QotD: “Rape victims to be spared ordeal of cross-examination in court”

New measures to spare alleged rape victims from facing live cross-examination in court will be rolled out as part of changes being made by the justice secretary.

Liz Truss announced that from September victims in England and Wales would be able to provide evidence in prerecorded cross-examinations to be played to the jury once a trial begins.

The rule applying to all adult sexual offences is being introduced following the success of pilot schemes using prerecorded evidence in cases of child sexual abuse.

It was found that defendants, when confronted with the strength of the evidence against them before the trial, were more likely to enter an early guilty plea, reducing the trauma for victims, speeding up the justice process and saving money.

The move comes amid changes that include a crackdown on paedophiles grooming children on social media with a new offence of “sexual communication with a child” to be brought in. It will mean those convicted face a jail sentence of up to two years and an automatic listing on the sex offender register.

Truss said the changes to rape trials would prevent victims facing the trauma of confronting their attackers without reducing the right to a fair trial.

She told the Sunday Times: “There is more we can do to help alleged victims in these cases give the best possible evidence they can give in an environment that is much more suitable than open court. We’ve been trialling this for children in cases of sex abuses.”

She added: “What this has led to is a much higher level of early guilty pleas. That has a huge amount of benefit. It resolves the case much earlier for the victim. It reduces the level of trauma for the victim. I want to see that being the standard offer in those cases and that will give more victims the confidence to come forward.”

Rape prosecutions are at record levels and the court system is struggling to cope with the high caseloads.

Domestic abuse, rape, sexual offences and child sex abuse account for 19% of the Crown Prosecution Service’s total caseload – more than double the figure six years ago.

The volume of rape referrals to the CPS from the police rose to 6,855 in 2015-16 – up 11% on the previous year. Of those referred, 3,910 resulted in charges and 1,300 in convictions. However, campaigners claim only 6% of all reported cases result in a conviction for the perpetrator.

[…]

Lisa Avalos, a professor of law at the University of Arkansas who has carried out comparative work on rape prosecutions between Britain and the US, said false allegations of rape make up just 2-3% of all rape allegations according to a study commissioned by the Home Office.

Avalos, an expert on gender-based violence, said: “The overwhelming problem here is rape, it is not false allegations of rape. Studies have shown the majority of false allegations of rape involve unnamed perpetrators so the concerns some organisations have about reputational damage to identifiable individuals are substantially overstated.”

She added: “Concern with false allegation masks another problem, namely that disbelieved rape victims have been wrongly accused of false reporting. Approaching rape victims with scepticism enables rape and discourages victims from coming forward.”

Avalos said that if rape cases were properly investigated in the first place, false allegations would never come to court.

She said: “There are massive failures to properly investigate rapes with police officers only referring between 10% and 30% of all reported cases to prosecutors. There are some international organisations that are putting out excellent rape investigation guidelines but such guidance is yet to be embraced by the UK.”

Full article here

Happy International Women’s Day!

“Sex education to be made compulsory in secondary schools”

Children will be taught about healthy adult relationships from the age of four, with sex education made compulsory in all secondary schools, though faith schools will still be allowed to teach “in accordance with the tenets of their faith”, the government has announced.

Politicians and charities welcomed the radical overhaul of sex and relationship education but some secular campaigners expressed concern about the opt-outs that could be available for faith schools, saying the government needed to ensure some pupils were not left vulnerable.

MPs across all parties had lobbied for the change, calling the previous guidance published in 2000 hopelessly inadequate for a modern world in which children can be exposed to pornography, online grooming and abuse at the touch of a button and at an increasingly young age.

In a written statement on Wednesday, the education secretary, Justine Greening, said existing statutory guidance made no mention of modern issues.

“The statutory guidance for sex and relationships education was introduced in 2000 and is becoming increasingly outdated,” she said. “It fails to address risks to children that have grown in prevalence over the last 17 years, including cyberbullying, ‘sexting’ and staying safe online.”

Sex education is compulsory only for secondary school pupils in local authority-run schools. Now all secondary schools, including academies, private schools and religious free schools, must make the age-appropriate sex and relationship education mandatory.

Parents will continue to have a right to withdraw their children from the lessons. Schools will have flexibility in how they deliver the subjects and they can develop an approach that is “sensitive to the needs of the local community” and religious beliefs.

[…]

The government will now make the change by tabling its own amendment to the children and social work bill, having previously been under pressure when more than two dozen Tory MPs signed their own backbench amendment to the bill, spearheaded by former women and equalities secretary Maria Miller.

Full article here

“Sexual harassment ‘at epidemic levels’ in UK universities”

Sexual harassment, misconduct and gender violence by university staff are at epidemic levels in the UK, a Guardian investigation suggests.

Freedom of information (FoI) requests sent to 120 universities found that students made at least 169 such allegations against academic and non-academic staff from 2011-12 to 2016-17. At least another 127 allegations about staff were made by colleagues.

But scores of alleged victims have told the Guardian they were dissuaded from making official complaints, and either withdrew their allegations or settled for an informal resolution. Many others said they never reported their harassment, fearful of the impact on their education or careers. This suggests that the true scale of the problem is far greater than the FoI figures reveal.

“These numbers are shocking, but sadly, from our experience, are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr Ann Olivarius, senior partner at the law firm McAllister Olivarius. “Sexual harassment of students by staff members has reached epidemic levels in British universities. Most universities have no effective mechanism to stop staff from pressuring students into sexual relationships, and when it happens, any sort of disciplinary action is pretty much nonexistent. Those in charge are often colleagues who have many incentives not to intervene.

“Young women are often terrified about the consequences if they make a complaint about a staff member. So often, when they do, the university’s chief concern is to downplay any wrongdoing and protect its own reputation by keeping the whole thing quiet.”

Anna Bull, co-founder of the 1752 Group, set up to address staff-student sexual harassment in higher education, said: “There is evidence to suggest that the actual figures in the UK will be staggering. The Association of American Universities undertook a detailed survey of sexual assault and sexual misconduct in 2015 (student-student and staff-student). Surveys were completed on 27 campuses, with 150,072 students responding. The survey found reporting rates for sexual harassment – staff and student – [were] 7.7%, and only 28% of even the most serious incidents are reported to an organisation or agency.”

Full article here

From Clytemnaestra to Hillary Clinton

Really interesting programme on BBC Radio 4 this evening, available on iPlayer now.

From Clytemnaestra in the tragedies of Aeschylus to Hillary Clinton on social media – Professor Mary Beard explores the image and reality of women in power. A chance to catch up on her prestigious London of Review of Books Winter Lecture, exploring timely questions such as what’s so ‘funny’ about the idea of women being in charge and what does ‘breaking the glass ceiling’ really mean?

As with Proessor Mary Beard’s first LRB lecture (Oh Do Shut Up, Dear: The Public Voice of Women), the Cambridge classicist’s starting point will be her profound knowledge of the ancient world. As previously, she will explore not only the facts surrounding women in power but also the depiction of them in the media past and present.

She’ll begin by unpackaging the ways in which apparently powerful women in ancient Greek drama are often depicted as ultimately undermining their own entitlement to power: tragic figures such as Aeschylus’ Clytemnaestra or comic ones such as Aristophanes’ Lysistrata may appear to be powerful, but an audience only had to witness Clytemnaestra’s blood-thirsty wielding of an axe or the frivolity of Lysistrata and friends to have their belief in the patriarchy reaffirmed. In other words, myths which depict women abusing power may simply justify the reality of a patriarchy.

In the second part of the lecture, Mary Beard will discuss the idea of the “glass ceiling” and investigate whether it is perhaps our internalising of the fates of figures such as Clytemnaestra and Lysistata which has had a more significant impact on the challenges which women of power encounter today, whether Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel, Marine Le Pen or our own Theresa May.

QotD: “please stop talking about the human body as if it is a morphing vague undefinable accidental mass”

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like if we were to start saying “humans don’t have five fingers because some humans have less or more” then you erase the fact that these abnormalities become disabilities. you don’t help people who are born missing fingers by ignoring the fact they don’t have the amount of fingers they should. these people grow learn and adapt but the fact that they must do so is a unique experience because of their disability, and something most people don’t have to do.

please please please PLEASE I am begging you please stop talking about the human body as if it is a morphing vague undefinable accidental mass. The human genome took thousands of years to evolve and will continue to evolve but now at this time humans have a set of characteristics that define them as humans and not as dogs or trees or bananas or birds or whales. They are primates, they are apes, they have two legs two arms ten fingers one stomach and one heart and also for the love of the moon the stars the depths of the sea and my sanity TWO SEXES

From always ask who benefits

Sexual Offences Bill criminalising purchase of sex passed in Republic of Ireland

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Legislation which criminalises the purchaser of sexual services rather than the seller has been passed in the Dáil by 94 votes to six.

There were three abstentions.

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill also strengthens laws to combat child pornography and prevent the sexual grooming of children. And it amends provisions on incest and indecent exposure.

[…] Provisions in the Bill also include prohibition of the wearing of wigs and gowns in proceedings involving children and the prohibition on the cross-examination of victims of sexual offences by an accused, which will apply once the Bill is commenced.

Irish Times, continue reading here

Today a historic precedent was set when the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill, which includes laws to criminalise the purchase of sex and ensure vulnerable women, children and men in prostitution can access support, passed its final hurdle in Seanad Éireann and will now be part of the Irish Statute Book.

The 70+ partners of Turn Off the Red Light, which have been tirelessly campaigning in support of this crucial legislation are united in their welcome for
the new legislation, which will better protect vulnerable women, children and men who are being sexually exploited.

Denise Charlton, Chair of Turn Off the Red Light,said: “From the very beginning this Bill has been about protecting and supporting those most vulnerable to sexual exploitation, violence and abuse. It focuses on the perpetrators of sexual crime
– the pimps and traffickers who enable abuse and exploitation to continue, and who benefit from it financially.

“We commend the Tánaiste, Minister Frances Fitzgerald, for championing this Bill as it progressed through the Oireachtas. By supporting it, the Irish Government is making a clear statement that it will stand up for the most vulnerable in our society.

“The inclusion of a review period in this legislation affirms the Government’s commitment to making sure the legislation has a real impact for those it seeks to support. We look forward to working with the Government in the coming months to ensure this happens.”

Statement by Turn Off the Red Light, continue reading here

The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD this evening welcomed the passage of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 through both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Speaking this evening the Tánaiste said –

‘This is one of the most comprehensive and wide ranging piece of sexual offences legislation ever to be introduced and has been a priority for me as Minister for Justice and Equality. It is an essential piece of legislation that brings additional protections to some of the most vulnerable people in our community. It contains the right laws for these times, laws that will protect victims of the most vicious and depraved crimes.

The provisions of this Bill enhance and update laws to combat the sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children. It widens the range of offences associated with child pornography to ensure that no one who participates in any way in the creation, distribution, viewing or sharing of such abhorrent material can escape the law.

Also, the Bill provides greater clarity in relation to the definition of sexual consent for the first time.’

The Bill contains:

· New criminal offences to protect children against grooming;

· New measures to protect children from online predators;

· New and strengthened offences to tackle child pornography;

· New provisions to be introduced regarding evidence by victims, particularly children;

· New offences addressing public indecency;

· A provision in relation to harassment Orders to protect victims of convicted sex offenders;

· Provisions maintaining the age of consent to sexual activity at 17 years of age and for a new “proximity of age” defence;

· A provision to criminalise the purchase of sexual services.

· A statutory statement of the law as regards consent to sexual acts

Concluding, the Tánaiste said, ‘I would like to acknowledge the support and invaluable contributions from my parliamentary colleagues and from civic society, in particular from those people and organisations who made submissions and representations to me and my Department.’

This Bill brings Irish law into line with a number of international legal instruments and implements the recommendations of a number of Oireachtas committees.

Tánaiste welcomes passage of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 through Oireachtas

SPACE International is delighted to join its voice with the Immigrant Council of Ireland, Ruhama, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, Children’s Rights Alliance, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Men’s Development Network, Irish Nurses and Midwives Association and all of the other organisations that make up the seventy-two members of the Turn Off the Red Light campaign, in welcoming the passing of the Sexual Offences Bill in the Republic of Ireland.

SPACE International’s Irish members, both publicly known and anonymous, have worked extraordinarily hard alongside many others to campaign for the passing of this Bill since 2011, and it is with great joy that we can finally welcome the criminalisation of the demand for paid sexual access to human beings.

We are relieved and gladdened that the Irish government has finally fully recognised the abusive reality of prostitution and committed to criminalise those who exploit others for their own sexual gratification. This is an important and historical moment for Ireland. We have, for the first time since the foundation of the state, recognised the legal rights of prostituted persons to live free of sexual exploitation.

SPACE recognises the highly gendered nature of the sex trade and welcomes the societal change that this legislation will bring about, in particular its positive effect on the goal of gender equality, and is committed to continuing the conversation with regard to social supports for prostituted persons so that they may exit prostitution if they so wish with the full support of the State.

SPACE International welcomes Irish Sexual Offences Bill

Kitty Stryker thinks women should die for saying ‘no’ to men

Previous posts here, here, and here.

H/t to Appropriately Inappropriate for her reblog of the tweet.

Kitty Stryker is a phoney and a fake radical who has co-opted the language of radical feminism, and shills for the sex industry while providing a fig-leaf for the BDSM ‘community’.

On twitter a few days ago, she said “I swear to god I wish we could just put the TERFs and Nazis on a goddamn boat together and send them into the sea.”

When someone else added “or we could put them in concentration camps? Maybe before they went into ovens? Lol” Stryker merely complained that that was “in bad taste”.

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Sryker has changed her twitter handle to “Punch Nazis”, and added a later tweet about ‘terfs’ drowning, so it’s clear she has no problem with violence against women, when they are women she disagrees with politically.

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This isn’t the first time Stryker has demonstrated that she sees women she doesn’t like as not fully human, in this tweet I screen capped a while back, we can see her wondering if radical feminists are actually real people, the ‘kill all terfs’ rhetoric follows on easily.

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Stryker is also an intellectual coward, who ran away from conversations on this blog she wasn’t winning, and now won’t even engage, but she does keep an eye on me, as she tweeted about my previous post more than once.

Here’s a clue for you Stryker, ‘terfs’ don’t exist, there are no ‘terf’ organisations, there are no ‘terf’ leaders, there are no women calling themselves ‘terfs’ except ironically, it’s a term trans activists made up in order to intimidate women into unquestioning silence and obedience.

Stryker also likes lying about the Nordic (Abolitionist) Model, claiming that it made it easier for the police to arrest her – tell me Stryker, how does decriminalising ‘sex workers’ make it easier for the police to arrest them?

She’s doing this still, implying that under the Nordic Model, the police are more dangerous to ‘sex workers’, deliberately and cynically obscuring the fact that the Nordic Model means decriminalising the prostitute her (or him) self.

[EDIT 19/Feb/17: If decriminalising ‘sex workers’ under the Nordic Model doesn’t make the police ‘safe’, then how will decriminalising the whole of the sex industry make the police ‘safe’?]

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The first loyalty of sex industry advocates is to the sex industry itself, always.

QotD: “Menstrual seclusion was once about giving women a safe space – hunter gatherer cultures can teach us how women’s blood is potent, not polluting”

Among many hunter-gatherers to this day, menstrual blood connotes potency, not pollution. Menstruating women and girls have privileged shamanic access to the spirit world, often imagined as connection to the Moon, “women’s biggest husband”. This potency demands such respect that women are inviolable and no man dares infringe these taboos for fear of destroying his hunting luck.

Could menstruation and its observances in fact be experienced as empowering for women? Take the menstrual traditions of the Yurok Indians who live in north-western California. Here, a woman would go on strike once a month for 10 whole days, declaring herself “on her Moontime”. It was her time off. She didn’t cook for her husband or do household chores. It was believed that a woman should seclude herself during her flow because “she is at the height of her powers”. Such time should not be wasted in mundane tasks, distractions or worries about the opposite sex. Rather, all her energies should be applied in concentrated meditation “to find out the purpose of your life”.

In the old days, menstruating Yurok women would communally bathe and perform rituals in a “sacred Moontime pond” up in the nearby mountains. In belief, all the fertile women in a household who were not pregnant menstruated “at the same time, a time dictated by the Moon”, when they practised their bathing rituals together. If a woman fell out of phase with the Moon, breaking synchrony with her sisters, she could “get back in by sitting in the moonlight and talking to the Moon asking it to balance her”.

Anthropologists have described how withdrawal of sexual and domestic services was in many cultures on women’s terms. Far from being oppressive, so-called “seclusion” could be experienced as special time. In 2001, Wynne Maggi described what happens regularly to this day inside the bashali, a communal menstrual house used by women among the Kalasha people of north-west Pakistan.

In this community, there are no isolated menstrual huts. Instead, there is a large sacred building serving as a communal meeting house for the women, who see it as the physical centre for their solidarity and freedom. Women congregate here when menstruating or giving birth, so that at any one time there may be as many as 20 women inside, gossiping, laughing and singing together, many with babies and toddlers. During their stay in what they call their “most holy place”, women compare notes on the duration of their menstrual flows.

The men express pride that in this society, “our women are free”, despite the fact that the bashali building is off-limits to them. Women who want to escape their husbands for a few days can use it as a refuge. Maggi describes graphically how women enjoy the intimacy of sleeping overnight in the bashali, arms and legs wrapped closely together. What happens in the bashali is women’s secret, so much so that men don’t even have the words to ask what happens there. The special house for women is the biggest building in the village. Like so many men’s houses or temples in patriarchal societies, but the other way round, it is one from which half the population is excluded.

Among African hunter-gatherers, where gender egalitarianism is strong, a girl’s first menstruation triggers special celebrations embracing the entire community. For hunter-gatherers of the Ituri Forest in the eastern part of the Congo, the elima ritual is a collective and joyous affair. Lasting several moons, activities centre on an elima hut, which is in fact the most impressive structure ever used – more like a temple at the centre of the community.

Girls who have recently begun menstruating go inside with older women to be given practical lessons about boys and sex, but mainly to learn ancient, polyphonic songs and the hut resounds with their singing. The girls emerge “on the warpath” to playfully hunt out boys with big whippy sticks. Festivities revolve around this sexual wargame of girls laughingly chasing boys and the boys countering and teasing back. If any boy gets whipped, he must try to enter the elima hut, assuming he can get past the mums and aunties guarding the entrance. In this way elima becomes a type of initiation for both sexes, very much on the girls’ terms.

In Blood Relations, his classic work on the anthropology of menstruation, Chris Knight argues that women invented culture. He traces the origins of sexual morality to female self-organisation and collective resistance toward bad behaviour in males. Knight argues convincingly that women could not command respect if they allowed men to take sexual access to them for granted. The way to get men to be helpful was to make clear that sex was conditional on good behaviour. To make this work, women had to establish, at least periodically, the most fundamental rule of all, that “No means No”. As Knight puts it: “If the body is not sacred, nothing is.”

Dr Camilla Power

“Hawaii bill would legalize prostitution industry”

Hawaii lawmakers are considering decriminalizing prostitution in the state after the speaker of the House introduced a bill that would also legalize buying sex and acting as a pimp.

The proposal also would end a state law that says police officers cannot have sex with prostitutes in the course of investigations.

Transgender activist Tracy Ryan said she is trying to convince state lawmakers to pass the bill because transgender women are overrepresented in the sex trade and therefore disproportionately affected by criminalization laws.

House Speaker Joseph Souki said in an interview that he does not have a position on the bill and he introduced it as a favor for Ryan.

“I don’t like seeing people sent to jail that don’t belong there,” Ryan said.

But long-time anti-sex trafficking advocate Kathryn Xian said legalizing the selling, promoting or buying of sex would make it harder to police the industry.

“If this bill passes and everything was no crime whatsoever, then abuses against women and children would just shoot through the freaking roof,” Xian said. “It would be exponentially harder to prove violence in the industry. It would be almost impossible to prove any sort of labor abuse.”

Asked about the part of the bill that strikes language preventing police from having sex with prostitutes during investigations, Souki said: “No, again I have nothing to say about the bill.”

Hawaii has an unusual history with prostitution investigations. Until 2014, it was legal for police officers to have sex with prostitutes as part of investigations, but state lawmakers changed that after The Associated Press highlighted the loophole in a story.

The Honolulu Police Department did not immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment about the bill.

Ryan wants to preserve the law preventing police from having sex with prostitutes to arrest them if the bill does not pass, but “if they can’t arrest them anyway because it’s no longer illegal, it’s a moot point,” she said.

Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro said the bill would make it harder to address global sex trafficking because “it would be more difficult to find the bad actors, more difficult to get witnesses to make cases.”

Michael Golojuch Jr., chairman of the LGBT caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, said transgender women are overrepresented compared with other women in the sex trade because the discrimination they face leads some to feel it’s the only kind of work they can get.

Golojuch personally supports the idea of decriminalizing prostitution, but he said he and the caucus had not yet taken an official position on the bill.

“My dream job would be union organizer for consensual sex workers,” Golojuch said. “It would be great for people who want to do that work to unionize them and empower them so that they are taken care of.”

Not everyone thinks legalizing prostitution would benefit sex workers.

“By normalizing sexual exploitation and recasting it as a career choice that has no harms attached, we’re creating a setting and a system where we are OK with objectifying women, where we’re OK with buying other human beings’ bodies, and that has effects that are far-reaching in terms of how women are treated,” said Khara Jabola, chapter coordinator of Af3irm Hawaii, a feminist group.

The bill and another to decriminalize marijuana may be part of a push to reduce the prison population, House Majority Leader Scott Saiki said.

But any decriminalization bills are unlikely to pass before the Legislature gets a report from a working group that has been meeting on the topic. That report isn’t expected before the session ends, Saiki said.

From the Associated Press