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Posts Tagged ‘Inherently Brief’

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

Uganda’s Anti-Gay Act Signed into Law

Jesse Bachir, Durham University

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni signed the now infamous anti-gay bill into law this week amidst great protest from human rights groups and western countries. Since then, many countries have announced reviews of their aid policies regarding Uganda. Notably, the Netherlands will stop sending $9.6 million in aid to assist with Uganda’s courts, while Norway and Denmark will be giving a combined $17 million to NGOs and human rights organizations operating in Uganda, rather than as aid directly to the country. The US has also announced that it will be reviewing its diplomatic relations with Uganda, including a review of its aid policies, which amount to $400 million per year.

The law criminalises gay sex and same-sex marriage and provides for life imprisonment for so-called ‘aggravated homosexuality’, which is defined as any sexual relations with someone of the same sex more than once, with a child, with a disabled person, or where one individual is HIV positive.

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

Abusive Treatment of Indigenous Women in Canada

Gita Keshava, Durham University

On January 30, 2014 representatives from Human Rights Watch testified before the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women in the Canadian House of Commons. They urged the government to set up an independent national inquiry to investigate the current violence experienced by indigenous women and girls, in order to create a system that will ensure greater accountability with regards to police misconduct, and ultimately hold them responsible for their actions or lack thereof. In February 2013, Human Rights Watch published a report specifically investigating the protection of indigenous women and girls in northern British Columbia (BC). It highlighted the fact that police continue to use excessive force, and physical and sexual assault against indigenous women and girls. In order to target these issues, Canada needs to ensure that there is a police complaint mechanism, that oversight procedures are in force, and that there is a requirement for independent civilian investigations into reported incidents of police misconduct. In addition, the government needs to establish a commission to investigate the murders and disappearances of indigenous women and the link that these events have with police mistreatment, especially in relation to the Highway 16, now commonly known as northern BC’s “Highway of Tears.” These concerns, although specifically relevant to Indigenous women and girls, remain a serious issue for all women in British Columbia and in Canada more generally.

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

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The New F-ratings of Films in Sweden: Bringing feminist-friendly female role models to the attention of the public

Sam Grigg (Newcastle University)

Sweden, one of the greatest gender-equality countries, is imposing the use of the Bechdel test for cinema releases. Simple in nature, the test requires the fiction in question to have at least two women in it, they must talk to each other, and they must discuss something besides men. Usually employed by feminist critics who will give the rating, the test assesses how female-friendly certain fiction is.

It is unacceptable that so many popular films such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Pulp Fiction, The Social Network and all but one of the Harry Potter films fail the test. The Hunger Games and The Iron Lady, however, pave way for feminist approval. However, it is disconcerting that around half of films that do get awarded this rating (of an ‘A’) only do so because of discussions of babies or marriage, which is hardly progressing from gender-stereotyping.

A criticism of the Bechdel test is that writers argue they have a duty to portray life truthfully, so feel unfairly punished if they don’t pass the test due to showing real-life misogyny. Additionally, many sexist films can still pass the test, and films with all-female characters can fail, meaning that it doesn’t explain whether a film is gender-balanced.

Despite the above criticisms, the UK should declare the use and regulation of such a test; if it did, the rating should be made compulsorily published as with the British Board of Film Classification prior to release. (more…)

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