"He claims that lowering the age would make it easier for 15 year-olds to seek contraception and sexual health advice from the NHS and would "draw a line in the sand" against sex at 14 and younger. "My own view is there is an argument for reducing it to 15 but you cannot do it without the public supporting the idea and we need to get a sense of public opinion about this," he said in the interview."
"The existing consent at 16 law was introduced over 100 years ago in a puritanical Victorian era. Since then, society has moved on to more informed and enlightened attitudes about sex. Most importantly, the average age of puberty and sexual arousal has fallen dramatically to around ten to 11. In the light of new evidence, the issue should be revisited and re-examined."
"Any review of the consent laws should be premised on five aims. First, ending the criminalisation of consenting relationships between teens of similar ages. Second, protecting young people against sex abuse. Third, empowering them to make responsible sexual and emotional choices. Fourth, removing the legal obstacles to earlier, more effective sex and relationship education. Fifth, ensuring better contraception and condom provision to prevent unwanted pregnancies and abortions and to cut the spread of sexual infections like HIV."
"Lower the Age of Consent to 13, which is the current average age of puberty onset + 2 years. This standard should be tested every ten years, with the Department of Health being required to produce a standard definition of the average age of puberty each decade."
"As for law reform, now regrettably necessary, my recommendations are: remove complainant anonymity; introduce a strict statute of limitations for criminal prosecutions and civil actions; and reduce the age of consent to 13."
The past few months have seen quite a few news articles concerning the existing age of consent in the UK, and calls for it to be lowered. Firstly by Barbara Hewson back in May, then in the past couple of weeks by John Ashton and Peter Tatchell. In amongst these three, the gem of a blog by Luke Bozier in which he discusses legalising prostitution for anyone over the age of consent (ie 13 in his ideal world), redefining "child pornography" (his words not mine), and legalising necrophilia (with prior consent of both parties prior to death) - not going into this though, you'll have to read his blog if you want to find out more.
Now, regarding the ever present AoC debate, why is it continually being brought up on a regular basis? What is the problem with leaving it as it is - ie 16?
In all the above articles, the underlying reasons for this call to lower the age of consent seems to be the fact that teenagers are having their first sexual experience when they are under 16. In my opinion, just because teenagers are experimenting prior to the age of consent is not a good reason for lowering it.
So, questions -
- Using this methodology then, shouldn't we be reducing the age of consent for alcohol and tobacco to maybe 13 or 14 as well? After all, a lot of teenagers are drinking and smoking as well. What's the difference? Just because teenagers are experimenting prior to the age of consent is not a reason for lowering it. Thoughts anyone?
- Peter Tatchell implies in his article that teenagers are "being criminalised" and are ending up on the Sexual Offenders register and getting criminal records for this - "being lumped together with paedophiles and rapists". Over the past decade in the UK, exactly how many teenagers have been criminalised in this way? Rather than generalising in this manner & (deliberately?) scaremongering, perhaps Mr Tatchell could provide accurate figures for this as I don't know of any that I have seen.
- Three out of the four people above have purely called for the age of consent to be lowered. No indication of whether plans would be put in place to protect 13-16 year olds from child abusers and paedophiles. Only Mr Tatchell has indicated putting measures in place to protect this age group by having a two tiered system similar to other countries. The other three have basically opened to door to exploitation and abuse - and therefore cannot and should not be taken seriously in any way.
- Regarding the above statement, and although he has indicated a two tiered system, I disagree with Mr Tatchells argument as although it seemingly closes the door to the potential exploitation by older predators, it opens the door to the pressure of having sex at an earlier age. I would imagine that there are plenty of teenagers of 14 or 15 who use the age of consent as a valid argument - a reason for them not to be pressured into having sex by slightly older peers until they are 16. I would also imagine that this reason does work in a lot of cases. By lowering the AoC to 14, this removes this protective barrier and will result in more pressure for youngsters.
- Professor Ashton indicates in his article that "lowering the age would make it easier for 15 year-olds to seek contraception and sexual health advice from the NHS and would "draw a line in the sand" against sex at 14 and younger". Has professor Ashton never heard of Brook here and here? I am sure there are other equally good organisations that offer the same advice as Brook does. Poor argument in my opinion.
- The other underlying justification in the articles is that teenagers are reaching puberty at an earlier age. Is this a good enough reason? What about emotional and mental readiness - are younger teenagers developing earlier mentally and emotionally as well as physically?
- Lastly are there any other reasons such as more peer pressure, the greater accessibility of pornography and the sexualisation of youngsters, drinking etc that are contributing to teenagers having sexual experiences at an earlier age than they might have been years or decades ago? If there are, is this a good enough reason to just lower the AoC on this basis?
So here is the simple solution. Leave it at 16. Why the need to change it? Personally I think that we have it about right here in the UK.