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IB imageXiyu Zhu and Adeline Chow are two undergraduate students at Durham Law School. Here they review a seminar given by Professor Alex Sharpe in May 2016.

Professor Alex Sharpe from Keele University addressed sexual offence prosecutions based on “gender fraud” in the context of cis-trans sexual intimacy in her recent talk at Durham University. In the seminar, organized by GLAD (@DurhamGLAD), she discussed successful sexual offence prosecutions brought against young transgender men over the last four years. In these cases, the female cisgender partners, allegedly, were unaware of the defendants’ gender histories. Sharpe challenges the legitimacy of “gender fraud” prosecution, questioning the underlying cisnormative assumptions that ground it, and critiques criminalization as a legal response. (more…)

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YRYvette Russell is a Lecturer in Law at the University of Bristol. 

On July 13, 2016 Nottinghamshire police became the first force in the UK to recognise misogyny as a hate crime.  Hate crime is defined as ‘any criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a personal characteristic’. In practical terms, this means that in Nottinghamshire police can record reported incidents such as wolf whistling, verbal abuse, taking photographs without consent, and using mobile phones to send unwanted messages with an additional ‘flag’ or qualifier on their incident log as hate crime.  It appears that the move is largely symbolic, as gender animus is not a relevant aggravating factor for the purposes of sentencing under relevant UK ‘hate crime’ legislation,[1] and does not create any new criminal offences.  However, the initiative has been supported by the force working in partnership with the Nottingham Women’s Centre and has involved the specialised training of officers to better identify and respond to the public harassment of women by men. (more…)

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erikar-SmAr8J0Clare McGlynn and Erika Rackley

Over the last few years, we have become very familiar with the term ‘revenge porn’ to describe the growing phenomenon of vengeful ex-partners distributing private, sexual images without the consent of their former partners. In recognition of the humiliation, distress and real pain this practice causes, countries across the world, including England & Wales, have introduced new criminal laws to try to deter and punish such behaviour. And Scotland is currently debating whether to reform its law.

However, while the language of ‘revenge pornography’ has certainly worked to secure the attention of the media and policy-makers, it’s time for new terminology: image-based sexual abuse.

Image-based sexual abuse better captures the nature and harms of the non-consensual creation and distribution of private sexual images. Unlike ‘revenge porn’, it captures both the broad range of practices being challenged and to convey the nature and extent of the harms suffered by victims.

What’s in a name? (more…)

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-SmAr8J0Clare McGlynn is a Professor at Durham Law School and tweets at @McGlynnClare. Julia Downes is a Research Associate at Durham Law School and tweets at @juliahdownes.

Paul Appleby – an ‘upskirt pervert’ – was caught taking a photo up a woman’s skirt as she shopped in Poundland in December 2014. Despite over 9,000 similar images being found on his mobile phones, and a previous conviction for a ‘similar matter’, he could only be convicted of two counts of ‘outraging public decency’ and avoided a prison sentence. Unfortunately, Appleby is not alone in taking advantage of modern technology to collect intimate images of women taken in public and without their consent – commonly referred to as ‘upskirting’ and ‘downblousing’. Andrew Mackie took photos of women in bus stations, shopping centres and on trains; the barrister Simon Hamilton secretly filmed up the skirts of women in supermarkets; Guy Knight took photos up women’s skirts on trains during his regular commute to work.

(more…)

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

‘Equal Recognition’ campaign launched in Edinburgh; hope for a ‘third gender’ within the UK?

Oriana Frame, Durham University.

On the 1st of November 2014, the Equal Recognition campaign was launched in Edinburgh. The campaign, pioneered by The Scottish Transgender Alliance alongside the Equality Network, has vocalised the notion that Scotland, along with the rest of the United Kingdom, is falling behind countries such as India, Denmark, Bangladesh and Germany who have already legally recognised a ‘third’ non-binary gender.

(more…)

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

The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill (NI)

Sarah Thin, Durham University

On the 20th of October, the Northern Irish Assembly passed the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill, a controversial new law which purportedly seeks to combat human trafficking and sexual exploitation by, inter alia, criminalising the act of paying for sexual services.  It is likely to become law by mid-2015.  By targeting the buyer as opposed to the seller (a novel approach within the UK), the proposals aim to recreate the supposed success of the ‘Swedish model’, the idea behind which is to reduce demand within the sex trade thereby reducing levels of sex trafficking.

There has been heavy criticism of the proposals: a survey of sex workers has found that 98% of them oppose the proposals and 61% believe the new law would make them less safe.  Many argue that the Swedish model ‘strips women of their agency and autonomy’ by criminalising the consensual buying and selling of sex, has increased the stigmatisation of sex workers, and its success appears to have been greatly exaggerated.  While no-one would deny that human trafficking is a major problem in today’s society, claims that the majority of sex workers in Northern Ireland are victims of trafficking have been shown to be unfounded, and many believe the plans will simply force the sex trade further underground, making it even more difficult to combat the issue and provide support to victims.  These proposals, while presumably well-meaning, conflate the two separate issues of trafficking and consensual sex work and are likely to be at best ineffective, most likely very harmful.  We must hope that the new campaign for a similar law in England meets with a more considered approach. 

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staystrongNikki Godden, Newcastle Law School

(Image from Stop Revenge Porn Scotland Campaign)

Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, has announced that the Government is ‘very open to having a serious discussion’ about the problem of revenge porn, in response to the call from Maria Miller, former Culture Secretary, for a change in the law to address the ‘appalling’ practice ( Justice Questions, House of Commons, 1 July 2014 : Column 745). This ‘appalling’ practice, whereby men (most commonly) distribute intimate and sexual images or videos of women (usually partners or ex-partners) on the internet without consent, is becoming more prevalent in the UK. And the effects of revenge porn upon its victims can be significant. Media reports highlight that victims have experienced personal and professional degradation and humiliation which have, in some cases, led to suicide.

The gender dimensions to revenge porn cannot be ignored. First, revenge porn is typically not an isolated abusive incident in a relationship but rather is one – albeit relatively new – method of control and violation in a wider context of domestic violence (see Scottish Women’s Aid’s Briefing Stop Revenge Porn on this point). Secondly, the fact that it is by far more common for men to distribute images/videos of women and girls contributes to and entrenches the sexual objectification of women, the sexualisation of young people, and gender inequality more generally. As such, it is important that the Government address this growing problem. It seems that the way it will do so is to consider creating a new criminal offence, or amending existing sexual offences to capture all instances where pornography is distributed without the subject’s consent. However, while further criminalisation may be helpful, the focus should be on preventing revenge porn by better regulating internet behaviour, which is a dimension of resolving this developing problem that has typically been absent from public discussions and proposed responses. (more…)

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