Mon | Dec 11, 2023

Increase the age of consent to protect children

Published:Saturday | March 18, 2023 | 12:06 AM


I am writing to express serious concern about the current legal age of sexual consent. Why is an increase in the age of consent not a priority for our legislators? This will better protect all our children from sexual groomers. We all have a personal connection with this issue, and it should be a matter of concern for all of us.

Criminals who sexually prey upon our 16- and 17-year old children are escaping the legal ramifications for committing carnal abuse. Increasing the age of consent may not necessarily solve all the problems associated with statutory rape, teenage pregnancy, or child abuse but, according to Children’s Advocate of Jamaica Diahann Gordon Harrison, “there is a subset of 16 and 17-year-olds who are being exploited and we need to hold persons accountable.” Increasing the age of consent may be able to deter sexual predators.

By increasing the age of consent, the Government will send the right message to our children. While a child, age 16, may be fully developed physically, he or she is not intellectually or mentally mature. Hence he or she is not considered an adult. Yet, every 16-year-old is given legal authority to consent and engage in sexual activities. Are they to believe that their indulging in sexual activity is of less significance than having their first legal sip of beer at the age of 21?

Peer pressure and coercion are more difficult to resist at a younger age. Increasing the age of consent will help to reduce the negative consequences of infringed early sexual activity on the development of our children. There still exists today a few sexual myths which foster a culture of men having sex with young girls. Some men still believe that certain sexually transmitted infections can be cured by having intercourse with a virgin. Thus, they engage in having sex with children. Because of the lack of protection by the law, our children, who are vulnerable to these predators, often end up having sexually transmitted diseases and the risk of early pregnancy. Ministry of Health data revealed that, between 2008 and2013, the number of babies born to persons 17 years old and under is a whopping 14,356.

It is important that all well-thinking Jamaicans support the children’s advocate’s calling for a parliamentary committee to review and propose a bill to change Section 10 of the Sexual Offences Act and to increase the age of consent from 16 to 18 years old.