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Posts Tagged ‘feminist news issues’

Has Alex Chapman been a victim of victim blaming? The author of this comment in the University of Winnipeg’s Uniter seems to think so.

While her view that female victim blaming is “beginning to become taboo”, and that it is always met with “backlash”, may be a tad optimistic for my taste, I think her overall argument is sound and definitely worth considering.

“Allowing such details [victim’s sexual history] to come forward in court and in the media perpetuates the incredibly harmful practice of victim-blaming that has seen such effective social back-lash in recent months.
A failure to hold those same standards for male victims reveals a fundamental flaw in the movement – a hypocrisy that seriously damages the legitimacy of the campaign to stop victim-blaming.”
             (Sandy Klowak, “Men can be victims, too: Victim-blaming discussion shows gender double-standard” in The Uniter (11 October 2012)), online: http://uniter.ca/view/8153)

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This just in!

The Ontario Court of Appeal today released its decision in Bedford v Canada, a landmark lower court decision that found that provisions 210 [bawdy house], 212(1)(j) [living on the avails], and 213(1)(c) [communicating in public for the purpose of prostitution] of the Canadian Criminal Code unconstitutionally violate the Charter rights of sex trade workers. The CA has upheld the finding that 210 is unconstitutional, has read in an added element of exploitation to 212(1)(j) and has allowed the appeal of 213(1)(c).

We’d love to hear what you have to say about this – have a look at the complete decision here. It’s a long one, but undoubtedly worth a look-see.

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According to the Globe and Mail, the Vancouver Police Department is considering a new set of guidelines that would instruct officers to prioritze sex workers’ safety over enforcing prostitution-related prohibitions. The propsed guidelines were written by Deputy Chief Warren Lemcke, and highlight the historic distrust of law enforcement by sex workers, and a need for officers to show them respect. “Sex work involving consenting adults is not an enforcement priority for the [Vancouver Police Department],” state the guidelines.

It’s interesting to note that the guidelines come in the wake of the Pickton Inquiry, which is investigating why the VPD failed to recognize the ongoing abduction and murder of sex workers by Robert Pickton. Evidence before the inquiry has shown the tendency among officers policing Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to not only disregard violent crime against sex workers, but also to personally harass, over-enforce and even to commit assault themselves against sex workers, up to and including the recent past. While the guidelines do seem progressive, considering them in context highlights the fact that they may be more in the realm of damage control than a sincere attempt to protect the phsycial safety and dignityof sex workers. That being said, sex work safety advocates seem to be excited by the prospect of the new guidelines, and it does seem possible that they could lead to positive change.

The guidelines will be considered before the Vancouver Police Board tomorrow, and we look forward to seeing if they are adopted. We’ll keep you posted!

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Now that exams are wrapping up, everyone has more time to enjoy the finer things in life… such as stimulating intellectual discussion on important, difficult issues! Hooray! Take for instance, the following: on December 8th, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the much-talked about R v NS case. Counsel for each side argued whether a complainant in a sexual assault case should be permitted to keep her face covered by niqab during testimony. Here’s a really great article from rabble.ca with two significant Robson Hall connections:law student Maria Kari authored the article, which features snippets of an interview with our very own Professor Karen Busby. It also includes a link to the factum submitted by LEAF, who had intervenor status at the hearing. Check it out! Great food for thought to accompany your turkey, latkes, 5 kilo box of mandarin oranges, etc.

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The Canadian Judicial Council has finished reviewing the extremely controversial remarks made by Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Dewar in his decision in R v Rhodes this past February. Those remarks sparked major protests and much discussion.

 Protesters in Winnipeg carry signs demanding Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench Justice Robert Dewar's resignation on Feb. 25.

CBC Manitoba reported today that, as a result of the CJC’s review, Dewar will not face any penalty. However, he has issued an “unequivocal apology” to the victim in Rhodes, and also expressed “regret” for “trauma” caused to those who “have worked directly with past victims.”

In that decision, Dewar said or referred to the following: the complainant and the accused met in “inviting circumstances“; the accused was a “clumsy Don Juan“; he put emphasis on what the complainant was wearing on the night in question; and of course, perhaps his most infamous comment, that “sex was in the air.”

In his apology, he noted his “poor choice of words,” and the CJC found upon completing their review that his comments “were also seen as reflecting negative and outdated gender stereotypes, as casting blame on the victim and showing unacceptable gender bias against women.”

What do we think? Is this enough? Some members of the FLF have been talking, and it seems that a few of us are feeling a little conflicted.

On one hand, there’s the view that having Dewar removed from the bench altogether would have been too harsh of a punishment. On the other, there’s a pretty strong feeling among most of us that this apology, or even the notion of apologizing in general, seems trite. Dayna pointed out that, hopefully, as a result of this process, more judges will seek to educate themselves on gender equality issues.

We all feel good about that potential outcome. But it was also pointed out that it’s virtually impossible to conceive of Dewar as impartial at this point. And while some might argue that impariality itself is an indealized judicial standard that never actually exists, it does seem particularly problematic in this instance. It’s disturbing to remember that, despite any ‘senisitivity training’ he has now had, Dewar embraced these outmoded, sexist ideas and applied them to an actual case as recently as 9 months ago.

Finally, we’re troubled by the apology being presented as a “poor choice of words.” Certainly, the words chosen were unquestionably poor. But what matters more are the beliefs Dewar held that led him to choose those words. Can we take his apology to mean that, had he not used such explicitly sexist and offensive language, we wouldn’t have anything to be upset about? Dayna made the point that “Mainly I worry that when systemic discrimination against sexual assault complainants isn’t as blatant as it was in this case, it passes unacknowledged and women end up losing.”

We would really love to hear what you think about this. Was the apology sufficient? What alternative measures could or should be taken? Let us know!

And don’t forget: the topic of this month’s roundtable will be sexual assault law, and certain aspects of the Rhodes appeal. Stay tuned for more info!

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At our post-slutwalk discussion on Saturday, one of our rad new members, Carla, mentioned the Miss Lonelyhearts column from the previous day’s Winnipeg Free Press. The headline, she said, read “He Didn’t Rape You; You Were Too Lazy to Say No“. No one else had seen it, but we were all pretty horrified by Carla’s description of it. When the rest of us were able to have a look , we were even more disturbed by the tone taken by Miss Lonelyhearts. While the headline itself reads like a slap in the face to anti-victim blaming efforts, Miss Lonleyhearts also provided no crisis counselling information and seemed to have no notion of the actual definition of consent as being not only active but willing. The issue here is not whether this man would be convicted of sexual assault on the facts we have available, but rather that the tone of the response is a perfect example of out-dated and damaging attitudes towards unwanted sex.

Winnipeg Free Press

Here is a link to the column. And, becuase it will likely be archived in the next few days, we’re reproducing the question and response below.

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He didn’t rape you; you were too lazy to say no

By: Miss Lonelyhearts

Posted: 10/14/2011 1:00 AM

DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: I had unwanted sex with a guy because he was begging me, and then afterwards I felt it was not something I really wanted. I felt forced because he broke down my resistance. I just finally gave in after all that begging and took him down the hall to my bedroom to get it over with, so he’d go home. It was a charity thing, if you know what I mean. I wouldn’t have done it with him if he hadn’t begged and seemed so pathetic. Is breaking down resistance a form of rape? — Just Wondering, Winnipeg

 Dear Wondering: No. This was certainly not rape and not something you would want to send anyone to jail for. It was your decision. You weren’t forced; you were too lazy to take him to the door and say bye-bye. He may have bugged you until you DECIDED it was easier to say yes than to say no, but he didn’t force you. You also called it a “charity” thing — giving your body to him and taking his — inferring you felt sorry for him. That’s no reason to have sex.

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A few members of the FLF have been talking about this, why it seems so wrong, and what to do about it. A letter to the editor of the Winnipeg Free Press is in the works, but we also thought it was important to share it with others. If you have any thoughts, please share them!

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Those who attended the first meeting of the FLF this past Monday will recall that the topic of SlutWalk came up, and it seemed there was no conclusive plans to hold one in Winnipeg. While that was only yesterday, news has since emerged that Winnipeg will indeed host a SlutWalk. You can see the Winnipeg Free Press story at the link below. The walk be on October 15th, beginning at the Burton Cummings Theatre.
 
 
The FLF is pretty much dying to hear your thoughts on SlutWalk– have you attended one? would you? do you support the anti victim-blaming message while having mixed feeling about use of the word ‘slut’? or do you think that this is an important re-claiming of a formerly derogatory word? Is it fun? Is it effective? Let us know!
 
The FLF will very likely be attending, and also holding a pre-or-post coffee/food/drinks meeting in order to provide an opportunity to express views and share experiences. Details to come!

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