Eve Was Shamed
—by Helena Kennedy
a review—

By Pamela Buchan

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Helena Kennedy QC is a lawyer who has worked on women’s justice for decades. This - her third book – is about the need for legal reform for women, focusing on the ways in which the legal system penalises women just for being women. Helena discusses the expectations of, and prejudices against, women. She examines how they are used to defend male criminal activity AND unfairly judge women both as victims and criminals.

The myriad judgements made about women are central to her argument. She shows how women are judged about their mothering, about being a wife; she shows the double-standards inflicted on women in relation to sexuality; how a woman’s class and appearance are used against her as a witness, victim or perpetrator. Kennedy demonstrates he lack of legal consideration historically and contemporarily given to women perpetrators who are the victims of childhood and domestic abuse, particularly the newly recognised crime of coercive control and the different ways in which men and women are seen as monsters for serious, ‘wicked’, crimes committed. And she gives space to the particular challenges faced by girls in regards to FGM, grooming, trafficking, and sexual and relationship education.

Despite such complex and serious subjects and such a technically accomplished author, the book is accessible and clearly written. It is a call to action for men and women, as the public and as legal experts, to reflect on the biases we all hold and expose the prejudices built into the British legal system. After all, justice is made from social norms and shared understandings and change begins with legal experts speaking out and the general public demanding change. For anyone already questioning how fair British justice really is for women, this book gives validity and examples that will support demands for change.