18 December 2007

Shorter Redwood: "If you know a man, you cannot say no to sex"

The Daily Mail often has some gems on its pages, but this article deeply shocked me. John Redwood, a Tory MP, has, on his blog which I linked to, said the following;

...none of us want men to rape women, but there is a difference between a man using unreasonable force to assault a woman on the street, and a disagreement between two lovers over whether there was consent on one particular occasion when the two were spending an evening or night together. Labour’s doctrine of equivalence has led to jury scepticism about many rape claims, in situations where it is the man’s word against the woman’s and where they had agreed to spend the evening or night together. Young men do not want to have to take a consent form and a lawyer on a date, just as young women have every right to go on a date and to say “No”, having it respected.
OK, so basically, if your boyfriend/husband rapes you (incidentally, 'rape' means having sex without the consent of the other party - it has nothing to do with strangers and dark alleys), you are up shit creek. The police won't believe you anyway, and it is going to be impossible for you to persuade a jury beyond all reasonable doubt that the defendant raped you.

I don't have all the answers. But I do know a couple of things. Firstly, the circumstances surrounding the act should have no effect on the culpability of the man. Whether the rape occurs in the context of a marriage of 15 years, or a so-called "stranger rape", it is the fact that the woman did not consent which matters. There is a massive flaw in the Sexual Offences Act here, which allows for the jury to take "all the circumstances" into account when assessing whether or not the defendant had a "reasonable belief in consent". This could technically result in men who have been brought up with a very misogynistic father for example, and who believe that all women should consent to sex immediately and without question, being found not guilty of rape, whilst, on the same set of facts, a man who is well aware of rape laws, the fact that women can (and do) refuse sex, could be found guilty. Obviously, this is unfair. The test should be an objective one, and the clause including "all the circumstances" should be removed from the statute.

Secondly, the Police should be compelled to investigate all allegations of rape. They should not be allowed to simply "no-crime" cases which they think will be too difficult to investigate, or for women that they simply do not believe. The Police are not the jury here, it is their job to investigate allegations of any crime.

Thirdly, I think that a national campaign to raise awareness of what rape is, how often it is committed, and that the victim is never responsible for what happened, even if she was flirting and wearing a short skirt, is vastly overdue.

John Redwood, you are a detestable disgusting man, and you should be ashamed of yourself.

Feministing has more.

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