Fri | Aug 17, 2018

Give children the right to vote

Published:Saturday | February 28, 2015 | 12:00 AM


Jamaican law that allows child marriage, in special circumstances, is inconsistent in denying them the right to vote.

By our legal definition, anyone who is younger than 18 years is still a child; but the age of consent is 16 years! Sixteen is also the age when a child can get married with the consent of a parent or guardian.

It is odd that society gives children the right to engage in sexual activities but not the right to deal with the resulting responsibilities. They are given the right to become parents but are deemed not sensible enough to cast a vote to protect their interests and that of their offspring.

Human sexuality (its expression and regulation), throughout the ages, has always been a very complex and controversial matter. Biological, socio-economic and cultural factors interact intricately in diverse ways with varying consequences for society. It is these consequences that must be carefully evaluated, especially their direct impact on the degree of stability for the family and society, which eventually may lead to prosperity or poverty.

Should the voting age be lowered to 16 or the age of consent increased to 18 years? Children's Advocate Diahann Gordon-Harrison has presented evidence and strong arguments to support the latter. Antagonistic arguments have been advanced (in essence) that an increase in the age of consent would make criminals of too many persons and would be difficult to enforce. Any merit to this argument can be tested by comparison, to elucidate how the prevalence of a crime and difficulty in enforcing the law should influence its amendment.

Let us be clear and decisive. There should be no in-between when it comes to children and sexual activities. They cannot be children and adults simultaneously; and the age at which they are legally allowed to so indulge should be the same age they are given the full resulting responsibilities, including the right to marry and to vote.