Sexual and Reproductive Rights

See podcasts and written summaries from our seminar series.

Sexual assault law

The Centre for Human Rights Research is part of a team analyzing why so few criminal sexual assault complaints result in convictions.

CHRR director Prof. Karen Busby is a frequent commentator on sexual assault cases before Canadian courts. Every Breath You Take is her analysis of how the courts deal with erotic asphyxiation. She has also been interviewed on such topics as sexual assault civil suits.

Sexual violence at post-secondary institutions

Administrators involved in any aspect of sexual violence complaints find themselves on a steep learning curve. They quickly realize that complaint-based processes involve a series of decision-making steps, each with its own set of legal issues. Decision makers must determine whether interim measures should be imposed, whether complaints can proceed in tandem with criminal charges, how to balance privacy and demands for transparency, and whether an allegation of sexual violence has been proven. CHRR director Prof. Karen Busby’s research in this area will increase understanding of the legal rules that apply, aiding administrators, investigators, lawyers, academics, arbitrators, union and student leaders, complainants, and respondents.

Busby is a co-investigator on the McGill-based IMPACTS project to address sexual violence on university campuses across Canada and internationally.

Assisted human reproduction

CJWL coverCentre for Human Rights Research director Karen Busby co-edited a special issue of the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law devoted to feminist approaches to assisted human reproduction.

She was interviewed in 2016 about potential changes to regulations related to assisted human reproduction. Busby is now part of a research team exploring surrogates’ experiences.

Sex work laws

CHRR and the Sex Workers of Winnipeg Action Coalition joined forces to create a pamphlet on Canada’s new (and sometimes confusing) sex work laws. Know the Law and Stay Safe.

Meanwhile, CHRR director Prof. Karen Busby and Dr. Sarasu Esther Thomas from the National Law School of India University are comparing sex-work-related laws that have seen drastic changes over the last few years in both countries.

Sex work by itself was not a crime in either country, though many activities associated with sex work were, such as street solicitation or sharing accommodation and expenses with another sex worker. There are many similarities between the two countries: sex workers come from socially excluded and vulnerable groups, sexual offences have low conviction rates, and sex workers are still vulnerable to arrest for soliciting and other offences.

In Canada, the law changed in 2013, when the Supreme Court of Canada declared unconstitutional various offences in the Criminal Code of Canada relating to prostitution, on the basis that they violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Canadian government was given 12 months to introduce new legislation and passed in 2014 the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, which amended the Criminal Code’s provisions related to prostitution. The new legislation, based to some extent on the Swedish/Nordic model, criminalizes the transaction of paying for sex for the first time in Canadian history.

In India, the law took a different trajectory with the Criminal Law Amendment Act in 2013 that defined the offence of trafficking to include cases where women had consented, taking away the agency of women in sex work, who are now seen as victims of crime. Some people are also advocating for implementation of the Nordic model in India, without an understanding of how that would impact the rights of sex workers.

The research is funded in part by an Institutional Collaborative Research Grant from the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute.

Influences on Young Muslim Women

Prof. Karen Busby and Sara Mahboob, a doctoral student at McGill University, interviewed 15 key informants in summer 2014 about their perceptions of family and community pressures placed on young Muslim women in Winnipeg when making important life decisions.

Read the preliminary report or a summary and a related newspaper column.

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