Tag Archive for 'age-of-consent'

Repeal the consent laws

Terry Grange, a chief constable of a Welsh police force has courted controversy by stating the bleeding obvious: that criminalising sex between consenting young people simply because they are on opposites sides of age 16 is ridiculous. [Sex with under-16s ‘grey area’, BBC News]

Some people may well get upset but Mr Grange is absolutely right – unfortunately he does not go far enough. The obvious conclusion to his argument is that the consent laws, in so far as they apply to anyone who has attained the age of puberty, should be repealed. The idea that any arbitrary age should be used as a qualification for being “allowed” to have sex is just inept, and fails to recognise the reality of human nature.

In my view we should not have laws that cannot be enforced. Unenforceable laws make the law appear an ass and so make it harder to enforce other, more reasonable laws. You are on very shaky moral ground when you start to pick and choose which laws to enforce and which to ignore. We are not going to prosecute every 16 year old who has sex with a 15 year old. So this law must go.

There are two key issues, of course, that need to be dealt with. The first is that we need a proper legal definition of paedophilia. I find Mr Grange’s argument that it should be linked to “puberty” to be persuasive but incomplete. I think we also need to protect young people from those who abuse positions of trust, without stigmatising certain professions. However these cases can, and should, be dealt with by targeted legislation. This would have to be a pre-requisite for any repeal of the consent laws.

The second issue is that of marriage. I think we have made marriage far too difficult in society. The apparent demand for civil partnerships for heterosexuals, (often by those who misunderstand the concept of civil partnership to believe it extends marital rights to co-habitees) is testament to that. I believe marriage is an important building block in the fabric of society. If we accept that youngsters will have sex (and they do, I’m told) before attaining the age of 16 why can’t they then be married? People mature at different ages and the law should recognise this.

Yes marriage is “a lot of responsibility” but that’s the whole point. Removing barriers to marriage should re-enforce a culture of marriage in society. Such a society can only be beneficial to those young women who today are left stranded by men who fail to accept the responsibilities that go with their relationships. And I somewhat suspect that, within the security of marriage relationship, teenage pregnancies might actually go down.