The lack of justice in the judicial system has been exposed through the draconian sentence given to a 19 year old man for having consensual sex with his 16 year old girlfriend.
By Eddie Mc Cabe and Laura Fitzgerald, Dublin Socialist Youth
Judge John Neilan handed down an 11-month custodial sentence on the young man under statutory rape laws, who admitted the offence of sex with a girl under the legal age of consent, which is 17 years.
The judge accepted that the young man was not aware that the age of consent was 17 and that the “victim”, who was 16 and three quarters at the time, said she had been going out with the young man and that both indicated that they both wanted to have sex.
The judge made a point of emphasising that the young man was “strictly on notice that he should have absolutely nothing to do with her”. In reality, the judge insinuated that the young man should have ended the relationship with his girlfriend because her father didn’t approve of it. This attitude is reminiscent of the backward idea that the man is the head of the household and should be obeyed.
Only a few months ago, a convicted rapist sexually assaulted and attacked a woman within 14 hours of being released from prison. The system is totally failing to protect women and girls and yet such a drastic sentence has been handed down to a young man for having consensual sex with his girlfriend. He may be placed on the sex offenders register – in essence his life may be ruined and to what avail? Violence and sexual violence against women is continuing unabated. Attitudes such as those displayed by the judge in this case – namely that fathers have the right to control the lives, including sexuality of their daughters, only feed into attitudes and stereotypes in society that perpetuate the sexism that’s inherent in violence against women.
Young people should not be criminalised for engaging in consensual sex. Quality sex education in schools, that includes self-esteem building that cuts across young people feeling pressured into sex when they’re not ready for it, could assist young people in making informed decisions about sex and relationships. The state should also make access to free contraception readily available for young people. We need to fight backward laws, attitudes and all forms of sexism to maximise healthy sexual and personal relationships based upon mutual respect.