Lowering the Age of Consent
Today, Peter Tatchell has written for Huffington Post about a reduction in the Age of Consent (AoC), currently set at 16 years in the UK. He believes that this should be reduced to 14.
Mr Tatchell is apparently concerned about protecting children from criminality. As a result of these concerns, I did a straw poll (highly unscientific, I know!) amongst friends and professionals that I know who work with children and young people. Only one could recollect a case where a prosecution of this type occurred - and this was in 1983, with the young people being 16 and 14. The 16 year old male was charged and accepted a caution.
I've worked with children and young people for many years and known many cases where young people were having consensual sex with other young people. The aims of professional services in these cases is the protection of children, and in my experience, that protection extends to a discussion about emotional well being and access to contraception and sexual health services. I have never known a case where the young people were referred to the police for under age sex.
Lowering the age of consent without statutory sex education would likely expose young people to greater risk. Indeed, this article in the Pink News explains that young people don't want the AoC to be lowered, for a number of reasons. Simon Blake, CEO of Brook Charity states:
Young people also tell us that the age of consent a) sometimes feels a bit irrelevant if they have made a decision to have sex – then it is love and trust that counts b) some young people – particularly young women – tell us the age of consent can be a good negotiating tool if they don’t want to have sex, and are being encouraged or feel pressured to by a partner c) they need to know they are highly unlikely they will be criminalised if they have consenting sex with somebody who is about the same age and d) every young person must know they have a legal right to access contraceptive advice and treatment even if they are under 16.
In light of this, I'd like to ask Peter Tatchell some questions - which given the likely response to his HuffPost piece, I would expect he'll be able to answer.
1. Has Mr Tatchell vocally supported one (or more) of the many 'Better Sex Education' campaigns?
2. How many under 16's did Mr Tatchell discuss the age of consent with, before writing his opinion piece focused on the protection of children and young people from criminalisation?
3. How would a change in the Age of Consent protect young people from sexual exploitation by older young people or adults?
4. How many under 16's have been criminalised for under age sex in the UK? (This information is likely available under a Freedom of Information request).
In our view, any campaigning for the lowering of the AoC must include statutory sex education, protection for vulnerable young people and, most importantly, be led by young people.Download this post as PDF? Click here