Matthew Horwood—Getty Images
By Samantha Cooney
October 25, 2016

Female members of Britain’s parliament want to prevent accusers’ sexual history from being used against them in rape trials, the Guardian reports.

Over 40 female parliament members representing the Labour Party penned a letter to Attorney General Jeremy Wright on Sunday, calling for him to change the country’s current laws. Their move comes after a jury acquitted Welsh soccer star Ched Evans of rape in a high-profile retrial earlier this month — after the court allowed Evans’ lawyers to present evidence about his accuser’s sexual history.

In 2012, Evans was convicted of raping a then-19 year old woman in May 2011. Evans insisted the encounter was consensual, while the woman said she was too intoxicated to consent. Evans appealed the conviction, and in April 2016, Evans’ lawyers won a legal fight to include new statements from two men who say they had consensual sexual encounters with the woman in his retrial. The two men said that the woman took the lead in their encounters, which aligned with Evans’ initial statement to the police after the incident.

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“The verdict and events in this case set a dangerous precedent that how a victim of rape, usually a woman, has behaved in the past can be taken as evidence of the way she behaved at the time of the alleged rape,” the female parliament members wrote in their letter, according to the Guardian. “This will deter victims from disclosing their abuse and will reduce the number of victims presenting their cases to the police for fear of having their private lives investigated and scrutinised.”

Currently, Section 41 of the Youth and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 restricts what can be said at criminal trials in the U.K. about an accuser’s sexual history. But, as Evans’ case illustrates, there are ways to get around the law.

Now, the female members of parliament want a meeting with Wright and the Ministry of Justice to discuss how to change the law — and say they’ll keep fighting “should the issue not be resolved.” They also plan to call for a debate on the issue in the House of Commons.

“We must act to cease the return to a culture of ‘victim blaming,'” the parliament members wrote. “We believe that the use of a complainants’ sexual history should never be used in our courts as evidence of consent.”

[The Guardian]

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