Sexual Assault and the Law: Scholarship From Canada

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Two Canadian professors have contributed some provocative scholarship on sexual assault law recently.

Janine Benedet, University of British Columbia Faculty of Law, has published The Sexual Assault of Intoxicated Women , forthcoming in the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law. Here is the abstract.

This article considers how the criminal law of sexual assault in Canada deals with cases of women who have been consuming intoxicants (e.g. alcohol and or drugs). In particular, it considers under what circumstances the doctrines of incapacity to consent and involuntariness have been applied to cases in which the complainant was impaired by alcohol or drugs. It also reflects on problems of proof in such cases. Finally, it examines whether the treatment of this class of complaints tells us anything about the law’s understanding of consent, and capacity to consent, more generally, in the context of competing social understandings of women’s use of alcohol and other drugs.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

Natasha Bakht, University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, has published What’s in a Face? Demeanour Evidence in the Sexual Assault Context in Sexual Assault Law, Practice and Activish in a Post-Jane Doe Era (Elizabeth Sheehy ed.; University of Ottawa Press, 2010). Here is the abstract.


Sexual assault is an area of law that has been fraught with misogyny and racism. This paper attempts to contribute to the literature on gender-justice in the sexual assault context by relying on an intersectional analysis that examines religion and culture. In doing so, I discuss the needs of a small minority of women. Though their numbers may be few in Canada, adequately responding to the plight of niqab-wearing women in this context is both just and will serve to ameliorate the workings of the judicial system for all women. In Toronto, Ontario, a Muslim woman complainant recently made a request to wear her niqab while giving testimony in a preliminary inquiry in which she alleged that two accuseds sexually assaulted her over a period of several years. The accuseds’ lawyers objected to the complainant wearing her niqab arguing that it prevented them from effectively cross-examining her. This paper will argue that the prosecution and adjudication of the offence of sexual assault must be more inclusive of the needs of Muslim women who cover their faces. My interest with this work is in ensuring that women’s equality is furthered, that women from minority groups in particular are not in the unhelpful position of having to choose between their cultural or religious beliefs and other fundamental rights that they are entitled to.

Download the essay from SSRN at the link.

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