adaptations.  We have started a dialogue about how best to ‘mix FLaK’ and draw on feminist commitments to openness, dissent and experience as we engage with new methods of inhabiting difficult spaces while sustaining the legacy of gender based critique of doctrine, policy and institutionalism.  Members of Feminist Legal Studies are committed to the journal as a living thing, which enables collaboration with others in trying to make our multiple worlds – of research, publishing and everyday life – more habitable.

Would you like to join us?    If you think you might be interested:

  • Read more about what is involved (e.g. here and here);
  • Check out our statement of principles;
  • Fill in the form overleaf, telling us a bit more about yourself; and
  • Send the form to Harriet Samuels (H.Samuels@westminster.ac.uk) by 4pm on Friday December 16th.

(more…)

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Guest editor: Dr Angela Dwyer and Dr Olivia Rundle

Abstracts due September 8, 2017. Final papers due February 5, 2018.

The Journal of Lesbian Studies, a peer-reviewed academic journal published by Taylor and Francis, invites proposal submissions for a special issue on the subject of Lesbians and the Law. The Journal of Lesbian Studies examines the cultural, historical, and interpersonal impact of the lesbian experience on society, keeping all readers – professional, academic, or general – informed and up-to-date on current findings, resources, and community concerns. The journal is interdisciplinary in scope and is essential reading for independent scholars, lay people, professors, and students.

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Charlotte O’Brien, University of York

[This post was originally published in The Conversation and is reproduced here with the kind permission of that blog and the author]

It has emerged that the team being sent to Brussels to lead on talks to take Britain out of the EU includes just one woman – out of nine named negotiators.

This imbalance is not only embarrassing. It’s negligent. Failing to include women on the frontline of this incredibly important process jeopardises the quality of the negotiations.

Men don’t know (or do) what’s best for women

Having women on your team matters – and not just because of optics. It affects the quality of the laws that are made. The Equal Pay Act of 1970 and the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 were both passed by parliaments that were 96% male and 4% female. Both pieces of legislation are great achievements on the surface but both were deeply flawed. The original equal pay rules required a job evaluation survey, effectively meaning that women had to seek permission from their employers (back then: men) to mount an equal pay claim. Until the EU intervened, the Sex Discrimination Act appeared to require pregnant women to be compared to sick men, making it easier to sack them. This unfavourable treatment on the grounds of pregnancy was not considered sex discrimination. (more…)

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Professor Alex Sharpe, Keele University10689909_1016854768344392_8793741729286128967_n

Today, at Manchester Crown Court, Gayle Newland was, after a second trial, convicted of three counts of the sexual offence of assault by penetration,[1] on the basis of ‘gender identity fraud.’[2] After serving eleven months of an eight year sentence, the Court of Appeal set aside her original conviction in 2015[3] because they found it to be ‘unsafe’ due to the summing up of trial judge, Roger Dutton.[4] In my view, prosecutions of this kind should not be commenced. My reasons for taking this stance include, but are not exhausted by, opposition to criminal law overreach (criminalisation of non-coercive, desire-led intimacy constitutes a step too far), and concern over legal inconsistency (contrast prosecution of gender non-conforming people for sexual fraud with the fact that deceptions, for example, as to wealth, social status, drug use, criminal convictions, religious belief and/or ethnic status produce no legal consequences), and discrimination (‘gender history’ is not only singled out for special legal attention, but it is the gender histories of LGBTQ kids, rather than people at large (for we all have gender histories), that appears to exhaust state interest in historical facts about gender). (more…)

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Kate Gleeson

Dr. Kate Gleeson, Macquarie University, NSW, Australia

The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is in its closing stages, preparing its final report due at the end of this year. The Royal Commission was established in 2013 in response to allegations of cover-ups of child sexual abuse in religious and secular institutions.

The Commissioners have since embarked on an extensive project of truth recovery and restorative justice, investigating the organisational practices of institutions ranging from dance schools, swim schools and yoga ashrams, to schools, Churches and orphanages of different denominations, although most allegations concern the Catholic Church.

Throughout the past four years the Royal Commission has held public hearings into more than 40 investigatory case studies, and conducted over 6700 private hearings for survivors to tell their stories unchallenged. Another 2000 private sessions are scheduled before the end of the year. Information gathered in hearings is believed to have led to at least 120 prosecutions of historical child sex offences across the country. (more…)

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10689909_1016854768344392_8793741729286128967_nAlex Sharpe is Professor of Law at Keele University

Let’s begin by recognising that women, as a collective group, face many serious problems in today’s society. These include, but are not exhausted by, sexual and physical violence, workplace harassment, a domestic division of labour, sexist media representation and slut shaming. There are also a range of other important issues that affect particular groups of women, such as, and perhaps most notably, female genital mutilation. In view of these issues, and at least in relation to some, their obvious urgency, one would think that who counts as a ‘real’ women would be low down, very low down, on any list of feminist priorities.

Any yet, it is precisely this issue of who counts as a woman that continues to preoccupy us. Most recently, Jenny Murray, host of the radio 4 show, Woman’s Hour, has helpfully reminded us that, although she is not “transphobic or anti-trans,” trans women “are not ‘real’ women.” Murray is the latest in a long-line of privileged cisgender media personalities to use their privilege, and considerable media platform, to take it upon themselves to be the arbiters of which women count as ‘real’ and which  do not.

Let’s focus on this question of ‘realness,’ and not allow ourselves to be distracted by issues of free speech and censorship which inevitably arise in the wake of twitter storms and the weighing in of those keen to defend Jenny’s right to tell the ‘truth,’ or at least to express her opinion. For my concern here is not to become embroiled in an argument over whether celebrities like Jenny Murray, Germaine Greer, Julie Bindel, Ian McEwan or Barry Humphries have a right to express their (usually ill-informed) opinions, or embarrass themselves publicly. That is, it is not the said or the sayable with which I am concerned, but the politics and ethics of claims about ‘realness’ itself.

(more…)

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