The Scottish government is proposing changes to the law which will, if enacted, rule that adult women have reduced legal capacity compared to men. Scottish law normally does not allow intoxication as a defence:

The law takes the view we are all responsible for our actions. And, if our actions include getting completely pissed, then we are still responsible. Being drunk is no excuse.

But the Scottish Parliament wants to give women reduced legal capacity: while men are deemed capable to consent to actions they agree to while drunk, women will be deemed unable to consent to having sex if they have been drinking.

There is something deeply suspect in the notion that if a woman and a man meet in a club and both get drunk and end up having sex with each other then the woman will be deemed not to be responsible in any way if she regrets it later but the man will continue to be held completely responsible. It does not seem fair for two equal participants to have entirely different legal liability.

I cannot imagine many other areas of Scottish life where it would be accepted that women should be defined as having a reduced legal capacity. This proposal seems to be a muddle of a long-obsolete view that women are frailer creatures than men with an overtly ideological view women are never wrong. It is a pernicious combination few in political life are brave enough to challenge.

There is of course long-standing tradition behind this. For most of history, women have been treated as children at best, or property at worse. Diminished legal capacity goes hand-in-hand with being treated as having reduced mental capacity to make decisions, control your own finances and, ultimately, control over your own body.

It’s quite sobering — pun not intended — to see how the Suffragettes allowed the women’s movement to be hijacked by the worst excesses of Victorian faux-morality, treating women as too incompetent to be permitted to make choices about birth control and sex. It took half a century and the social disruption of two world wars for feminism to recover from that mistake, and then a decade or two later, they’re doing it again.

Advertisements