Global Dialogue on Decriminalisation, Choice and Consent

CREA, along with Amnesty International, the Human Rights Programme at Harvard Law School, and the Global Health Justice Partnership at Yale Law School organised a Global Dialogue on Decriminalisation, Choice and Consent at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center, Italy, from October 22-24, 2014. The focus of the Dialogue was to discuss threadbare consent (and choice) including in the way it is defined and addressed within criminal law in the context of a range of issues around sexual agency, orientation, identity and SRHR. Drawing on the contributions of dialogue participants, CREA presents this ten-part essay series that unpacks consent from a range of perspectives.

Our gratitude to our co-travellers – Alice Miller, scholar and advocate on the faculty of Yale University's School of Public Health; Mindy Jane Roseman, Academic Director of the Human Rights Programme and Lecturer, Harvard Law School and Jaime Todd-Gher, LL.M, J.D., Human Rights Advisor, Amnesty International – for helping conceptualise, plan and being the guiding force behind the Dialogue. We are indebted to our fellow Dialogue participants who generously shared their insights and it is all their rich contributions that provides the substance for this blog series. Richa Kaul Padte, played a critical role as the official rapporteur and wrote this blogs series with contributions from Tara Suri, Fulbright Nehru Scholar. Thank you to Mauro and Kay Thi for confirming their participation but due to last minute complications related to their travel as well as personal issues they could not attend this dialogue.

We continue this discussion this week by sharing part 9 and 10 of the ten-series essays:

"But where’s the line and who gets to draw it? Can Facebook use our semi-public (or semi-private, depending on how full or empty you see the glass) home feeds to then manipulate our moods on the grounds that the information was public to start with? What about our location data, email addresses and all the information about us it collects but is not on our home feed? Or can we, as users, argue that our data is private and should be restricted to our chosen Facebook friends?" Read the full article here - "Consent in the Digital Era" -- by Bishakha Datta

"There seems to be a great deal of human rights campaigning around regulating who “gets in” to marriage; on the one hand, there are efforts to legalise same-sex marriage and on the other, there are campaigns to ban child marriage. But there doesn’t seem to be much emphasis on how to “get out” of marriage. Are current efforts to protect the right to marry, in other words, normatively consolidating marriage as a requirement of adulthood?" Read the full article here - "Marriage and Consent" -- by Alice Miller and Sonia Correa

Here is part 1 - 8 of the ten-part essay series: 

"Around the world, various aspects of reproductive and sexual conduct, identities, and expression remains criminalised. In some instances where some of this has been decriminalised we see renewed efforts towards criminalisation. Family (personal) laws continue to exclude individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity..." Read the full article here: Why a Global Dialogue on Decriminalisation, Choice and Consent? -- by Geetanjali Misra

"...thinking about the past, present, and future of ‘consent’ draws out a number of critical questions that we must attend to. What kind of person can give consent? What are they giving consent to? With whom? Where? How do different regimes of racial, ethnic, and religious subordination shape understandings of consent? How is consent demonstrated? If consent is deemed to be lacking, who is harmed? And how do advocates engage in conversations about these questions?..." Read the full article here: "Interrogating Consent" - by Carole Vance

"Much of the problem here comes back to the idea of ‘protective’ versus ‘enabling’ rights. When we consider consent outside the law we can focus on individual autonomy. But as soon as we look at consent under the law, it becomes framed in protective terms; in other words as a question of who cannot consent and who must be protected. The very idea that as human beings we have the right to have sex because we want to exists nowhere in human rights law". Read the full article here: "Consent and International Human Rights Law" - by Mindy Jane Roseman, Jaime Todd-Gher and Sara Hossain

"Can a woman undergoing huge amounts of pain at the mercy of her doctors do anything but sign a form? And it gets more complicated. What if she can’t read or write? Or if the form is in a language different to the one she knows? Can this really be called ‘informed consent’?" Read the full article here: "Women, Medicine and Informed Consent" - by Allan Achesa Maleche

"...there’s something deeper at play here - something that is rearing its head in debates, legislations and hospitals around the world: the idea that abortion constitutes harm, and by extension, that the pregnant body must be regulated. But who is harmed when a woman chooses to have an abortion? Is it the unborn foetus, the woman’s body, or in fact, something more insidious - a procreative pact that keeps patriarchal societies afloat?" Read the full article here: "Abortion and Consent" - by Elisa Slattery, Sonia Correa and Rupsa Mallik

"Living as a trans* person in societies that are deeply invested in the gender binary and all the privileges that come with it is a tiring struggle. And depending on where you live, how wealthy you are, or what ethnic group you come from, your ability to choose and consent to decisions being made about your body greatly differ too". Read the full article here: "Choice and consent in the trans* community: voices from Africa'" - by Leigh Ann van der Merwe and Adrian Jjuuko

"And as far as the question of what constitutes ‘free choice’ goes; well, it’s more likely than not that no choices are ever really free. And what’s more, based on the amount of privilege we have, some people’s choices are freer than others’..". Read the full article here - "Negotiating Choice and Rights in Hierarchies of Power" -- Leigh Ann van der Merwe and Sylvia Tamale

"There are two words most commonly associated with childhood: happy and innocent. Childhood is supposed to be happy, and it is supposed to be innocent.

Especially in the Global South, we are confronted with moments that expose the structural underpinnings of such a conceptualisation; class privilege, for instance, is a general prerequisite for a “happy” and “innocent” childhood. Despite this, and despite knowing that childhood can be buffeted by loss and grief, we still cling to an idealisation of childhood…." Read the full article here - "Children, Representation and Consent" -- by Shohini Ghosh

Download all the essays HERE.