Hundreds join protest against rape trials in Ireland

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Hundreds of people protested in Dublin city centre on Wednesday to highlight concerns over how rape trials are conducted in Ireland.

A recent case in Co Cork sparked outrage after a defence barrister referred to the 17 year-old complainant’s underwear during the trial, in which a man was acquitted of rape.

Organised by a number of feminist organisations, demonstrators held up sets of underwear and signs that read “Stop victim blaming in courts” while chanting “Clothes are not consent”.

People Before Profit TD Brid Smith told the crowd that they must organise and fight back against injustice.

“Consistently we see in court where women’s bodies have been violated and women are made to feel like it’s their fault,” she said.

“Prejudice is at the heart of the system itself, no matter where you come from and who you accuse – there is a lack of justice in this country for women.

“This is a nasty unjust system – why are the government not bringing legislation forward to stop this happening in court?”

The case was brought to wider public attention on Tuesday when Irish politician Ruth Coppinger held up a thong in the parliament chamber to highlight the outrage felt by some sections of the public.

“Why is nothing yet being done to stop the routine use of rape myths in trials, and how concerned is this Government about the chilling effect this is having on victims coming forward?” Ms Coppinger asked the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as she held the underwear aloft.

Present at the march, Ms Coppinger told the Press Association it was clear young people will no longer stand by when they believe something is wrong.

“You’re always a bit nervous when you do something like that in the Dail (parliament) because of the strict rules, but also I wasn’t sure how it would go down. I wanted to do it with sensitivity” she said.

“I’ve been amazed at the response, a massive reaction.

“Normally you get some abuse, but the reaction has been incredibly positive.

“People are sickened by this type of society, sexism, racism or whatever is used to divide people and people are anxious to change that.

“It’s reflective of the last five years in Ireland. It’s been building, changing attitudes towards the position of women in society, particularly among young people.

“The idea that this could happen in 2018, that what you wear somehow justifies any kind of sexual violence, it’s backward.”

A popular social media campaign was sparked by the fall-out from the case with women from Ireland and abroad posting pictures of their underwear with the hastag #Thisisnotconsent.

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