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Posts Tagged ‘law reform’

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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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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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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Anna_JobeAnna Jobe is a third year PhD student at Durham Law School. Her thesis research concerns the regulation of religious symbols.

“I do not know what the definition of ‘draconian’ is, but it certainly does not sound very good, and I am sure that it does not apply to my Bill.”

– Philip Hollobone

On the 28th February 2014, the Face Coverings (Prohibition) Bill had its second reading in the House of Commons. The debate will be resumed on May 16th. Introduced as a Private Members’ Bill, it represents Conservative MP Philip Hollobone’s second attempt to prohibit the wearing of ‘certain face coverings’ in public places (after his 2010 Face Coverings (Regulation) Bill). It forms part of a series of Tory Private Members’ Bills dubbed the ‘Alternative Queen’s Speech’, which include the return of national service and the death penalty, as well as a national ‘Margaret Thatcher’ day. By Hollobone’s own admission, despite being framed in neutral terms, the Bill is designed to target two coverings in particular: balaclavas and full-face Islamic veils (hereafter ‘veils’). In the context of increasingly punitive measures in other parts of Europe – including criminal sanctions in France and Belgium – the passing of this Bill is not quite as implausible as may first appear.

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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

UN Women Ad Campaign Shows Pervasive Sexism

Lauren Posada

Recently, UN Women has launched an ad campaign, created by Memac Ogilvy and Mather Dubai, which shows the extent of worldwide sexism and discrimination against women. Using the Google search bar, UN Women inputted the beginning of sentences such as “women shouldn’t”, and put the drop down options over women’s mouths. While shocking, a quick check of Google shows that these are in fact true. Arwa Mahdawi, writing for the Guardian, warns us against taking the campaign too literally and notes that “autocomplete isn’t always an entirely accurate reflection of the collective psyche”. Whilst this may be true, and no doubt Google does come up with some questionable autocomplete answers at times, it is undeniably disturbing to see these searches from a world widely used search engine. Whilst perhaps the searches are not reflective of all of humanity, the adverts are definitely thought provoking and lead us to question how far equality between the genders has actually progressed.

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Kat Gupta is a researcher at the University of Nottingham and recently completed a PhD in corpus linguistics, focusing on the representation of the women’s suffrage movement in The Times newspaper between 1908 and 1914. Kat also campaigns on trans* and queer issues.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 received its Royal Assent this month to the joy of many cis-gender lesbian, gay and bisexual people in same sex relationships and the dismay of many transgender people. While same sex marriage is an important step for many people, allowing them to celebrate their relationship, in its current form it fails transgender people. Trans* activists have already written about what the Act means for trans* people: Zoe O’Connell has summarised where the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 leaves trans* people, while Sarah Brown has further discussed its implications for trans* people.

In this post, I will discuss three of its main failings: stolen marriages, the spousal veto, and the Act’s language of binary gender. As the Act is written in terms of binary gender – something that I find deeply problematic and will discuss further in the third section of this post  – I will use its language of “opposite sex” and “same sex” relationships. An opposite sex relationship is defined as one between a man and a woman; a same sex relationship as between two men or two women. These definitions can be found in Schedule 3, Part 2 of the Act.

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