Irish women take to streets after lawyer says teenage girl's underwear implied consent

  • 15/11/2018

Irish women have taken to the streets and social media in protest after an attorney said a teenage girl's choice of underwear meant she couldn't have been raped.

Defence lawyer Elizabeth O'Connell was representing a 27-year-old man who had been accused of raping a 17-year-old girl in an alleyway in Cork. He denied the allegation.

In court on November 5, Ms O'Connell reportedly told jurors they should take into consideration the teenager's choice of underwear on the night of the alleged rape.

"Does the evidence out-rule the possibility that she was attracted to the defendant and was open to meeting someone and being with someone?" she said.

"You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front."

She also held up the teenager's underwear to show the entire court, Yahoo7 News reports.

The jury unanimously acquitted the defendant of rape after deliberating for 90 minutes.

Ms O'Connell's comments and actions were widely condemned across the country, reaching as far as Ireland's parliament.

Politician Ruth Coppinger produced a blue thong during a debate to demonstrate how the young woman was humiliated in court.

"It might seem embarrassing to show a pair of thongs here," she said to her fellow politicians.

"How do you think a rape victim or a woman feels at the incongruous setting of her underwear being shown in a court?"

Afterwards, Ms Coppinger posted on Twitter that cameras panned away from her as she held up the thong, despite it being legal for the underwear of an alleged victim to be passed around an Irish courtroom. 

She led a protest march through Dublin on Wednesday (local time), demanding to "end victim-blaming in the courts". Alongside traditional protest signs, women displayed pairs of underwear alongside the hashtag #ThisIsNotConsent.

At the same time in Cork, approximately 200 people marched to the court where the rape trial was held, and laid underwear on the steps of the courthouse.

#ThisIsNotConsent also trended on social media as a result of the protests, with women sharing photos of their own underwear along with captions explaining why clothes don't automatically mean consent to sex.

Charlie Flanagan, Ireland's minister for justice and equality, told The Irish Examiner he's open to the idea of changing the law around how rape trials are conducted.