Monday, June 26, 2006


Exams over (results pending…) and I can get on with doing things that I love. I have already been on holiday for ten days to Poland. A lot of people have expressed surprise at the choice of location but I have to say it was amazing. Warsaw is so underrated – the city was beautiful and the sense of history is really powerful, but probably more about that when I get my photos sorted.

I arrived back yesterday hungry for news as we didn’t watch the telly or read any papers whilst out there. I bought a big stack of Sunday papers for the mammoth journey from Liverpool Airport to Birmingham but on the whole wish I hadn’t. British politics at the moment are such a mess and are leaving me feeling pretty depressed.

The Observer featured a two page focus on rape and “the controversy over the question of consent”. You’ll probably remember the famous ruling a few months ago when a judge held that “drunken consent is still consent” after a rape victim stated that she could not remember if she consented to sex because she was unconscious during the act. The judge refused to leave the matter to the jury and ordered them to return a not guilty verdict. This was featured on Panorama last night but unfortunately I was so exhausted I fell asleep before it started.

The problems in this case arise from several factors. The judge’s ruling was wrong –there was certainly enough other evidence to leave the matter to a jury. The act under which the accused was prosecuted (Sexual Offences Act 2003) is unclear because it says nothing about a victim who is drunk. Finally despite evidence to the contrary the myth that malicious and false allegations of rape are common, even dominant, persists. It’s good to see that these problems are getting coverage but nevertheless deeply worrying that they exist despite the enormous legislative overhaul only a few years ago. It points to a much deeper problem and begs the question can legislation alone solve this?

Another act causing problems is the Human Rights Act 1998 (which implemented the European Convention on Human Rights into British law). This allows British citizens to rely directly on the Convention in national courts. However in recent weeks and months it has caused the Government endless headaches as the courts have consistently upheld the rights outlined in the Act and refused to allow the deportation of foreign criminals who are at risk of death or torture if returned to their home. There has been much debate about the need for balance following the Afghan hijacking of a plane. The judiciary, keen to protect the men from the Taliban, have been in conflict with various (ever changing) home secs desperate to deport them and prevent a precedent which could encourage further hijackings.

David Cameron’s solution is to scrap the HRA and replace it with a British Bill of Rights (British rights other than those under HRA currently consist of residual freedoms rather than specified rights). His suggestions seem to be badly thought out at best, and frighteningly nationalistic and restrictive at worst. As with much legislation the HRA could benefit from clarification in order to enable the judiciary to properly apply the law, but on the whole it has now become a vital part of our constitution. The very reason why Cameron and his supporters wish to get rid of it is also the reason why it is fundamentally important we should retain it. The Government does not need and should not be given any more arbitrary power over British residents and citizens.

Other stories which depressed and infuriated me by turns were the endless problems with the NHS in particular the incessant trudge towards privatisation, the failure of local authorities to ensure that anti discrimination legislation is complied with, and the horrible debate over whether single sex schools have any tangible benefit. I think I relaxed too much on holiday and suffered a shock when I returned to the UK! I’m going to stop my ranting now and maybe have a cuppa.

In other news I have done some website admin – I’m unhappy with my categorisations but am not really sure how to sort this out. Is it better to use the umbrella term of ‘feminist blogs’ or subdivide by nationality or political leaning? Furthermore many of the sites I have listed focus partly or predominantly on other issues, and some may be uncomfortable with being lumped together in one big list along with others whom they may fundamentally disagree with. However having a single list suggests solidarity and a kind of group-ness. I’m undecided about the most effective way to present these links and have left them as they are for the moment – any thoughts would be much appreciated!