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A new bill introduced to Irish lawmakers seeks to end a 17-year legal loophole that has allowed women to receive softer punishments than men for incest.

The legislation, proposed by former Fine Gael TD Denis Naughten, would amend the Punishment of Incest Act 1908 so that both men and women can be imprisoned for life for incest.

According to the Journal.ie, the original legislation carried a maximum prison term of only seven years. The term was extended in 1993 and 1995 after public outcry when a Kilkenny father was jailed for sexually abusing his daughter. However, those amendments only applied to men.

Naughten, a TD for Roscommon-South Leitrim, said that the discrepancy needed to be addressed and pointed out an abuse case in his own constituency where a mother was given the maximum seven-year term after conviction on ten counts of incest.

“I know that it’s the intention of the government to close off this loophole at some stage,” Naughten said yesterday, “though they may argue that they’re going to put it in some other piece of amending legislation.

“It’s over three years now since that case went through the courts, and it hasn’t been closed off. I want to make sure that it’s closed off, either in this bill or through another coming through in the coming months.”

He added that the bill also underscored the State’s “failure to actively review and modernise legislation” in the area of sexual crimes.

“Under the current law there is a gulf between the sentencing of a man and the sentencing of a women in the case of incest,” he said.