It’s been 48 hours and I am still fuming over the article written by a barrister called Barbara Hewson in which she calls for the age of consent to be lowered to 13. While no politician or political party would ever dream of taking up her public utterances and parents need not worry about any of this becoming a reality Hewson’s narrative is, nevertheless, disturbing.
There is a certain smugness in Hewson’s words that smacks of one-upmanship and attention seeking verbal diarrhoea that would be far more suited in the plush dining rooms of upmarket homes on a Saturday night when high-flying intelligent types get together for a dinner party and indulge in too much alcohol. What spews forth isn’t free speech, it’s private talk. The right to free speech, surely, involves something more reasoned, especially from a human rights lawyer.
As a mother of a 13 year old I find her views particularly provocative because it lacks a monstrous recognition of the vulnerabilities of teenage girls and a huge disconnect between her views and the wider world of paedophilia which has been in the news just this week – the victims of Stuart Hall, April Jones, Tia Sharpe and the abduction of the young women while in their teens in Cleveland. There is only one thing that this week has shown us in these cases and it is that the issue of child protection is a human rights issue, not fodder for a public platform for gross opinion.
Hewson states that she does not ‘support the persecution of old men. The manipulation of the rule of law by the Savile Inquisition-otherwise known as Operation Yewtree-and its attendant zealots poses a far graver threat to society than anything Jimmy Savile ever did’.
This is muddled thinking. Is she accusing the police of age discrimination? If so, does that mean that old men are not capable of any crimes at all? The language used and thought displayed by Hewson is archaic. The reason that ‘old men’ are being brought to justice is because it is now, rightly, recognised that sexual acts against young girls is paedophilia. It is not ‘old men’ being ‘old men’ nor is it any form of persecution. It is time for the prosecution of those who took advantage of a bygone time and culture which allowed them to indulge their evil intentions.
Women like Hewson enjoy playing the patriarchal game which substitutes sentiment for substance. We saw this happen earlier this year when Shirley Williams defended Chris Rennard. Then there are other older women who think that men are being given a hard time because women don’t like having doors opened for them anymore. Frankly, if these women cannot advance the cause of ordinary women and mothers like me who are bringing up children in a world where violence against female is on the increase then they should shut up. Not all women live in a cosseted worlds where ‘men will be men’ and women are there to indulge them.
A 13 year old girl is a vulnerable one because she still needs guidance while finding her way in the world. Education and harmless fun in equal measure ought to be the landscape of a 13 year old’s life. There should not be a door opened to the vagaries of being a sexual conquest for a grown man. Hewson is a foolish woman who seems to enjoy using the language of legal jurisprudence to substantiate child abuse, for that is what it amounts to.
She cites the rule of law but I wonder if Tom Bingham would agree. In chapter 5 on page 55 of his book, The Rule of Law, Lord Bingham states that : “Children are, by definition, less mature than a normal adult, and should not be treated as a normal adult would expect to be treated”.
This blog post is dedicated to the memory of Francis Andrade who killed herself at the age of 48 this year after having to relive the sexual abuse she suffered as a teenager.