Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


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.


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

“It’s grim, I’ve got to say”: the future of LGBTQ+ rights following the US presidential election

Holly Khambatta-Higgins, University of Manchester

On Wednesday 8th November, it was announced that Donald Trump will be the next President Elect of the United States of America. The result followed a long election campaign which saw the Republican Party proposing its most ‘homophobic party platform in years’. With January bringing the introduction of a Republican President, congress and house, the prospect of what this means for the future of LGBTQ+ rights is being extensively debated, with a growing consensus that the election outcome is ‘grim’.

The election has brought in its wake a great sense of panic, fear and uncertainty from the LGBTQ+ community, which has been both fuelled and captured by numerous media outlets. During his campaign, President Elect Trump made multiple public statements regarding legislation that would directly affect the LGBTQ+ community. This included his pledge to sign the Republican ‘first Amendment Defence Act’ which would in theory, protect an individual’s right to discriminate against members of the LGBTQ+ community, due to the individual’s religious and moral beliefs.

It is not just the President Elect who has warranted concern from the LGBTQ+ community; it is reported that the vice president Mike Pence could pose an equal (if not greater) threat. Mike Pence has been particularly open about his opposition to same sex marriage. However his views extend further than this; it is reported that Pence is in support of conversion therapy, a treatment that aims to ‘correct’ homosexuality, and has proposed that this should be financially supported by relocating the funding that is currently being used to treat HIV and AIDS. In addition to Pence, Trump’s transition team contains a plethora of anti-LGBTQ+ politicians, including Ben Carson who has reportedly likened homosexuality to bestiality and paedophilia. (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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Alex Sharpe i10689909_1016854768344392_8793741729286128967_ns Professor of Law at Keele University.

The Conversation blog recently published an article authored by Rebecca Reilly-Cooper of Warwick University, titled: Why self-identification shouldn’t be the only thing that defines our gender.[1] They then invited me, as a Trans woman, to offer an alternative perspective. However, the Conversation were not happy to publish my article as written, because, as they put it, it takes the form of a ‘take-down.’ Instead, they encouraged me to rework the article as a stand-alone piece. To be fair, they had been clear about this from the outset. However, having read Reilly-Cooper’s article which, in my view, possesses neither of the Conversation’s cornerstones, academic rigour or journalistic flare, I  considered a ‘take-down’ to be the only appropriate response, other than, of course, simply ignoring it. Anything else, in my view, would confer legitimacy on a position I consider to be both politically and ethically bereft. (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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DLSWednesday 16th March 2016, 2-5pm (lunch from 1pm)
Institute of Advanced Studies, Palace Green, Durham University

Organised by Gender & Law at Durham (GLAD)


Using Law in Response to Domestic Abuse: Women’s Experiences

Professor Heather Douglas, University of Queensland, IAS Fellow 2015-2016

This paper reports on early findings from a longitudinal study (over three years) of women’s engagement with law as a response to domestic abuse. The aim of the project is to identify how, when, why and with what effect women from diverse backgrounds use legal processes to help them move towards abuse free lives and how engagement with law varies over time.  So far 62 women have been recruited and interviewed with the assistance of a variety of community organisations and private lawyers in Brisbane Australia.  Issues addressed in this paper include the interviewees’ reasons for their initial engagement with the legal system and the selection of particular legal pathways and their experience of these pathways.

Restorative Approaches and Domestic Abuse: pitfalls and possibilities

Professor Clare McGlynn and Professor Nicole Westmarland, Durham University

At a time when the police are said to be ‘overwhelmed’ by ‘staggering’ levels of domestic abuse, is there a role for restorative justice? Drawing on data we secured from police forces across the UK on their use of restorative justice in cases of domestic abuse, we analyse current practices in this area and consider any lessons to be learned. We also examine the potential risks in using restorative approaches, particularly in cases of intimate partner violence, as well as the possibilities for new ways to challenge domestic abuse and bring a sense of justice to survivors.

Examining ‘medium risk’ amongst female survivors of domestic abuse

Dr Clare Gunby and Dr Rebecca Barnes, Leicester University

Risk assessment is an integral part of police responses to domestic violence. To date, however, police response has prioritised those survivors identified as ‘high risk’ of domestic abuse. This has meant that those classed as ‘medium risk’ often slip through the intervention net, as well as the category remaining largely under-theorised. This paper discusses key findings from a process and outcome evaluation of an innovative support intervention in Nottinghamshire for women experiencing medium risk, repeat domestic abuse. In doing so, we examine what the medium risk category looks like, consider the challenges of working with this diverse group of survivors and consider what counts (and should count) as success when evaluating the intervention.


Karen Ingala Smith, @CountDeadWomen, PhD candidate Durham University

Dr Fiona Vera Gray, Leverhulme Research Fellow, Durham University


For further information, contact Clare.McGlynn@durham.ac.uk

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