It is hard to imagine an item of female underwear becoming a global flag of protest.
Yet it has become one, following a rape trial in Cork last week, during which the lawyer for a 27-year-old accused man told jurors they should have regard for the underwear the 17-year-old complainant wore, adding: “She was wearing a thong with a lace front.”
Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger showed a thong in the Dáil to highlight issues in rape cases, and hundreds of similar items have been placed on the steps of the courthouse in Cork where the rape trial took place.
What the Cork trial has shown vividly is that, even in a jurisdiction where rape is defined on the basis of lack of consent, numerous obstacles remain in the way of women’s access to justice. Introducing a young woman’s item of underwear as evidence bolsters the perception that it is women’s responsibility to protect themselves from rape.
Wearing the kind of underwear fashionable with young women can never be taken as evidence of consent to sex or any other form of intimacy. It has no place in a court of law.