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Posts Tagged ‘rape shield law’

Big sigh of relief! My group was the final group to present our policy report. Our topic was reproductive justice, a topic which is very important to me, so I was glad to be able to present the issues around reproductive justice to my peers. However, for this learning journal, I am going to look at the presentation given on the rape shield law.

The rape shield law exists today so that: 1) a woman’s sexual history cannot be used in court against her and 2) so that her identity is protected (publication ban). This law came into effect in Canada in 1991 (revised in 1992).

Just this week, as part of my placement, I had the opportunity to attend a human rights mediation with a client. I met the client, Jane (pseudonym) at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) on Bay Street, where we spent some time chatting and getting grounded before the mediation started. Jane was filing two claims: one against an employee and her employer in the vein of sexual harassment and breach of human rights; and the other a criminal case of sexual assault. The reason I am referring to Jane’s case in regard to the rape shield law, is because there are a few connections to be drawn here.

For the mediation, Jane chose to sit separate from the defense, so the room consisted of Jane, her paralegal, the judge and myself. Jane was told by her paralegal that this was her opportunity to have her story be heard, to say anything and everything she wanted to say to the judge, and that this mediation was for her. When the mediation started, I was quite surprized at how open Jane was in disclosing facts about her sexual history. Had we been in the mediation with the defense, I feel this would not have happened. Jane was also prepared to appeal the case if it did not go in her favour, and pursue a course of action that would make the case go public (going public would not be favourable for the company Jane was an employee at). For Jane, both of her actions (opening up about her sexual past and potentially going public with her case) are beneficial to her case, but also directly contradict the proponents of the rape shield law. Now, it could be that the rape shield law is not applied equally in both human rights and criminal cases.

It seems that for some women, it is in fact more beneficial to include this information in their cases rather than shield it. Of course, not all women can access the system so that it works to their advantage, like Jane seems to have done.

This is an important point: accessibility to citizen rights is variable depending on WHO YOU ARE. I think this was a point that was made across all of the policy reports given in our class. Who has access to the food policy allowance, and even if you have access, what are you really getting out of it? Battered women’s syndrome is a legal defense that can be beneficial to women who have killed their partners, but what are the implications of this defense for the woman (mental, health, legal…)? Even though the Indian Act has been revised to give First Nations peoples governance over themselves, the effects of colonization and Canadian law still keep First Nations people oppressed (particularly First Nations women, many of whom live in a state of poverty, violence, and lack of adequate support).

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