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Call for repeal of ban on people with intellectual disabilities having sexual relationships

At present it is a criminal offence for a person to conduct such a relationship with someone with an intellectual disability.

shutterstock_339357839 Source: Shutterstock/artemisphoto

AN IRISH CHARITY is calling for the repeal of a law which bans people with intellectual disabilities from having sexual relationships.

A new Bill dealing with the subject, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015, is set for second stage discussion in Dáil Éireann tomorrow.

Section 20 of the new bill, if passed, will repeal a ban which prevents a person from engaging in a sexual relationship with someone with an intellectual disability.

That rule has been enshrined in Irish law since 1993. It specifically criminalises such relationships, with the ban “based on the existence of a disability and no other criteria”, according to disability charity Rehab which is calling for the Bill to be approved without “unnecessary delay”.

The charity has described the existence of the law as an example of “glaring inequality”.

“The existing law in Ireland creates a situation where people with intellectual disabilities are often neither supported nor encouraged to look for a romantic life partner, which is a normal part of life for everyone else,” the charity said in a statement ahead of the Dáil debate.

The current Criminal Justice bill designates someone with intellectual disabilities as a ‘protected person’, as an acknowledgement of the difference of ability such a person has in making decisions about their lives.

“Greater equality”

Rehab says that significant strides have been made since the passing of the 1993 bill to “establish people with disabilities as citizens with equal rights”, and that it is “now time for similar equality to be given to people in relation to sexual relationships”.

“The proposed new laws will create greater equality for people with disabilities in their sexual and romantic lives,” says Kathleen O’Meara of Rehab.

Often the existing legislation has prevented people engaging in any type of romantic relationship.
This legislation is now urgent. It will provide greater opportunities to people with intellectual disabilities to assert their human right to marry and to found a family.

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 will be discussed in Dáil Éireann from 6.30pm tomorrow evening.

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