: Girlie Goes Whirly

Girlie Goes Whirly

Mary Christmas and Noelle Noelle

Zoe’s Law

Concerns have been expressed about the implications of a Bill introduced in the New South Wales parliament that allows people to be charged with grievous bodily harm if they hurt an unborn baby. Known as Zoe’s Law, the Crimes Amendment (Zoe’s Law) Bill is said to be in response to the stillbirth of a foetus following a car accident. A coalition of women’s groups has warned that the Bill has significant and far-reaching consequences for women’s rights. Women’s Health NSW, Family Planning NSW and the Women’s Electoral Lobby say the NSW government has ignored the issues raised by them.

Chair of the Women’s Electoral Lobby Australia, Melanie Fernandez, said the bill had a ‘clear agenda’ and is ‘another step for (Christian Democratic MP Fred) Nile in progressing his anti-abortion agenda.’ She also pointed out: ‘There is clear international precedent for this type of law being used to reduce women’s reproductive choices’. Georgia Potter Butler, from the feminist organisation the F Collective, warned the Bill could lead to broader changes that would grant legal rights to foetuses.

Spaced Out Whirly Girlie

The work of lawyer Joanne Gabrynowicz, Professor of Space Law at University of Mississippi was featured in ‘Who Owns The Moon?’ by Edward Helmore, Sydney Morning Herald (4 October 2013). Space is a new frontier and, like all frontiers, poses novel legal challenges. Joanne was interested in the way the British legal system migrated to the United States and this led her to reflect on what type of law humans would take with them into space. The launch of Sputnik by the Soviet Union in 1957 scared the United States into proposing the Outer Space Treaty which functions as a constitution for space and prohibits the placement of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction in space. With entrepreneurs like Richard Branson vying for commercial interests in outer space, complex legal issues arise including ownership, resource exploitation, criminal law and many more. And yes, there is a Journal of Space Law.


The Safe Futures Foundation has installed CCTV cameras in the homes of two high-risk family violence victims. They hope the cameras will deter estranged partners who have a bad habit of turning up uninvited and causing further trauma. The cameras could collect evidence that may later be used in court. Professor Cathy Humphreys from the University of Melbourne has conducted research to be released later this year which shows that women who have been the subject of family violence and remain in their homes are particularly vulnerable. (Henrietta Cook, ‘CCTV plan to deter domestic violence’, The Age, 3 October 2013.) Sadly family violence offences have continued to increase, rising 21.6 per cent in Victoria last year.

In Saudi Arabia, the first domestic violence law has been passed. In a fiercely patriarchal society charities managed to successfully campaign for the laws. Jail sentences of up to one year and fines of about $15 000 can be imposed on those found guilty of physical or psychological abuse. (Hugh Tomlinson, The Weekend Australian, 31 August 2013.)

Hangings Don’t Stop Rape Culture

Mallika Kaur (The Age, 19 September 2013) has argued that the reaction to the Delhi rape case and subsequent death sentences have missed the chance for dialogue to prevent rape. She argues that the ‘eye for an eye’ sentiments which have dominated the public reaction to the brutal murder of a student have stymied the opportunity for the case to be seen as illustrative of the lived reality of women and girls in India where research has shown one in four men have committed sexual violence in their lives. She also says that the loud voices calling for revenge have endangered the work of human rights activists who have long argued for more humane criminal penalties. She writes, ‘On the heels of a tragedy, there was a chance to begin a national dialogue about sorely needed cultural change in addressing violence against both women and those accused of crime. Instead, in a country where court proceedings and policy decisions move at a snail’s pace, both the Delhi rape case and related legal reforms were rushed to conclusion. The expedience hasn’t rendered complete justice to the victim or her family, to women or their advocates, and perhaps not even to the defendants’.

Vale Janet Powell

Janet Powell became a Senator for Victoria in 1986; she was the leader of the Australian democrats from 1990 to 1991. In September 2013, Janet died from cancer of the pancreas. She will be remembered as a successful woman in the House who also served Australia as a volunteer in her leadership role on health, women’s leadership and the disadvantaged. In 2004 she joined the Greens and was made a Member of the Order of Australia for her service to the parliament and the community particularly through her leadership of YWCA Victoria. Former Democrats leader Natasha Stott Despoja described Janet Powell thus, ‘She was kind to other women: mentored and supported them — and helped promote women’s rights in this country.’ Janet Powell, a passionate feminist, was the author of the first private member’s Bill on tobacco advertising (Judith Ireland, ‘Political trail blazer Janet Powell loses cancer fight’,
The Age, 2 October 2013).

MARY CHRISTMAS and NOELLE NOELLE are feminist lawyers.

(2013) 38(4) AltLJ 275
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