Letter of the Day | JFJ wrong about age of consent
THE EDITOR, Sir:
The position taken by Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) in rejecting calls for the raising of the age of consent from 16 to 18 years old is, in the view of Hear The Children's Cry, incorrect, unhelpful, and an argument that is a threat to the welfare and well-being of the nation's children.
Any debate regarding the age of consent must not only take into consideration the best interests of the child, particularly regarding abuse and exploitation, but must also consider the broader familial and parental deficits that impact on the decision-making capabilities of the majority of 16-year-olds, particularly as it relates to early sexual activity.
While JFJ's point about the academic and cognitive intelligence of many 16-year-olds has some validity, the weightier matter of their emotional intelligence and maturity is much more crucial as it relates to sexual activity and consent.
A thoughtful writer put it this way: "Children lack the moral experience to distinguish good from bad, wise from unwise, and love from lust, and society, perhaps with the best of intentions, has given licence to children to make mistakes they might otherwise have made but which cannot be unmade, thereby destroying the innocence of childhood."
There is a sensible and practical reason why societies impose age limits on certain types of activities. If a child is not permitted to get a driver's licence, to vote, and to be protected from the dangers of cigarettes and alcohol until he is 18 years of age, it makes sense that the same age limit be applied to consensual sex, an activity with even greater and more long-lasting negative ramifications.
In the US, there are 14 states that continue to maintain the age of consent at 18 years of age, and even in a sexually liberal country like Canada, there are now calls to increase the age of consent. Canadian proponents for the age increase say that it is necessary in order to protect children from being recruited into the sex trade and an important tool for the police to recover young people from exploitative situations.
Given the exponential rise in sexual crimes against children in Jamaica, the ever-present danger of child trafficking, and the growing crisis of missing children mostly between the ages of 14 and 17 years, raising the age of consent is now absolutely necessary and should be vigorously pursued.
BETTY ANN BLAINE
Founder, Hear The Children's Cry