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Is Ireland correct to declare war on boys who have consensual sex with their girlfriends?

(475 Posts)
femtastic Fri 15-Apr-11 14:33:06

Personally, I find this law to be absolutely abhorrent, and I hope it is repealed.

Court hears 'Romeo and Juliet' laws appea

THE Supreme Court has been urged to overturn as unconstitutional the so-called "Romeo and Juliet" laws which allow the prosecution of teenage boys for having sex with teenage girls but prevent prosecution of the girls.

The court is hearing an appeal arising from a 15-year-old boy being charged under the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2006 with having sex with a 14-year-old girl in the Donegal Gaeltacht.

The boy is also charged with buggery and his trial is on hold pending the outcome of the appeal, which opened yesterday and will resume on a future date.

Section 3 of the 2006 act created an offence of defilement of a child under 17 and provided for a sentence of up to five years' imprisonment. Section 5 of the act stated a girl under 17 cannot be guilty of such an offence.

In the High Court in March 2010, Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne ruled, while the law did amount to gender discrimination, that discrimination was not invidious, capricious or disproportionate.

As the risk of pregnancy as a result of underage sex was borne by girls only, not boys, society was entitled to deter such activity and to place the burden of criminal sanction on those "who bear the least adverse consequences" of it, she said.

Outlining the boy's appeal against that decision, John O'Kelly SC said the kernel of the appeal was that both parties involved in this sexual act were children in law aged under 17, with only about a year between the two of them.

The boy's case was they engaged consensually in an act of sexual intercourse but under the act, one of them was liable to be convicted and possibly jailed for up to five years while the other was guilty of no criminal offence at all.

Mr Justice Nial Fennelly noted the 2006 act is neutral as to whether the act of sexual intercourse is consensual or not and the court was not getting involved in that issue in the appeal.

John Finlay SC, for the state, opposed the appeal and argued the High Court decision should stand. The disputed provision was a proportionate measure on grounds of pregnancy, he submitted.

cornsilkily Fri 15-Apr-11 14:34:30

Is the age of consent 17 in Ireland then?

Maryz Fri 15-Apr-11 17:48:43

Yes the age of consent in Ireland is 17.

And as it stands, a 17 year old who has sex with his 16 year old girlfriend can be charged with statutory rape and end up on the sex offenders' register. A boy younger than 17 can be charged (I'm not sure the exact charge) if the girl is under 17 - there doesn't seem to be any notice taken of whether the girl is older or younger than the boy hmm.

Usually prosecution is pushed by the parents of the girl. As a parent, I feel this is unfair. I feel that if both are underage, then similar rules should apply to both the boy and the girl. I also think some sort of "within two years" type of rule should apply. So obviously a 17 year old having sex with an 11 year old is wrong, but a 15/16 year old - I don't know. There must be a better way to treat these teenagers than treating them as rapists and sex offenders hmm.

I particularly dislike the judge's comment As the risk of pregnancy as a result of underage sex was borne by girls only, not boys, society was entitled to deter such activity and to place the burden of criminal sanction on those "who bear the least adverse consequences" of it which more less implies that the girl alone has to bear the consequences of pregnancy, whereas I would have thought in this day and age we should be stressing that boys too have to bear the consequences of having a baby at such a young age.

dittany Fri 15-Apr-11 17:55:57

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

sethstarkaddersmackerel Fri 15-Apr-11 17:57:21

is this the third controversial thread that new poster Femtastic has started and run?

Maryz Fri 15-Apr-11 17:59:49

Sorry, I didn't realise this was a hit and run poster shock.

Dittany, I accept the theory that the boys are bloody stupid, but I have a problem with a 15 year old being criminalised for sleeping with his 15 year old girlfriend, which is what is likely to happen under the current law.

Should the girl not be equally responsible to avoid pregnancy?

dittany Fri 15-Apr-11 18:01:20

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Maryz Fri 15-Apr-11 18:05:11

Well I disagree with the way the law reflects that. I think the boys should be stopped from fucking and running - by being held responsible for the resulting baby, not by being called rapists, which is how the law currently stands.

LittleWhiteWolf Fri 15-Apr-11 18:11:44

I agree with Maryz.

dittany Fri 15-Apr-11 18:13:15

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Reality Fri 15-Apr-11 18:17:07

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laInfanta Fri 15-Apr-11 18:17:31

But is it really any different if a girl is 17 rather than 16? The latter is illegal, the former isn't but the consequences are still the same (i.e. potential pregnancy and no abortion in Ireland).

cornsilkily Fri 15-Apr-11 18:17:51

I agree with mary Z as well.

Maryz Fri 15-Apr-11 18:21:11

God no, of course I don't. But you have to remember that in Ireland it is the girls who don't want abortions - it just is very rarely acceptable among young teenagers to have an abortion. This is the opinion of the teenagers, not what they are told to do. They are shockingly conservative on the matter. I had a conversation with dd and her 14 year olds friends and not one of them would even consider an abortion if they got pregnant. They all know people who had babies at 15, and although they don't want to get pregnant (and all said they would be happy to go on the pill and use condoms, or even use the morning after pill), abortion simply isn't on their agenda at all.

This has changed obviously by the time they get to 18 and up, and really think through the consequences. But for girls of this young age, sex is a rather risky, fun thing to do, and if they are unlucky enough to get pregnant, then the result is a baby. They know this, as do the boys.

Criminalising the boys after the event is going to do nothing to lower the teenage pregnancy rate.

Maryz Fri 15-Apr-11 18:22:31

From conversations with my children and their friends, by the way, it is the boys who are desperate to avoid teenage pregnancy. A scary number of the girls don't seem too bothered shock. Not helped by those bloody "16 and pregnant" programs on the tv.

dittany Fri 15-Apr-11 18:26:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

dittany Fri 15-Apr-11 18:27:46

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Maryz Fri 15-Apr-11 18:31:05

Of course it's a choice. You can hop on a boat. Loads of people do (and it would be first choice for the parents of a lot of these teenagers, it is the teenagers themselves who insist on going through with the pregnancies, in most cases).

I care about both - but I don't think that only the boys should be criminalised. I feel the law is sexist. It punishes one sex for something that both sexes are equally responsible for. And I think the judge's comment that I posted above is disgracefully sexist. I can't believe you don't confused.

I am anti any law that treats people differently purely because of their sex. If the boys are to be charged with underage sex, then surely the girls should be too?

Are you in favour of criminalising girls for partaking in underage sex if you are keen on prosecuting people for breaking this particular law?

dittany Fri 15-Apr-11 18:34:59

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

dittany Fri 15-Apr-11 18:35:36

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MillyR Fri 15-Apr-11 18:37:21

I don't agree with many issues around age of consent. A few countries have a more flexible situation with age of consent, where a person cannot consent under (17 say) to have sex, but where there is an age gap of a few years - a 15 year old and an 18 year old, for example, then the 15 year old can consent.

This seems to me to be more sensible. It protects teens from predatory adults, but allows them sexual freedom with each other.

BooBooGlass Fri 15-Apr-11 18:37:26

But what of constent dittany? These girls are giving consent. The risk of pregnancy, legally, isn't somehting which one can prosecute for surely? Allsorts of risky things are done everyday. You can't prosecute 'just in case'

dittany Fri 15-Apr-11 18:41:16

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Maryz Fri 15-Apr-11 18:42:40

For heavens' sake, are you trying to turn this into an abortion debate? For what it is worth, I believe abortion should be available in this country, and the ridiculous thing is that the last referendum would have been passed except for the fact that extremists from both sides teamed up and beat the middle, numbers wise, which is a huge shame.

What I mean about boys being "desperate" to avoid pregnancy is simply that the girls (and I am talking only about conversations I have had with my children and my neices and nephews here), the boys are more worried by teenage pregnancy than girls are - and of course they should all avoid it, but are you now suggesting abstinence for all teenagers, because if you are I don't think it is too likely hmm.

However, I have just realise this is on the feminist board. And I really hope that you as a feminist aren't saying that we should bring back laws that treat people unequally depending on their sex. Because that is surely one of the things feminism is against - if two people of different sexes break the same law, surely their treatment in the courts should be equal, shouldn't it?

If not, I give up.

BooBooGlass Fri 15-Apr-11 18:44:22

Of course it's not. It's perfectly capable to have a loving, sexual relationship as a 17 year old. WHy does that have to involve a female in a submissive role? It doesn't.

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