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Elenie Poulos

Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia

These days, the issue of religious freedom regularly makes media headlines in Australia but this wasn’t always the case. While there is evidence of continued religiously motivated abuse and vilification against Australia’s First Peoples and religious minorities including Muslims, Jews, and Sikhs, this is not the focus of public debate. The issue is, rather, the extent of the exemptions from anti-discrimination law granted to religious organisations – that is, against whom and in what circumstances are religious organisations allowed to discriminate based on religious belief?

The ‘problem’ of religious freedom first came to the attention of many Australians when conservative Christian lobbyists, politicians and religious leaders, responding to growing calls for marriage equality, began to cast it as a threat to religious freedom. However, its history stretches back to European invasion. Some limited protection was included in the Constitution in 1901, but because Australia lacks a national comprehensive human rights instrument, there is no general protection for freedom of religion or protection from religious discrimination.[i] Religious freedom is instead addressed through exemptions or exceptions in anti-discrimination law which allow for lawful discrimination by religious organisations in certain circumstances.[ii]

My doctoral research aims to examine the rise of the politics of religious freedom in Australia. One of the key flash points for debate has been marriage equality. To understand how politically sensitive the ‘problem’ of religious freedom has become, one need look no further than the name of the bill that finally granted marriage equality: the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017. (more…)


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Giuseppe Zago, Northumbria University

On 11 October 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued a new judgment contributing to the recognition and protection of gender identity within the Council of Europe framework. In S.V. v. Italy, the Court followed up on the recent A.P., Garçon and Nicot v France decision to confirm that authorities’ refusal to authorise a transgender person with a female appearance to change her male forename in the midst of the transition process amounts to a violation of the right to respect for private life under Article 8 of the Convention.

The judgment confirms important principles concerning States’ obligations regarding gender identity, though it fails to address adequately the issue of the legal pathologisation of trans people. (more…)

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fullsizeoutput_639Professor Alex Sharpe, Keele University

This blog post was updated on 22 October 2018.

As we approach the deadline for submissions concerning reform of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) 2004, debate over the likely effects of adopting a system of gender self-declaration has intensified. However, opposition to reform has come not only from the right-wing media, so-called gender ‘critical’ feminists and the Christian Right. It has also come from within the legal community.[1] In particular, barrister, Julian Norman, has made a series of arguments as to why a system of gender self-declaration will undermine cis women’s rights, and in particular, the right to exclude trans women from women-only spaces.[2]

Essentially, she makes two arguments: (more…)

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KyleKyle L Murray

Teaching Fellow in Public Law and Human Rights, Durham Law School.

Comments welcome via Twitter: @KyleLMurray92 or email: k.l.murray@durham.ac.uk

The recent Women & Equalities Committee report on paternity leave, while making welcome proposals, is revealing of a fundamental problem with the way we frame issues of gender (in)equality negatively affecting men. In this post, Kyle talks about the importance of framing the dealing with men’s issues not just as parasitic upon women’s rights, but as valuable pursuits in themselves.  

“We should take measures to break the glass ceiling and improve the representation of women in top positions in the workplace – this would relieve the considerable pressures on men, who we know suffer breakdowns and depression from their workload, with sometimes disastrous consequences”.

If this headline sounds as though it misses the point and belittles the harms done to women from the inequality it seeks to challenge, it is because it does. If it sounds as though it risks leaving the attitudes leading to these inequalities unchallenged – and therefore recommends strategies likely to be of limited effectiveness – again, it is argued, that is because it does. If readers are viewing it with a sense of disbelief, it is because it is fictitious. But its problematic framing of the issue of gender inequality is, I argue, not too far from what we have recently seen in discussions surrounding paternity leave and the difficulties faced by fathers. The recently-released Women & Equalities Committee (WEC) report – ‘Fathers in the Workplace’  (20 March 2018) – and its presentation in the media, is a prime example; framing issues of gender inequality and challenges facing men primarily within the paradigm of advancing women’s equality and rights.


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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.


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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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