Harm, consent and the limits of privacy

Matthew Weait

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10 Citations (Scopus)


Within the context of U.K. law, the right to respect for private life, articulated in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and acknowledged more opaquely in domestic legislation and case law, is one whose scope is unclear. Nowhere is this brought into sharper relief than in cases where conduct which manifests a person's sexual identity, or concerns her intimate relations with others, is prima facie criminal. In this essay I attempt, through a discussion of cases in which injury is caused in the context of relationships experienced inter-subjectively as private, to explore the contexts in which the law is prepared to legitimate that inter-subjective experience, and where it is not. Using cases in which injury has been caused purposively (in S/M sex), and incidentally (through the reckless transmission of HIV during sexual intercourse), the essay argues that the law is prepared to respect the right to respect for private life only in so far as the private life concerned is one which reinforces traditional gender roles and relationship types; in short, a life that one would be prepared to live publicly.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-122
Number of pages26
JournalFeminist Legal Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2005


  • consent
  • criminal law
  • harm
  • HIV
  • privacy
  • responsibility
  • sado-masochism


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