The new rape law is daft

VERY few people will have emerged with any credit after the statutory rape law fiasco. The Supreme Court made a complete hash of it. The demonstrators were out to bounce the Government into a quick fix – mobbery, really.

The Dail passed the daftest piece of law since the foundation of the state. And Mary McAleese should never have signed the new Act into law. 

Let’s start at the daft bit.

The average age of first sex in Ireland is now 15.5 years of age, according to the Crisis Pregnancy Agency. Under the new law, sexual intercourse with any girl under 17 is rape, a very serious criminal offence. 

Therefore the average teenage boy in Ireland is a rapist. Great. Girls are not rapists, according to the new law, not if they engage in full sex. Everything else is a sexual assault. Foreplay is a crime but doing the business isn’t. So we can pretty much assume that most girls in Ireland are guilty of a criminal sexual assault. Great.

Let’s think about this. Suppose a 16-year-old boy and a 16-year-old have sex. It may not be an ideal situation but is it rape? Really, it demeans the concept of rape altogether.

Suppose further that that she becomes pregnant. The child is born into an already difficult situation. The first thing the State does is to brand its father a rapist. And the mother is guilty of a sexual assault. Is this helpful? Is this protecting children?

It’s mad, utterly mad.

All those grannies and grandads who paraded across the pages of our paper and outside the Dail demanding instant retention of the age-of-consent principle weren’t thinking straight, as far as I can see. Do they really believe that their precious grandchildren are saving themselves for marriage, when the whole world knows that teenagers are engaging in all sorts of sexual activities? How would they like their grandson to be branded a rapist?

We should forget about a set age of consent. It can’t describe the sexual relationships we want to criminalise. If we think that it is wrong for a 38-year-old man to lure a 12-year-old girl into sexual activity, then why not say so? Why say that two 16-year-olds are committing the same offence? That’s plain daft.

We are assured, by those in authority, that two consenting 16-year-olds would never be prosecuted. Well that’s not good enough. That’s nod-and-wink law. 

How did such buffoonery pass the assembled ranks of genius in the Dail? You’ll tell me that the new law is pretty much the same as the old law. Yes, but surely our understanding of sexuality, and our sexual practices, have moved on since the 1930’s.

I was disappointed with Mary McAleese. If ever a bill should have been referred to the Supreme Court by a president, this was it. It’s her job to protect the constitution and this bill has all sorts of constitutional problems.

Finally, Justice Mary Laffoy will surely have amended her Christmas card list to delete a few of the judges of the Supreme Court. They hung her out to dry, basically. She had the happy task of releasing Mr A because they said the law he broke didn’t exist. Then, when tight came to tight, they back-pedalled.

Not pretty and not clever.