What an age of consent of 16 in the criminal law does is to make every person who has sex under the age of 16 a criminal. The Second National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles conducted in 2000 found that over one in four men and over one in five women had had sex under the age of 16 and surveys since then have given ever higher figures. That means millions of people have committed criminal offences, and yet how many of us would want to see them punished for it?
Criminal offences which are not respected, obeyed or prosecuted should no longer be criminal offences. It can lead to young people feeling fearful of accessing sexual health services if they know that what they have done (or want to do) is a crime. It is not the purpose of the criminal law to send a message of what society thinks people “should” do, or what is best for them, but only to punish people when their actions harm – or risk harm – to others. As per J.S. Mill’s well-known harm principle, “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others”. Unless harm is caused by persons under the age of 16 having sex, their actions should not be criminalised, and the overwhelming majority of cases, no harm is ever caused.
As a liberal, I believe that sexual intercourse should not be a criminal offence unless there is manipulation, pressure or coercion (i.e. harm) involved. The age of the parties is not the sole determining factor in establishing whether this is the case. I believe that we can both protect children and respect their sexual autonomy by reforming our age of consent laws to make them more nuanced, reducing the age of consent to somewhere between 12 or 14, but introducing a “close in age” exception such that, until both parties are 16 or older, it will remain an offence if there is an age difference of more than three years. This allows for children to explore their sexuality with others of a similar age, but protecting them from the kind of pressure or coercion that can occur when one of the parties is much older. Close in age exceptions exist in number of other European countries, such as Austria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland.
We should better equip our education system, healthcare services, and support to parents in teaching children about sex, their right to wait until they are ready, and empower them to make the right choices. But the threat of criminalisation is entirely inappropriate and should cease.
I have no idea if Americans feel the same way.
They are talking about AOC across the pond
hawkeye10 wrote:In which countries?They are talking about AOC across the pond
Keeping our AoC in the 16-18 range just makes the sex illegal and thus covert.
I am pretty sure that if you were to ask Europeans what they would think of their government outlawing sex up to age 18 that they would say that it is a cruel abuse of the citizens at the hands of government.
Quote:I am pretty sure that if you were to ask Europeans what they would think of their government outlawing sex up to age 18 that they would say that it is a cruel abuse of the citizens at the hands of government.
Care to add a flake or two of fact or stats to back up another one of your "in my opinions"? Your holding of an opinion doesn't make it fact.