News & Events

Faculty Seminar | Deconstructing the Universal of Consent


Allen & Overy Conference Room, 2nd Floor, Training Centre, NLSIU


Wednesday, July 26, 2023, 4:00 pm

The next faculty seminar will be held on 26 July, 2023. Ms. Ishika Saxena will be discussing the paper titled ‘Deconstructing the Universal of Consent’. Prof (Dr.) Rinku Lamba will be the discussant.


This paper will argue that the normative model of understanding sexual violence requires expansion and reworking to account for the full complexity of this nature of this violence. This normative model characterizes sexual assault by the presence or absence of consent.

This notion of consent operates as a universal which does not account for several particulars such as persons who may not be able to consent. Such particulars may be cultural specificities, socio-political conditions of inequality, as well as the inaccessibility of freedom to most people. This paper wishes to extrapolate the role of equality and freedom in how ‘ideal’ consent is understood. Hegemonic (such as social practices) and institutional elements (such as the law) intersect to produce this current understanding of sexual violence.

This paper focuses on deconstructing consent by focusing on two such particulars; queerness and disability. Queerness is unaccounted for by the logic of the definition of rape which when positioned as the gravest form of sexual harm, assumes that harm is caused by a penis-bearing individual in all cases. Within the legal definitions of this framework, there is an assumption of a giver-recipient dynamic to sexual intercourse, which is a heterosexual presumption. Alongside this, the question of disability becomes relevant at the conceptual level as it elucidates the theoretical limitations of the notion of freedom, i.e., free will.

The consent framework of sexual assault is an oversimplification of a complex problem. These particulars affect how consent plays out in actual practice. The inadequacy of the universal is elucidated through the particulars that are unaccounted for by this universal. It is therefore necessary to ask if this is the best universal for understanding sexual assault. “