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feminist news round-up 03.06.12

Support For Same-Sex Marriage Passes in NSW Senate

After much discussion, the New South Wales Upper House has voted in support of same-sex marriage. There was applause as the motion passed on Thursday afternoon, 22 votes to 16. The motion is to essentially work to encourage the federal government to legalise same-sex marriage. Both ALP and Coalition party members were allowed to cast a conscience vote.

The move was introduced by a Greens Member, Cate Faehrmann, who commented that ‘What we’ve done today is send a very strong message to the Federal Parliament that they should act on amending the Marriage Act…It’s very significant because MPs from the Liberal Party, the National Party, the Labor Party and the Greens all voted for marriage equality, given a conscience vote.’

The initial vote was delayed because so many members wanted to make statements about it during sitting time.

While this is no doubt a success for equal rights, several issues are still relevant. Last year, Mark Butler argued that ‘a conscience vote is not enough’. He points out that in the ALP, conscience votes have only hitherto been granted in ‘life or death situations’ – concerning euthanasia, abortion, and stem cell research. He argues that marriage equality brings up no issues of ‘conscience’ in this sense. It’s not as though anyone is going to die from same-sex marriage. He writes, ‘Australia should recognise that marriage is now predominantly a civil institution and apply standard principles of equal treatment at least to civil ceremonies.’

Moreover, debates surrounding marriage equality have been framed in simplistic and problematic ways. There has been the vilification of polygamy, as well as a lack of acknowledgement that the institution of marriage simply isn’t for everybody and that we as a society should support a diverse array of relationships.

Man May Be Convicted for Alleged In-Marriage Rape from 50 Years Ago

The High Court has ruled an elderly man can stand trial for raping his former wife nearly half a century ago. The couple divorced in 1971, but proceedings were not brought against the man until 2009. The man is currently 81 years old, and his legal counsel argues that in-marriage rape was not an offence at the time (1963). Despite being morally wrong, they argue that the law considered marriage to impliedly constitute consent to sex. It wasn’t until 1976 that South Australia (the man’s home-state) passed legislation which made rape in the context of a marriage illegal.

However, the High Court dismissed this claim, saying that if the marital exemption to rape were ever part of common law of Australia, it ceased to be so at least by the time of enactment of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act in 1935.

Aside from issues of evidence no longer being available so long after the original alleged crime, the fact that rape can be legally perused so long after the event took place may be heartening for survivors. Karen Willis from the New South Wales rape crisis centre says, ‘It is difficult with historical assault, but this would certainly give women a lot of hope that perhaps they can seek redress for the crimes they’ve experienced in the past.’ She adds that regardless of the law, it can be difficult to charge for the crime of rape in marriage, even though she personally has not seen a case of domestic violence in a marriage relationship which hasn’t involved rape.

In some nations around the world, marital rape is legal, or considered to be a form of non-criminal domestic violence. Rapists also sometimes have the opportunity to ‘hide behind marriage’ in cases where parents force a girl who has been raped to marry her rapist in order to protect her dignity.

Rape Investigation Squad to be Sent to Conflict Zones

The UK is setting up a special rapid deployment unit to collect evidence on mass rape used as a weapon during global conflicts. It will be done in a wide effort to reduce sexual war crimes. The squad will be comprised of British police, forensic experts, doctors, psychologists and lawyers. It will be ready to go to places where there are signs of sexual violence on a widespread scale. Syria is proposed to be one of their first destinations. Crimes of this kind have been prevalent previously in countries such as the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Chad, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste, Bosnia, and several others.

Women Hold Fewer than 1/3 of Top Jobs

The BBC News Show compiled figures which show that fewer than a third of the UK’s most influential jobs are held by women. The military and the judiciary are particularly problematic areas, with only 1.3% and 13.2% respectively of the roles being filled by women. Secondary education has the highest level of women representation at a leadership level, with 36.7% of positions filled by women.

According to the BBC News website’s findings, women represent:

  • 1.3% of brigadiers (or their equivalent) and above across the Army, Navy and RAF
  • 13.2% of the most senior judges
  • 14.2% of university vice-chancellors
  • 16.6% of the most senior staff in the police
  • 34.7% of the senior civil service

To address these kinds of problems with the representation of women, Miss Representation recently released this video clip:

(Image source: 1)


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