Monday, December 11, 2006

Age of Consent

RTE's Tonight with Vincent Browne discussed the all-party recommendations on changing the age of consent. Vincent's panel consisted of Nell McCafferty, some legal eagles and one of the TDs from the all-party committee.

Nell sounded like she'd spent several hours in Madigan's before the programme, taunting the other participants about their sexual conservatism, generally having a laugh and trying to shock us. Vincent was his usual mix of lawyerly analysis, sudden rage and incredulity - he couldn't get his head around the fact that it is legally possible to get married, with a special license, before reaching the current age of consent.

Then the subject of "grooming" was mentioned and Vincent asked what that meant - subsequently admitting that he had never heard the term before.

If that's the level of insight, preparation etc that he does for his shows, you can only wonder how much credence to give to any of the output in his multiplicity of media organs - the Irish Times, Village magazine, the Sunday Business Post and, of course, nightly on RTE.

Thankfull, if somewhat belatedly, Nell realised the import of Vincent's ignorance re grooming and pointed it out on air - thus saving me having to send a second email.


The debate on lowering the Age of Consent is coloured by a concern that the law will be seen as sending a signal that sex at 16 is quite acceptable to society.

The reality is that this law is about Statutory Rape, words which transmit quite a different signal.

Perhaps if, in future debate, the topic was referred to as “The Rape Age Law” rather than “The Age of Consent”, it might allow for a little more light and a little less heat.

Footnote: Section in italics published as a letter in the Irish Times, the Irish Independent & the Irish Examiner. Also aired on Tonight with Vincent Browne (RTE) referred to above.

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