EAI Executive Director, Nick Park, has congratulated Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Justice and Equality, for scoring a Hat-Trick of measures to protect the vulnerable in the Government’s Criminal Law Sexual Offences Bill.
Organisations like Evangelical Alliance Ireland usually contact Government Ministers when we’re complaining about something, but on this occasion I want to congratulate Minister Fitzgerald.
Firstly, people trafficking is a modern scourge. It is appalling that, over 180 years after the death of William Wilberforce, there are more people living in slavery today than were enslaved during the entire period of the North Atlantic slave trade. NGO’s assisting victims of people trafficking have long argued that the ‘Swedish model’ – criminalising the purchase of sexual services rather than prosecuting prostitutes – represents an effective response to the sexual enslavement of women and children.
Secondly, keeping the age of consent at 17 is an important measure to prevent the exploitation of children. Evangelical Christians, most notably the Salvation Army, were instrumental in raising the age of consent from 13 in the late Nineteenth Century. This was not Victorian prudery or self-righteous moralising, but was designed to combat a situation where police were powerless to prevent child prostitution. The two-year Proximity Clause in Minister Fitzgerald’s Bill is an innovative and humane measure that prevents adults from exploiting children, yet , for example, avoids pinning the label of ‘sex offender’ on a 17 year old who is in a relationship with a 16 year old.
Thirdly, the measures against internet grooming are a timely response to the misuse of technology to target vulnerable young people.
This Bill represents a balance of compassionate and principled measures and an important step forward in social justice.