Sex, lies and legal tape

This blogpost was first published on www.timesofmalta.com

It was with shock that I read out the first important judgement of the year: a 60-year-old man gets three years’ prison for sexual violence on a minor.

The shock increased as events continued unfolding after the judgement was made public. Or rather, as they failed to unfold.

But first things first. What on earth has our legal system come to, to make it possible for an adult to ruin a child’s life and get away scot-free? Yes, three years in prison is pretty much scot-free. And let us be realistic, chances are he will not even serve half, not if you take into account amnesties and so forth.

I will not bother blaming the magistrate, as facile public opinion tends to do – that is, when it bothers to voice its collective opinion at all, but more on that later. The law is what it is, and it is the law itself that needs to be challenged, as opposed to its application.

I’ve said this time and time again – when are sexual offences going to be recognised for the serious crimes that they are? As it is, they are lumped under this fable: ‘Of Crimes Against the Peace and Honour of Families, and Against Morals’. As opposed, of course, to the more serious section dealing with ‘Crimes Against the Person’.

How, exactly, is sexual violence a crime against the family? It is the victim’s physical and emotional person that the law makers should be defending, not some phantom concept of ‘family’, or some subjective view of ‘morals’.

Of course, this outrageous measure dates back to when sex was hidden behind the inscrutable facade of domestic matters. What went on behind closed doors was something the law refused to interfere with. Let the church and the morals of the day deal with it.

Well, times have changed. Sexual violence is an offence against the victim’s person, and not against the honour of the archaic notion of a paterfamilias.

However, this was not the most shocking aspect of the case.

I will now draw a comparison to the case of Mr Daniel Holmes. Not in the obvious manner that those who reacted to yesterday’s judgement all did. The obvious manner being, of course, how come Mr Holmes gets thrown inside for ten years while someone who violently assaulted a minor gets away with three?

The comparison is valid, and I applaud those who took it upon themselves to raise awareness about Mr Holmes’ plight. Unfortunately, the solution to that particular dilemma is what it is: a complete overhaul of the actual laws is necessary.

However, it is a different comparison that I’m thinking of. Where is the public outcry in defence of this child who has also, like Mr Holmes, had her life ruined?

Before I go on, I’ll spell out the obvious. The point I am making is not that Mr Holmes doesn’t deserve support. On the contrary. But so does this girl. And those who voiced out their disgust at the first case, should be ashamed for not caring about the second simply because it does not touch the lives.

Where are the online petitions asking for justice for Girl X?

Where are the protests organised in her favour?

The damage that has been inflicted on this person is indescribable. No amount of psychological help will mend her completely. The chances of her leading a fulfilling, averagely serene life have been reduced drastically. It is a sentence of sorts, not of ten years, but of life.

And yet, try as I might, I found no public outcry denouncing this injustice. My first reaction was that the reason for this is we just do not take sexual violence seriously enough. It’s a case of.. “u ijja, she will get over it”.

Even a case of “she probably asked for it”. I kid you not. Yesterday someone uttered this crap in my presence without even a hint of shame. He followed it up with “anyway girls of 13 nowadays behave like they are 18”.

It was all I could do not to slap him.

Then I realised the reason was another one. No one uttered a word this time because in the previous protests all people really cared about was legalising marijuana. Justice was not the issue.

Sadly, it rarely is.

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