Feminist legal theorists have had something of an uneasy relationship with law reform. Although feminist academics and lawyers have contributed much to law reform efforts that have sought to improve women’s lives, feminists have nonetheless taken divergent positions regarding the extent to which these efforts can truly dismantle the masculinist character of law through law reform projects. This article revisits these tensions and, in so doing, seeks to better understand the extent to which feminists can meaningfully contribute to law reform projects. The criminalisation of image-based sexual abuse in New South Wales (Australia) serves as a case study to examine and re-examine these tensions. In September 2016, the New South Wales government announced that it was proposing to criminalise the distribution of certain images without consent. Following a public consultation process, the government legislated for a new offense directed at the distribution of these images. Although there is certainly not one all-encompassing feminist understanding of image-based sexual abuse, the importance of understanding this practice as abuse and as existing within a culture that normalises and sustains nonconsensual activity nonetheless has been a key feminist concern in agitating for law reform in this area. This article examines the extent to which the legislative response took seriously the harms engendered by image-based sexual abuse.
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