Thursday, June 19, 2008

Consent Redefined but has it Been Defined Enough?

Scotland is to redefine rape which will make it a statutory offence, rather than common law as well as given a clear definition of what is consent.

Kenny MacAskill, the SNP Justice Minister, announced his proposed changes to the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill yesterday. On recommendations from the Scottish Law Commission the new bill will cover spiking of drinks with date rape drugs, sexually offensive emails and text messages as well as widening the power to cover male rape.

However, two of the Commissions more controversial proposals that of decriminalising all consenting sex between 13 to 15-year-olds and consensual adult sexual violence were both not included in the new bill. On the first Mr MacAskill said society does not encourage sex between children, the problem of course has been that biology is not necessarily a respecter for society's wishes. The arbitrary line in the sand has moved up the age scale since medieval times merely because the ability to survive has increased.

Generally 13 to 15 year olds have boyfriends or girlfriends of roughly the same age as themselves and at present when biology takes offer under current legislation they can find themselves on the sex offenders register before they are 'old enough' to 'consent'.

The SNP yesterday were advocating doing what is best for the health of the nation, yet at the same time are not seeing a slightly wider picture in this area. For an under 16 should they acquire an STI or become pregnant, when having to inform sexual partners to be checked or the name of the father the other partner may then not come forward for fear they will face criminalisation. The same can also be said about consensual adult sexual violence, society may look down on it but it goes on. While it is criminalised should some accident occur that requires medical attention what do the consenting adult do, how do they explain aware the marks that may actually be unrelated to the treatment required.

It is a murky legal quagmire but the Commission had shown some common sense approach which can only help in other areas. The Parliament is rightly clarifying the word consent but at the same time there was more that could and maybe should have been done.

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