12/12/2005

The age of sexual consent

I know the debate about lowering the age of sexual consent is normally in relation to homosexual couples but a debate has begun about the age in relation to heterosexual couples.
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It has been reported that Michael McDowell is considering changing the age of sexual consent in Ireland. According to reports this morning McDowell was worried that the current law on the matter did not reflect reality.

This follows a recent court case in Galway in which a man admitted to the statutory rape of his girlfriend when she was 15 and he was 19.

The couple, who are in a stable relationship, later had a baby and both their mothers were in court to support them.

The presiding judge gave an 11-month suspended sentence to the accused and also fined him €100.

Under Irish law, a man can be jailed for five years for having sex with a girl under the age of 17 years, while sex with a girl under the age of 15 carries a sentence of up to life in prison.

However, the age of consent for boys is currently just 15, so if two 16-year-olds had sex, the boy would be committing a crime and the girl would not.

I have mixed feelings on this matter.

I believe that the age of sexual consent for men needs to be in line with that of women. To suggest that if two 16 year old had sex then the man is committing rape is preposterous. It is underlined by the conservative notion that this country has of women.

I worked in teenage disco from the age of 14 and I can tell you that 14/15/16 year old Irish girls do not need protecting from boys their same age. In some respects it is the boys who need protecting.

In my opinion the age of sexual consent should be 16 for all and that includes homosexual couples as well.

I reject however any notion that what the lad of 19 did with the 15 year old was anything other than rape, statutory rape. It is unfair to call it "rape" in the sense that we normally use the term but he clearly took disadvantage of that girl. The age of 15 is much too young to make a reasonable and rational decision in relation to sexual activity. Even if at 15 a person is physically ready for a sexual relationship emotionally they are not.

The age of sexual consent should not be meddled with lightly.

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