Now that the David Norris case has hit the front pages, the Interwebs are alive with all manner of speculation and allegation, and the most common accusation is that he defended a paedophile.
Now, that would be fine if we all had a common definition of a paedophile, but after a quick scan of European laws, I’ve discovered that we have no such agreement. Ezra Nawi would not be considered a paedophile in France, Germany, Italy or the Czech Republic. On the other hand, a man legally married to a 17-year-old wife here in Ireland could be convicted of child abuse in Malta. More to the point, a man with a 16-year-old girlfriend would be acting legally in Israel, but a criminal in this country.
Furthermore, when Ezra Nawi was convicted in 1992, Israel operated two different ages of consent : 16 for heterosexuals and 18 for homosexuals.
Even within Europe, there’s no agreed age of consent, which means that, in theory, a person could simultaneously be a paedophile and not a paedophile simply by standing with a foot on each side of a national border — in other words, Schrödinger’s Pervert, somebody both depraved and virtuous at the same time.
Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens when we project the social mores of one society onto another. Here in Ireland, for instance, we have set the age of consent at 17, which seems rather high by comparison with other jurisdictions, but not as high as Malta where the limit is 18. And while there might have been a time when our teenagers were a little coy and sexually repressed, I suspect those days have long fled.
Of course, the issue isn’t really about sex between teenagers, but instead about situations when a great age difference exists — except in Ireland where we prosecute 17-year-old boys for having sex with 16-year-old girlfriends because, as you know, we have more morals than anyone else. We have so many morals, we’ve even exported them. A morals mountain.
Within one jurisdiction, the paedophile definition is consistent, enabling us to define what we consider acceptable or not in our society. That’s why, for instance, we can say with certainty that some convicted priests are paedos, but we must always remember that they would not be criminals in other countries. In Spain, for instance, the age of consent is 13, which seems a bit pervy by any standards, but it’s a fact all the same.
I find it creepy to think that a man of 40 would want anything to do with a prattling teenager of either sex, but that’s just me, that’s my own prejudice, and my personal hang-ups don’t make the law.
However, it’s a different matter when people use the word Paedophile, not least because it has a reassuringly scientific sound to it, even though it was invented by perverts to justify what they do.
The problem is this. If Nawi had sex with a 15-year-old in Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Holland, Malta, Norway or Russia, he’d be a paedophile. If he had sex with a 15-year-old in France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Denmark, Poland or Austria, he’d be a healthy, sexually-active adult. Therefore, without a commonly-agreed age of consent, calling somebody in another society a paedophile simply has no meaning, other than as an expression of our personal revulsion.
How can this be resolved? I don’t know. Maybe you do.
Here’s a table of countries grouped by age of consent. It could contain some errors, so feel free to correct any you notice.
|Age of Consent||Country|
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