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Posts Tagged ‘equality’

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

World’s first male rape centre

Aidan Bull, Durham University

A hospital in the Swedish capital, Stockholm, is believed to be the first rape centre for male sexual violence victims.

Sweden has the highest rate of rape in Europe, but this is partly because the country records allegations in a different way to most countries, tracking each case of sexual violence separately. For example, if someone says they were raped every day by their partner for a week, officers will record seven potential crimes. In contrast, many other countries would simply label it as a single incident. This wide reaching tracking system has helped to uncover the hidden statistics of male rape.  In 2014, some 370 cases of sexual assault on men or boys were reported across Sweden, according to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, although experts believe that the actual figure is much higher.

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

Supreme Court Decides on Fraudulent Divorce Case

Catherine Ravenscroft, Durham University

On 14th October 2015, the Supreme Court handed down judgement in the landmark case of Sharland v Sharland. This case concerned the division of assets upon divorce where one party, in this instance the husband, has fraudulently misled the court as to their future financial plans. Mr Sharland owned shares in a company which he told the Court he had no intention of selling. Mrs Sharland signed a consent order on the basis of this assertion. However, during the court hearing, it was discovered that Mr Sharland did indeed have plans to sell his shares, which would significantly affect the claim which Mrs Sharland advanced. She appealed to the Supreme Court on the basis that the consent order should be sealed. It was unanimously held that ‘fraud unravels all’ and the consent of Mrs Sharland was found to be vitiated by the fraudulent behaviour of her husband. The consent order was, thus, set aside.

The importance of this decision is to be found in its consequences. The decision of the Supreme Court has allowed Mrs Sharland to return her claim to first instance and have its value reconsidered by the courts. Although the full significance of this decision may not be felt for some time, it appears to create significant scope for the re-opening of divorce settlements on the basis of fraud. In contrast, there are also concerns that this decision may open the floodgates to couples attempting to revisit divorce agreements.

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IB imageRussia bans Trans* people from driving

Catherine Ravenscroft, Durham University

Last month Russia enacted a new law effectively banning people with certain illnesses from driving. Within the listed illnesses are those viewed as “personality and behaviour disorders”, for example transsexualism and other “disorders of sexual preference”.

The move was justified by the Russian government on the basis of a need to reduce the high rates of traffic accidents occurring each year. The country currently has some of the worst figures for road accident fatalities in the world and it is believed that stricter controls on those given the opportunity to drive will make the roads safer.

Nevertheless, the Act has received international criticism due to its potentially detrimental effects on the transgender community. Jean Freedberg, of Human Rights Campaign Global, argued that the ban is “simply another example of the Russian government’s increased campaign of persecution and discrimination against its LGBT population”. Like other critics, Freedberg fails to see the logic behind connection that the Russian government has drawn between gender identity and driver ability. As Shawn Gaylord, of US-based Human Rights First, argues, “banning people from driving based on their gender identity or expression is ridiculous”. He also expresses concerns that it could deter transgender people from seeking mental health services due to a fear of losing the right to drive.

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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.

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

US Supreme Court (Sort of) Decides on Same Sex Marriage

Jesse Bachir, Durham University

Following last year’s decision in Windsor, same-sex couples and LGBT advocacy groups across the United States have been filing suits against State governments challenging the Constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans.

So far, almost every Court (with one exception) in the United States has found marriage bans to be unconstitutional either under Federal Constitutional law or State Constitutional law. Most recently, earlier this month, the Supreme Court denied a petition to review 7 cases from lower Federal Courts on the constitutionality of marriage bans. In denying review of the cases, the decisions of the lower courts stood (all of which found the bans unconstitutional), and the stays of execution issued by the lower courts were removed. That brings the total to 32 States with equal marriage.

The Supreme Court effectively, though indirectly, decided the issue for the rest of the country – in allowing the lower court decisions to stand, clear judicial precedent has been made.  The lower courts in all 7 of the denied review cases found the marriage bans to be unconstitutional for the same reasons. In denying review, the Supreme Court implicitly agreed with the rulings of the lower courts and avoided wading into the politically charged topic.

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Enright,_Mairead

Máiréad Enright is a lecturer at Kent Law School and is completing a PhD at University College Cork which examines the legal treatment of questions in Muslim divorce practice in the UK and the United States from the perspective of a multiculturalist feminism.

 

Mairead Enright Post

Power is cautious. It covers itself. It bases itself in another’s pain and prevents all recognition that there is “another” by lopped circles that ensure its own solipsism.’ – Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain

 Ireland was examined by the UN Human Rights Committee under the ICCPR last week. The state’s response to the Committee’s follow up questions has been published online. These written answers supplement the oral presentations made by the Minister for Justice and civil servants at the hearings in Geneva. This document is useful as a time capsule of the government’s position on redress for institutional abuse of women and children, because it contains several pages of defence of the official position on reparations for survivors of symphysiotomy. Symphysiotomy is a childbirth operation, which involves breaking a woman’s pelvis, usually before or during labour. It was revived in Ireland in the 1940s by a small group of conservative Catholic doctors, working in state-run or state-supervised hospitals, as an alternative to Caesarean section and was performed in hospitals all over Ireland into the 1980s. (If you need a reminder of the violence and abuse which characterised its practice in Ireland, see here.) On July 1, the Government published Judge Yvonne Murphy’s Independent Review of Issues Relating to Symphysiotomy (the Murphy Report) which outlines a possible redress scheme for survivors. The scheme draws on Professor Oonagh Walsh’s final Report on Symphysiotomy in Ireland 1944 -1984 (the Walsh Report) published on the same date. It is important to stress that the fine print of the symphysiotomy redress scheme has not yet been made public. The State’s written response to the Committee, unfortunately, has introduced yet more ambiguity into an already murky public discussion. Hundreds of women who are members of Survivors of Symphysiotomy, disappointed by the government’s approach to redress, have begun High Court litigation against the hospitals which performed their symphysiotomies, and against the State (invoking the law of negligence and the principles established in O’Keeffe v. Ireland at the ECHR).

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SdeMDr. Sylvia de Mars, Lecturer in Law at Newcastle Law School, Newcastle University

As of midnight on the 14th of March 2014, same-sex couples living in the United Kingdom who were married in a foreign jurisdiction where said marriage was recognized are now also recognized as married in the United Kingdom.  This marks a general trend in Western Europe of the increasingly recognised right for same-sex couples to form legal relationships; but, unfortunately, embracing gay marriage is only a starting point for establishing full legal equality for same-sex couples.  Other, related rights frequently lag behind.  What lingers is institutionalised discrimination on the basis of both gender and sexual orientation, largely because the government in question “forgot” to think beyond the first rights granted.  The following contribution discusses a particular area of law where these problems remain in many countries, using the United Kingdom and the Netherlands as examples: namely, pervasively heteronormative and patrilineal structure of nationality laws.

The standard mechanism for the passing of nationality to a child in most countries is via the birth (or biological) mother: the child is born with the nationality of the mother.  Beyond this, additional transmission mechanisms differ per jurisdiction; some countries (such as the United States, and until recently, the Ireland and Belgium) grant nationality to all children born on national soil (as per jus soli), and others (such as the United Kingdom) grant nationality to children because their parents have lived in a given jurisdiction for a significant period of time and are thus ‘settled’ there.

Where both parents are nationals of the country they live in, the nationality of their children is straight-forward.  This will be the situation that an overwhelming majority of childbirths worldwide take place in; however, determination of nationality has always been more complicated, even for heterosexual couples, when the birth mother is not a national of the country that the baby is born in.  In the United Kingdom, for instance, if the (foreign) birth mother and the (British) father are not married, their child does not automatically have British nationality; the father’s paternity needs to be proven (by registering the father on the birth certificate, which the birth mother must agree to do) before nationality can be passed on.  The Netherlands’ current nationality law reflects a similar principle; however, prior to 1985, Dutch nationality was only passed through patrilineal descent—consequently a Dutch mother and a foreign father could not give birth to a Dutch child, even if married before the law.  Nationality law that involves binational couples has thus historically been complicated.  However, the concept of what a “couple” was for the purposes of these laws was a straight-forward issue—mothers and fathers were either married or not—until the legal recognition of gay partnerships became a reality in both the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. (more…)

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