Tracking and Resisting Backlash Against Equality Gains in Sexual Offence Law

Faculty Author Type

Emeritus Faculty [Christine Boyle]

Published In

Canadian Women Studies

Document Type


Publication Date



systemic inequality; substantive laws; procedural laws; evidentiary laws; sexual offences; actual violence against women; threatened violence against women; equality-resistant legal doctrine; feminist reforms; sexual assault law


The authors document feminist efforts to expose, challenge, and eliminate direct, indirect, and systemic inequality in the substantive, evidentiary, and procedural laws proscribing sexual offences and in the enforcement and application of those laws have not only been consistently resisted by police, lawyers, judges, and juries, but have also consistently generated backlash against those responsible for and/or supportive of such egalitarian change. Actual and imagined social, economic, political and legal equality gains by women as a class-however unevenly distributed- have triggered a variety of types of backlash, including an escalation in actual or threatened violence against women accompanied by new equality-resistant strains of legal doctrine that effectively offset or bypass earlier reforms. The authors illustrate these forms of backlash by examining three decades of feminist reforms to sexual assault laws.