(FINISHING) INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE
The husband hath, by law, power and dominion over his wife, and may keep her by
force within the bounds of duty, and may beat her, but not in a violent manner.
—Matthew Bacon (18th century English jurist)
The law historically sanctioned the abuse of women within marriage as an aspect of the
husband’s ownership of his wife and his “right” to chastise her. One need only recall
the centuries-old law that a man is entitled to beat his wife with a stick “no thicker than
—S.C.C. Justice Bertha Wilson (in R. v. Lavallee)
3. Brief History of the Legal Treatment of Intimate Partner Violence
a. English common law sanctioned violence against women through a man’s “right”
to chastise his wife.
i. Right to chastise his wife was affirmed by churches, society and
English common law. Right to chastise your wife is part of the civil
law system as well. Under English common law, when they got
married, becoming a wife meant that your whole legal personhood
was subject of the husband. British law never until recently prohibited
violence against ones wife. Violence against women in marriage was
always seen as okay, just excessive violence wasn’t. Where was this
line between excessive violence and non-excessive violence?
Depended on the judge. Quote: Matthew Bacon. Regulate the
excesses of the law.
ii. Coverture and “moderate correction”
iii. “Rule of thumb”
o Stick cannot be thicker than the thumb
iv. Wife murder vs. husband murder
o If you were a husband who killed your wife, you could
theoretically be punished and put to jail. But if you were a
women who killed your husband, you had you’re on special
treatment, much worse than a male punishment for killing his
wife. Women would be called petite treason, treason means
going against your country. Petite treason was first created
when someone killed the king, so now its changed to
women, as women are killing their “king” their husband, your
social superior, a servant against their master.
b. 1892 Criminal Code (Canada)
- Until the late 1800’s that physical punishment was finally outlawed. This was the
first criminal code of Canada. Wife abuse was illegal although there were many
loopholes around it. Sexual violent, rape was totally legal until 1983.
c. 1909 Criminal Code amendment
- Indecent assault against the wife was put into the criminal code
- There had to be obvious bodily harm.
- Usually two years of imprisonment, this was actually extremely low in relation
to other assault charges that could have been laid.
d. 1960 Criminal Code amendment
e. 1983 Criminal Code reforms - Petit treasons did leave our law but still seen in 1960. For men it was pretty
easy for them to get away with murder (one reason they usually got away with
it was the use of “Defense of Provocation”. If you pleaded this defense, there
as a good chance you can get away with killing your wife your charges would
be reduced to manslaughter and perhaps be treated very leniently. Grounds
for Provocation: Women could do all sorts of things into provoking their
husband’s into killing them (infidelity, insubordination (not respecting his
authority) and desertion). These were good grounds for provocation. Up until
1960, you can be blamed for your own murder! There were attempts to
change things in 1960 and they started dealing with intimate partner violence
for a while using family law and family court. There were a variety of reasons
for this change. Largely problematic change even though it had good
intentions. Changed “violence in marriage” into a family matter. Another
problem with dealing with this through family law, the state is prosecuting so it
can be very expensive. The criminal code has changed; in 1983 changes are
still with us today.
- In the early 1980s there was a massive review of the criminal code and how
assaults were being treated. Intimate partner violence became firmly
entrenched in criminal law. There were three levels of assault
o 1. Simple Assault: up to 5 years in prison. Quite progressive in that
physical violence is not necessary for an assault to occur. It could be
threatening acts, gestures; it may be lesser form of violence such as
kicking. In this one, physical violence is not necessary. However,
virtually no one is ever charged with assault if there is no physical
o 2. Presence of a weapon or bodily harm of causing bodily harm
o 3. Aggravated Assault: result in wounding or endangering the victim’s
- This was quote progressive because Intimate partner violence had to be
treated like any other assault at this time and treated within the criminal law.
- Policing in 1983: pro charging and pro sentencing. Reasonable and probable
cause. If the police officers comes to the home where domestic dispute has
occurred, if they believe someone has been assaulted they can lay charges.
Very important change in 1983 because prior to this, unless there was
physical injuries there had to be a witness before charges can be laid. There
was this serious problem prior to 1983 because officers would show up to a
home, they would know perfectly well that assault was being carried out but
could not lay charges because there was no physical evidence. Sometimes
women were beaten or even killed after the officers left because husband
would be angrier.
- In the 1980’s after those criminal coed reforms were made, police depts.
Across the country took a step to take intimate partner violence more
seriously and educated police officers about these laws. They got special
training for dealing with domestic assault environments.
4. The White Ribbon Campaign and Other Ways Forward
a. Started in 1991 in Toronto, world wide now.
b. Important to have men play a role in violence against women and challenged
other men. Jackson Katz sort of framework (no relation). Rethinking masculinity
and challenging hegemonic masculinity and changing what masculinity means. Questions for Further Consideration:
In Canada, half of all women have been or will be the victim of violence, the most
dangerous place for a woman is her own home, and the leading cause of death for
women at work is their spouse or partner.
Given this situation, how effective can legal reform be? How much can the law address
this situation? What else needs to be done? What do you think of the White Ribbon
PAID AND UNPAID LABOUR
Women constitute 1/2 of the world’s population, perform nearly 2/3 of its work hours,
receive 1/10 of the world's income and still own less than 1% of the world's property.
1. Thinking Through the Relationship Between Gender, Paid and Unpaid Labour
a. Film clip: Who's Counting? Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and
Global Economics (Canada