A lot to do to change mores on sex consent

IT is disheartening that so many Irish people — 21% — think that having sexual intercourse without consent is acceptable in certain situations. 

It is not, however, as disheartening as the Eurobarometer figure that records that 27% within the EU support that certain-situations position. It is, however, far less disheartening than the Romanian figure showing that 55% endorsed this view.

It is a principle of our time that the only time sexual intercourse is appropriate is when two, fully aware, consenting adults agree. The practice is, as the poll also shows, somewhat different. More than one-in-10 — 11% — of Irish people and 12% of other EU respondents suggest that being drunk or using drugs justifies sexual intercourse without consent. In Romania that ratio hits 30%. This compares to only 2% in Sweden, Finland, Spain, and Denmark.

Two weeks ago our Supreme Court ruled on the legal definition of consent in rape cases. It came after the DPP sought a clarification in cases where a man charged with rape claimed the woman agreed to have sex. The court found that the prosecution will have to prove there was no consent for the man to be convicted of rape and if it’s proven that no consent was given, the jury will have to consider the accused’s state of mind at the time. Whatever the ruling, we should aspire to be more like Sweden, Denmark, and Spain on these matters but there’s a lot to do before we might be so defined.

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