April 2, 2012 ( – A Brazilian federal appeals court has ruled that a child molester who committed sex acts with three twelve-year-old girls was not guilty of rape because, “the victims were far from innocent.”

The case, whose exact number is being withheld from the public, has provoked outraged responses from human rights officials and civil organizations.

According to the federal Superior Tribunal of Justice, the three victims had been engaged in prostitution for some time, and therefore were capable of giving consent to the acts in question. The ruling upheld a lower court decision that affirmed: “The proof offered during the proceedings demonstrates, overwhelmingly, that the victims, at that time, lamentably, were already far from being innocent, naive, ignorant and uninformed regarding sex.”

“However immoral and reprehensible was the conduct practiced by the accused, the types of penalties for which he was denounced do not remain relevant,” the court added.

The Superior Tribunal agreed with the lower court’s reasoning, adding that “an act that has not truly violated the juridical good under protection – sexual freedom – cannot be considered a crime, the proceedings having shown that the minors had already been prostitutes for some time.”

It also rejected the idea that there is an “absolute presumption” of lack of consent on the part of twelve-year-old girls.

“For the third section of the Superior Tribunal of Justice, the presumption of violence in the crime of rape has a relative character, and can be eliminated in particular circumstances,” the court’s news service reports.  The decision applies to the law in effect when the sexual abuse occurred, in 2002.

Brazil’s human rights minister, Maria do Rosario Nunes, reacted with outrage to the decision, noting that it implies that “the human rights of children and adolescents can be relativized,” and asked federal prosecutors to appeal the decision.

“With this sentence, a man was declared innocent of the accusation of rape of three vulnerable people, which in practice means impunity for one of the most serious crimes committed against Brazilian society,” she said in a press communiqué.

“To relativize the rights of children and judge them according to their social origin, if they were already in the streets, is to judge a child who was a victim of sexual abuse, treating her as responsible for the violence that she suffered, is without a doubt an act of perversity that goes against all of the legislative protection of the rights of children and adolescents in Brazil,” she also stated.

The National Association of Federal Prosecutors denounced the decision as an affront to “the principle of absolute protection, guaranteed by the Brazilian constitution, to children and adolescents, and indicates a tolerance of that nefarious practice, instead of discouraging it.”

“We are going to carry out a joint campaign involving public institutions and social organizations to combat the sexual exploitation of minors … This decision goes against the necessity of the protection of citizens,” the organization also stated.

The decision comes at a moment that federal legislators are considering a reform of the penal code that would reduce the age of sexual consent in existing law from 14 to 12 years of age. The same reform would reduce penalties of infanticide following birth, and eliminate penalties for abortion in a variety of cases.