Teenager challenges unlawful carnal knowledge conviction

A 15-year-old boy accused of unlawful carnal knowledge of a 14-year-old girl has begun a High Court challenge to the law on the grounds of gender discrimination.

He is charged with various offences under the Criminal Law Sexual Offences Act which was hastily passed by the Oireachtas in 2006 in the wake of the statutory rape constitutional crisis.

Section 5 of the 2006 Act, known as the Romeo and Juliet provision, stops girls aged less 17 from being prosecuted for having sex but offers no such immunity to young boys.

It is being argued today that it is an example of gender-based discrimination for which there is no justification.

In this instance, a 15-year-old boy has been charged with several offences under the Act after he had sex with a 14-year-old girl in August 2006.

His lawyers say the legislation assumes the boy is the "guilty party" while it patronises girls as comely maidens whose virtue must be protected.

While the penalty of consensual sex for an underage girl is the threat of pregnancy, for a boy it is up to five years in prison.

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