The hate speech gap – The notable absence of laws criminalising gendered hate speech

Nicole Shackleton1
1La Trobe University, Watsonia, VIC

Since the #metoo and #timesup movements began, thousands of women, men and those from the LGBTIQ community have shared their stories of harassment, assault and rape. These movements have led to resignations, terminations of employment and, in some cases, prosecution of perpetrators who have abused their positions of power. However, these online revelations have been met by a fierce backlash, and an unprecedented level of gendered hate speech (GHS) directed at survivors, activists, journalists and women in general.

Unlike racist and religious hate speech, Australian criminal law does not prohibit GHS. Instead, victims must rely on a number of unrelated laws to bring perpetrators to account. This paper will map current Australian criminal laws in relation to GHS perpetrated online. It will argue that the current legislative regime is unworkable, and make suggestions for future research with the goal of recommending legal reform.


Nicole Shackleton is a PhD candidate at La Trobe University’s Centre for Health Law and Society. Her PhD research considers the role of the law in the prohibition of gendered hate speech in Australia.

Nicole has a Bachelor of Laws (Honours)/ Bachelor of International Relations from La Trobe University, a Diploma of Languages in Spanish from La Trobe University, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practice from Australian National University. Nicole is qualified as a lawyer.

Nicole has co-authored articles on minority rights, the right to rehabilitation under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and gendered hate speech.


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