Ah, the Rape Was Traditional

Last October there was an odd controversy in Australia over rape and Aboriginal culture that found an Australian judge expressing the most base and contemptible form of cultural relativism in defending sexual assault against a 15-year-old girl.

As WomensENews.Org reported, the girl’s parents pledged her as a wife to Jackie Pascoe Jamilmira, 50, when she was born. In return, Pascoe gave them a portion of his salary. So she turned 15 years-old and the man claimed her as his wife, but, according to Women’s ENews’ Sonia Shah,

The girl resisted his advances, so he punched her, “put his foot onto my neck” and raped her, according to her statement to the police. When the girl’s family was unable to protect the girl, police took Pascoe, brandishing a shotgun, into custody.

Which is whether things start to get very odd. Pascoe was eventually tried and sentenced to 13 months in jail for unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor (the victim did not cooperate with prosecutors) and a 14-day sentence for a weapons violation.

On appeal, however, Northern Territory Supreme Court Justice John Gallop reduced the length of the sentence to a single day. That’s right, just 24 hours. The judge agreed with expert testimony that such arranged marriages were traditional in the particular Aboriginal tribe that Pascoe belonged to and, therefore, were “morally correct.”

Anthropologist Geoffrey Bagshaw filed a report noting Pascoe’s society, girl’s are considered to be capable of sexual consent one they have their first period. Justice Gallop read from this concluding,

She didn’t need protection. knew what was expected of her. It’s very surprising to me [Pascoe] was charged at all.

In March 2003 the prosecutor in the case announced he would appeal Gallop’s decision saying, “It’s the submission of the appellant today that the sentence imposed of 24 hours for the offence of carnal knowledge was demonstrably and seriously inadequate.”


Judge rules rape of aboriginal girl ‘traditional’. Sonia Shah, WEnews, November 29, 2002.

Prosecutor appeals 24-hour term for underage sex. Karen Michelmore Darwin, The Age (Australia), March 14, 2003.

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