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International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy Queensland University of Technology 2202-8005 The International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy is an open access, blind peer reviewed journal that publishes critical research about challenges confronting criminal justice systems around the world. Committed to Open Access  and democratising quality knowledge production and dissemination. FREE TO DOWNLOAD AND FREE TO PUBLISH!
International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy 3 1

Governing Sex: Removing the Right to Take Responsibility


The exposure in 2006 of horrific cases of sexual violence that allegedly characterised Northern Territory Aboriginal communities, evoked responses dominated by a predictable moral panic. Thus the Commonwealth Intervention of 2007 largely missed its ostensible aim of protecting sexually abused children. This essay moves beyond a moralising analysis to consider relevant social, cultural and historical factors based on specific ethnographic work. First I present a sense of some profound historically established differences and common themes in traditional Aboriginal and mainstream law in relation to the regulation of sexuality. Then I draw on evidence that Aboriginal people embraced the notion of ‘two laws’, even as the new era created profound difficulties in relation to sexual norms. Their ‘right to take responsibility’ (Pearson 2000) was further undermined by ‘Interventions’ that unashamedly diminished the ability of NT Aborigines to govern their own communities. Finally, mainstream institutions that are deeply engaged with Aboriginal communities need to consider the ways they may be perpetuating entrenched difficulties.

Pages:35 to 48
Section: Articles
2 citation(s) in Scopus
0 citation(s) in Web of Science


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Author Biography

Professorial Fellow
Department of Anthropology, School of Social and Political Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences