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Palgrave Macmillan

Lesbianism and the Criminal Law

Three Centuries of Legal Regulation in England and Wales

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  • © 2020


  • Examines the deliberate and 'accidental' silencing of lesbianism over 300 years
  • Offers an extensive overview and analysis of the criminal law’s regulation of sex between women in England and Wales
  • Includes ‘stories’ of the women involved

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About this book

This book offers a comprehensive examination of the ways in which the criminal justice system of England and Wales has regulated, and failed or refused to regulate, lesbianism. It identifies the overarching approach as one of silencing: lesbianism has not only been ignored or regarded as unimaginable, but was deliberately excluded from legal discourses. A series of case studies ranging from 1746 to 2013 from parliamentary debates to individual prosecutions shed light on the complex process of regulation through silencing. They illuminate its evolution over three centuries and explore when and why it has been breached. The answers Derry uncovers can be fully understood only in the context of surrounding social and legal developments which are also considered. Lesbianism and the Criminal Law makes an important contribution to the growing bodies of literature on feminism, sexuality and the law and the legal history of sexual offences.

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Table of contents (9 chapters)

Authors and Affiliations

  • Law School, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK

    Caroline Derry

About the author

Caroline Derry is Lecturer in Law at the Open University, UK. She taught for fifteen years at London Metropolitan University where she was a senior lecturer in Criminal and Evidence Law and Gender and Law, and LLB course leader. She has been a visiting lecturer in Criminal Law at SOAS and at Paris Descartes. She is a co-author of Complete Criminal Law (OUP, 2018) and Gender and Law (Routledge, 2018).

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