What’s in a Face? Demeanour Evidence in the Sexual Assault Context
University of Ottawa - Common Law Section
February 9, 2010
SEXUAL ASSAULT LAW, PRACTICE AND ACTIVISM IN A POST-JANE DOE ERA, Elizabeth Sheehy, ed., University of Ottawa Press, 2010
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.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 16
Keywords: niqab, sexual assault, women, religion, equality
Date posted: June 17, 2010