Advocacy groups are celebrating the recent Canada Supreme Court decision that defines condom usage as a condition of consent.
Kate Feeny, director of litigation for West Coast LEAF — a legal education firm focused on gender equity issues — said the decision is a recognition of what most Canadians already view as the definition of consent
“Today’s decision is an important clarification of the meaning of consent, which affirms the centrality of dignity, personal autonomy, sexual agency, and equality to Canadian sexual assault law. To put it simply, every person has the right to control how they are touched at every stage of a sexual interaction.”
West Coast LEAF was an intervenor in the case. They presented a gender equity lens on how the practice of condom refusal and condom removal during sex harms the dignity and autonomy of the people it happens to. Typically, the definition of harm was limited only to pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
“Survivors who engage with the criminal justice system already face steep barriers to accessing justice. Invasive inquiries to establish physical harm from condom refusal or removal are not only a distraction from the underlying harm to the survivor’s dignity and autonomy, but also make the court process even more stressful or re-traumatizing for survivors,”
Feeny hopes that the decision will result in more awareness that condom removal and refusal cause serious harm and that it is sexual assault.
“It’s really important that people are bringing this understanding to their sexual encounters, to set boundaries and know what the implications are when their boundaries are violated.”