Category: 2000-2009

Policing and Crime Act 2009, Section 14

Policing and Crime Act 2009, Section 14

Coming into force on 1 April 2010, section 14 of the Policing and Crime Act 2009 made it a strict liability offence in England and Wales to pay for, or promise to pay for, the sexual services of a person who has been coerced, deceived, forced or threatened by a third party into prostitution.

Colour photo of pound coins
Pound Coins by William Warby [CC BY 2.0 (]
It is irrelevant where in the world the sexual services are to be provided, and whether the buyer is aware of the exploitative conduct of the third party. “Exploitative conduct” includes force, threats (whether or not relating to violence) or any other form of coercion; or they practise any form of deception.

Prostitution is undeniably gendered, and the significance of section 14 lies in the ways in which it sought to account for the role of gender inequality in situating agency. The amendment marked a shift in attention for prostitution legislation in England and Wales, away from the public nuisance discourse towards a more informed understanding of the role of material inequalities and the operations of coercion.

Fiona Vera-Gray

Section 14 is a landmark in women’s legal history not only as it was the result of concerted and coordinated campaigning from feminist activists both within and outside of government. It also marked an important shift in policy focus for England and Wales, moving legislative attention away from women and onto the choices of men.

The full version of this landmark is written by F Vera-Gray.

Learn More

The Guardian News and Media Ltd., ‘New Law on Forced Prostitution Weakened, Say Women’s Groups’

Rights of Women, ‘Section 14 of the Policing and Crime Act 2009 A Crucial Step Towards Ending Commercial Sexual Exploitation’

Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007

Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007

Colour photo of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on the Right to Choose campaign from the Forced Marriage Unit
Forced Marriage Unit Videos from Foreign and Commonwealth Office [CC BY 2.0 (]
The introduction of the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 marked a ground-breaking moment in the history of black and minority ethnic (BME) women’s struggles in the UK, against violence against women and for equality. It represented the culmination of BME women’s struggles against the powerful multicultural precept that legal and other state responses to the needs of BME women should be guided by cultural relativism rather than by secular, universal human rights norms and standards on gender equality. And, it signalled a human rights-based approach to all forms of gender-based violence against BME women who otherwise remained invisible in the social contract that had been forged between the British state and its minorities.

The full version of this landmark is written by Pragna Patel.

Learn More

BBC News, ‘Laws in the UK: Forced Marriage Act’

Emma Franck-Gwinnell, ‘Forced Marriage: Is It A Human Rights Question?’ (Human Rights News, Views and Info, 1 September 2016)

Southall Black Sisters, ‘The Forced Marriage Campaign’

Mental Capacity Act 2005

Mental Capacity Act 2005

Finding a way to achieve the right balance between supporting disabled people’s autonomy whilst continuing to provide an appropriate level of protection for vulnerable people is the next big challenge in mental capacity law. The Mental Capacity Act 2005 has put England and Wales in a strong position to rise to that challenge, but we may well need to build another landmark to get us there.

Rosie Harding

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA), which applies in England and Wales, makes legal provision for a wide range of people (family members, health and social care professionals, courts) to make decisions in the best interests of a person who lacks the capacity to make a decision for themselves (section 3). It applies to anyone who has impaired decision-making capacity as a result of ‘an impairment of the mind or brain’ (section 2).

Colour photo of three women in business suitsThe Act has made a great deal of difference to the lives of women with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities. The statutory presumption of capacity means that those who seek to override the wishes of disabled people must first prove that they lack capacity to make their own decisions. The focus in the MCA on the least restrictive option has ensured that fewer disabled women are subjected to sterilisation procedures.

The full version of this landmark is written by Rosie Harding.


Learn More

Ezgi Tascioglu, ‘Exercising Your Right to Legal Capacity (Easyread)’ (Everyday Decisions, 12 May 2017)

Ezgi Tascioglu, ‘United Nations Looks at Disabled People’s Human Rights in the UK’ (Everyday Decisions, 9 March 2017)

Rosie Harding, ‘What is Legal Capacity? Infographic (Easyread)’ (Everyday Decisions, 29 March 2017)

Welsh Assembly Election 2003

Welsh Assembly Election 2003

A landmark may mean different things. It may be something unique in an otherwise uninspiring landscape. Or it may be an indicator that from here on in the terrain changes. Let it be hoped that 2 May 2003 is an example of the latter

Catrin Fflur Huws

On 2 May 2003, the National Assembly for Wales became the first legislative body in the world to have an equal number of men and women returned as Assembly Members.

National Assembly for Wales – Welsh National Assembly [CC BY 2.0(]
A number of factors contributed to this result. First, the National Assembly for Wales was created at a time when increasing the proportion of women in Parliament was high on the Labour Party’s agenda and the political climate was encouraging for women. Second, as new institution the National Assembly for Wales was not fighting entrenched attitudes. Finally, it had size on its side. 50 per cent of 60 is, perhaps a more achievable target than 50 per cent of 650 Westminster MPs.

Since 2003, the proportion of women Assembly Members has remained consistently high – 47 per cent in 2007, 43 per cent in 2011 and 42 per cent in 2016. It is also significant that in all three of these elections, the near-equality of representation was achieved, not through the use of the regional list process, but rather, with women standing as constituency candidates in their own right.

The full version of this landmark is written by Catrin Fflur Huws.

Learn More

BBC News, ‘Largest Number of Welsh Female MPs Elected’

Owen Holzinger, Helen Jones and David Millett, ‘Assembly Election 2016: Women’s Political Representation’ (In Brief: the National assembly for Wales Research Service Blog, 27 May 2016)

Equality and Human Rights Commission, ‘International Women’s Day 2012 Update: Who runs Wales? The Journey Towards Gender Equality’

Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002

Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002

Political parties now seem to have embraced the importance of gender in their selection processes as an integral part of modernisation and election strategies, recognising it as a matter of democratic legitimacy as well as individual justice. Achieving women’s full and equal participation in elected bodies is one of the Sustainable Development Goals agreed by 193 United Nations member states (including the UK) in 2015

Susan Atkins

The Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002 was an enabling measure which allowed political parties to change their internal processes to improve women’s representation in elected bodies. The Act allowed political parties in the UK to use positive discrimination to tackle persistent under-representation of women in Parliament and other elected bodies. It did so by excluding from the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and Sex Discrimination Order 1976 (which applied to Northern Ireland) any arrangements made by political parties for the purposes of reducing inequality in the numbers of men and women elected as candidates.

Colour photo of the House of Lords during the Queen's speech
The Queen’s Speech from UK Parliament [CC BY-NC 2.0 (]
Proposals for a Bill were announced in the first Queen’s speech after the 2001 election, which saw a fall in the numbers of women MPs. This was in marked contrast to the doubling of the numbers of women MPs (to 18 per cent) following the 1997 election in which all women shortlists had been used by the Labour Party for half its “winnable” seats, until stopped by a legal challenge.

Passed with all party support in 2002, the Act put positive action to increase female representation in Parliament firmly on the map. Representation of women as MPs (which had remained at under 5 per cent until 1987) has increased at every following election up to 30 per cent by December 2016.

The full version of this landmark is written by Susan Atkins.


Learn More

Home of Commons Library, ‘Women in Parliament and Government’ (SN01250, 12 July 2017)

The Telegraph Media Group, ‘Labour to Change Law on All-Women MP Shortlists’

White v White [2000]

White v White [2000]

Colour photo of identical town houses painted different colours, yellow and greyPrior to the Married Women’s Property Acts of 1870 and 1882, on marriage a woman’s property passed in common law to her husband. Since then married women have been able to own their own property, but English law has never adopted a system of community of property, as is normal in many American states and continental jurisdictions, according to which property is equally shared between the spouses. As a result, in English law, during marriage each spouse owns the property they brought into the marriage and the property they earned during it. Historically, this worked to the disadvantage of women and meant that until the 1973 Matrimonial Causes Act the husband could on divorce walk away with all or a large proportion of assets.

The real significance of this case is that it is one of the few areas of law in which care work is valued and recognised, and even said to be valued as equal to money-making… [However] if the law is serious about the claim in White v White that we should value equally caregiving and money making we need vast changes in the law and societal structures. The achievement in White v White hardly deserves being called a scratch on the surface of that aim.

Jonathan Herring

The decision of White v White is one of the most striking acknowledgements of the value of carework in the law, and provides a powerful statement of equality between husbands and wives.

The full version of this landmark is written by Jonathan Herring.


Learn More

BBC News, ‘Divorce Money Battles Hot Up’

The Guardian News and Media Ltd., ‘How London Earned its Status as Divorce Capital of the World’

Jonathan Herring, ‘All’s Fair in Love and…’ (2013) New Law Journal’s-fair-love-and…

OP-CEDAW (2005)

OP-CEDAW (2005)

Colour photo of the CEDAW for Youth launch
CEDAW for Youth from UN Women conference in 2016 [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0(]

In the twelve years the OP-CEDAW has been in force in the UK, it has made significant contributions to the development of women’s rights and brought into focus grave, systemic and entrenched gender inequalities.

Meghan Campbell

The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (OP-CEDAW) opens up exciting new forums to enforce women’s civil, political and socio-economic rights. It allows individual women in the UK to hold the government accountable on the international stage for its commitment under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) to eliminate discrimination against women and achieve gender equality.

There are many compelling reasons why women and women’s organisations in the UK should engage further with the OP-CEDAW. It is an affordable mechanism. UK women can submit their individual petition in a simple email. There is no requirement to use a lawyer, there are no complex evidentiary procedures or rules or costly oral hearings. In deciding claims under the OP-CEDAW, the CEDAW Committee is not a judicial body and there is no requirement of certain professional qualifications. Most importantly, however, the OP-CEDAW allows the women in the UK to bring to international attention overlooked aspects of gender equality and makes them active participants on the international legal stage.

The full version of this landmark is written by Meghan Campbell.


Learn More

LSE Centre for Women Peace and Security, ‘Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women’

LSE Centre for Women Peace and Security, ‘CEDAW’s Key Cases on Violence Against Women’

Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, ‘Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women’

Olivia Percival, ‘What is the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women?’ (Human Rights News, Views and Info, 10 March 2017)

Sam Grant, ‘What is CEDAW and Why Does it Matter to Women Worldwide’ (Human Rights News, Views and Info, 9 March 2016)

Sexual Offences Act 2003, Section 1

Sexual Offences Act 2003, Section 1

Sexual Offences Act 2003 with the Royal Coat of Arms
Sexual Offences Act 2003 contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0 (

Section 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 is of considerable symbolic significance for women.
While the Government’s motivations for rape law reform focused on increasing the conviction rate, the process provided feminist scholars and activists with the opportunity to influence the legislation to reflect women’s lived experiences of rape and to encourage belief in complainants throughout the criminal justice process.

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 radically altered the archaic sexual offences laws in England and Wales.

Section 1 defines rape as the intentional penile penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth of another person without that person’s consent or a reasonable belief that s/he consents. Significantly, the defendant’s belief in consent need no longer simply be ‘honest’ – decried by feminists as a ‘rapists charter’— but rather must be ‘reasonable’. In addition , section 74 included, for the first time, a definition of consent, emphasising women’s autonomy over men’s desires.

The new legislation was the culmination of a detailed review process informed by contributions of feminist scholars, organisations and campaigns, drawing on decades of feminist anti-rape work. The result of this feminist input is a revised definition of rape which – while not perfect – better reflects the fundamental violation of rape and the realities of women’s experiences of men’s sexual violence. It is a law which conveys important messages about the regard which should be given to a woman’s sexual autonomy, and provides a platform from which to articulate feminist conceptions of consent and to continue to challenge pernicious and damaging rape culture and myths.

The full version of this landmark is written by Nikki Godden-Rasul.


Further Reading

Alan Travis, ‘Rape Law Change to Redefine Consent’ (The Guardian News and Media Ltd. 

Home Office, Setting the Boundaries: Reforming the Law on Sex Offences Volume I (July 2000)

Home Office, Protecting the Public: Strengthening Protection Against Sex Offenders and Reforming the Law on Sexual Offences (Cmd 5668, November 2002)

Vicky Spratt, ‘A History of Rape Law in the UK’ (The Debrief 

Find out more about the Women’s Legal Landmarks Project

Project leaders, Rosemary Auchmuty and Erika Rackley, talk to Elizabeth Woodcraft about the aims, methodology and ambitions for the Project for PodAcademy

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The landmarks that appear on this website were chosen by participants in the Women’s Legal Landmarks Project.

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