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Nicole Shackleton
La Trobe University

As #MeToo and #TimesUp enter their second year, they continue to expand across various social media platforms. Accusations of sexual assault and harassment, particularly those against high profile male figures who have abused their positions of power, have led to resignations, terminations of employment and, in some cases, prosecution. The growth of these movements has been matched by a fierce backlash, and an unprecedented level of gendered hate speech (GHS) directed at activists, journalists, survivors and women in general. Not only do such movements represent a struggle for justice, they also demonstrate that a fight continues to exist over whose voices will be heard, and whose will be shut down. In this context, GHS operates as a key mechanism to be deployed when challenging or otherwise attempting to silence women who speak out in public.  In Australia, individuals subjected to GHS find it difficult to bring perpetrators to account via legal remedy. This is because, unlike racist and religious hate speech, Australian law does not prohibit GHS per se. Instead, victims must rely on an incoherent, inconsistent and complex set of laws. With the ultimate goal of recommending law reform to prohibit GHS at the conclusion of the project, this paper will present preliminary findings from qualitative interviews with two different groups – individuals who have experience, involvement or knowledge of how the law has been applied to GHS in Australia, and women who have experienced, or may have experienced, GHS.

Nicole Shackleton is a PhD candidate at La Trobe University’s Centre for Health Law and Society. Her PhD research considers the role of the law in the regulation of gendered hate speech in Australia. Her research interests include gender, health law, human rights, minority rights, international criminal law and justice, and Australian criminal law. Nicole holds a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of International Relations with Honours from La Trobe University, a Diploma of Languages in Spanish from La Trobe University, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practice from Australian National University. Nicole is a qualified lawyer. In 2016, Nicole interned on the Nuon Chea defence team at the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia, in Phnom Phen, Cambodia. Nicole has co-authored articles on minority rights, the right to rehabilitation under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and gendered hate speech.

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