Mental health law in the UK and the professional sexual abuse of women.

Melville-Wiseman, J. (2013) Mental health law in the UK and the professional sexual abuse of women. In: UNSPECIFIED, ed. Selected Papers from the 4th International Conference - Gender Equality and the Law: Famagusta, Cyprus. Eastern Mediterranean University Press.

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This paper explores responses to women as victims of professional sexual abuse in mental health services through comparisons of the changing imperatives of UK legal proscriptions and regulatory and service responses. It argues that the early influences of the eugenics movement still pervade our attitudes to the phenomena in spite of changes to the law and the underlying principles of contemporary law. In the UK, sex between women who use mental health services and men who work in those services has been unlawful specifically since the 1890 Lunacy Act. This law made it a criminal offence for male employees of a mental health asylum to have sexual intercourse with a female patient on the premises of the asylum. It was enacted at a time when attitudes to sexual relationships and procreation by people with mental health needs or learning disabilities was based on fear that, if allowed, ‘mental defectives’ would produce more ‘mental defectives’ who would in turn become a further burden on society. In spite of numerous reviews of mental health law in the UK, this specific section of the 1890 Lunacy Act was not fully repealed until the 2003 Sexual Offences Act. This now makes it a criminal offence for a care worker to have sexual contact with a person in their care and is based on contemporary imperatives about the rights and protection of vulnerable people from abusive professionals. These are significant legal developments but they are not always mirrored by responses in services and by professional regulatory bodies when such sexual abuse comes to light. Such responses remain characterised by the pathologisation of women rather than justice making.

Item Type: Book Section
Depositing User: Dr Janet Melville-Wiseman
Date Deposited: 24 Feb 2015 10:58
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2015 10:59

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00