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Posts Tagged ‘trans* rights’

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

Female-only Cambridge University college allows transgender students

Arizona Hart, University of Manchester

A female-only College at the University of Cambridge has changed its admission policy to allow applications from transgender students who identify as female. The change was made following a decision by the Council of Murray Edwards College, one of three female-only Colleges at the prestigious university.

Prior to the decision, the College only admitted students who were legally recognised as female. In the UK, a person’s legal gender may be proved by a Birth Certificate or by a ‘Gender Recognition Certificate,’ a legal document that was introduced in 2005 by the Gender Recognition Act.

Under the change, the College will now admit students who are not legally female, but who identify as female and have “taken steps to live in the female gender.” What exactly will be required to prove this is unclear. In effect, it means that transgender persons who identify as women but who have not legally changed their gender under the Gender Recognition Act – a process which is lengthy, complicated, and cannot begin until a person turns 18 – will be allowed to apply to the College for the first time. (more…)

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Alex Shar10689909_1016854768344392_8793741729286128967_npe, Professor of Law at Keele University and barrister at Garden Court Chambers, London. Twitter handle: alexsharpe64

We are familiar with opposition to rights acquisition by sexual and gender minorities, at least when it comes from socially conservative and/or religiously moral quarters. Yet, in our topsy-turvy world, it is elements of the liberal or libertarian left that increasingly appear to block the way. In this article, I will consider this disturbing tendency through the example of the recent announcement of the Equalities Minister Justine Greening that the government intends to liberalise legal arrangements governing legal recognition of gender identity.[1]

This reform proposal has led to sustained criticism from several leading liberal or libertarian political journalists. Thus it has been criticised by Brendan O’Neill, editor of Spiked Magazine,[2] and by Helen Lewis, the deputy editor of the New Statesman.[3] In this article, I want to take to task the central objection each raises. O’Neill objects to what he views as the re-writing of history regarding the ‘facts’ of gender. For her part, Lewis imagines all manner of harmful consequences that reform may produce for cisgender women. In O’Neill’s case, existing legal arrangements, as well as proposed reform, appear to represent an affront, while Lewis focuses on potential harms which she links to expanding the pool of people able to receive a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).

I will argue that O’Neill’s objection is based on a mistaken view of history, of historical analysis, of the doing of history. Conversely, Lewis’ claim is an empirical one, but one utterly lacking in evidence. What unites both is fantasy. Lewis’ imagination runs amok, sensitising the public to the possibility that one of the most marginalised and vulnerable groups in society (trans women) might, if permitted to pee in female bathrooms, have recourse to female refuges and/or be allocated to a gender-appropriate prison, prey on cisgender women. In a different register, O’Neill invokes the cultural power of Orwell and points to the dystopia he believes reform will inevitably deliver. (more…)

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10689909_1016854768344392_8793741729286128967_n

Alex Sharpe is a professor at Keele University School of Law. She has been involved in transgender law reform and activism for over twenty years, and has written extensively on the criminalisation of so-called ‘gender fraud’ under the Sexual Offences Act. Alex has recently been interviewed by CBC Radio Canada on the Gayle Newland case, together with Professor Madden Demsey. Her interview can be found here.

On 15th September, Gayle Newland was convicted of three counts of sexual assault under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. She is currently awaiting sentence, though a custodial term has been indicated. The case is the latest in a series of so-called, and so far successful, ‘gender fraud’ based prosecutions that have come before English (R v Barker [2012] (unrep); R v McNally [2013] EWCA Crim 1051) and Scottish (R v Wilson [2013] (unrep)) courts. Barker and McNally received significant custodial sentences[1] and all convicted defendants have been placed on the Sexual Offenders Register for life.

Most of the media and legal coverage of the Newland case, like the cases of Barker, McNally and Wilson before it, has tended, unproblematically, to reproduce a fraud narrative, rather than challenge the ideological underpinnings of a worldview that makes fraud such an easy conclusion for courts and juries to draw. Of course, prosecution for ‘gender fraud’ is deeply troubling for other reasons. In the first place, prosecutions can be viewed as a significant example of criminal law overreach. That is, and irrespective of where we determine consent to end or deception to begin, the use of the criminal law to regulate deceptive, as opposed to coercive, sexual relations, can be viewed as an overly draconian and counter-productive measure. (more…)

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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.

(more…)

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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.

(more…)

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