LONDON, May 14, 2013 (Acton Institute) - Barbara Hewson, a London barrister, has made the call for lowering the age of sexual consent in the United Kingdom from 16 to 13. Her reasoning (if one may call it that) is that the current age of consent leads to the harassment and “persecution of old men.” She also believes that underage victims should have no right to anonymity, and that law based on the best interests of the child should not trump the “rights” of men who like to kiss a 13-year-old, or put one’s hand up a 16-year-old’s skirt.
It’s time to end this prurient charade, which has nothing to do with justice or the public interest. Adults and law-enforcement agencies must stop fetishising victimhood. Instead, we should focus on arming today’s youngsters with the savoir-faire and social skills to avoid drifting into compromising situations, and prosecute modern crime. As for law reform, now regrettably necessary, my recommendations are: remove complainant anonymity; introduce a strict statute of limitations for criminal prosecutions and civil actions; and reduce the age of consent to 13.
What is a typical 13 year old girl like? Of course, this is only a generalization, but most parents will recognize some of these traits:
- They have lots of physical energy;
- They’re fixated on personal appearance;
- They can be quieter than 12s and 14s, moody and sensitive;
- Boys travel in groups; girls focus on a few close friends;
- They feel and exert peer pressure on clothes, music and conversational topics;
- They worry about schoolwork;
- They become more sarcastic; and
- They answer parents with loud, extreme language, and like to challenge your authority.
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Are they thinking about sex? Most likely. Are they physically, emotionally and psychologically ready for sex? No. That’s why parents and laws protect them. Thirteen year olds are impulsive, easily influenced by people outside of their family and do not have the brain function to fully predict outcomes.
All parents of teenagers know and all teachers of teenagers know how crucial it is to guide them, influence them and mold them. As much as they resist being molded and influenced, the fact is they still need it. They need it because their brain is still developing, and they need these experiences. A key experience that they get from adults, for example, is how to become more planful, how to have foresight, how to look ahead and realize, “What I’m doing now may have an effect on what happens to me five years from now.”
That is extremely difficult for a 13-year-old.
It appears that Hewson would be thrilled with the Obama administration’s “comfortable” decision to sell emergency contraceptives to teens as young as 15. It also appears that she’s never met an actual 13 year old. She seems much more concerned with the sexual predilections of adult men than the safety and welfare of children. One has to wonder why Hewson chose the age of 13; why not 12, or 9? So long as the adult involved is happy, then the child should be fine.
Except they are not. There are study after study that show the horrid effects of early sexual activity, not to mention what happens to a child who is preyed upon by an adult.
A study in Pediatrics found that the attempted suicide rate for sexually experienced girls between the ages of 12 and 16 is six times higher than it is for girls that age who are virgins. Recently, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health found that both boys and girls who are sexually active are more likely to feel depressed and attempt suicide than peers who are not sexually active.
Here in the US, we have all been horrified by the recent case in Cleveland of Ariel Castro, who kidnapped and held hostage three young women (two of whom were young teens at the time of their kidnappings). What would Hewson say to Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus, and Amanda Berry? Apparently she’d tell them they’d allowed themselves to “drift into compromising positions” and lacked the social skills needed to fend off the monster who held them captive. Perhaps Ms. Hewson could weigh in on child brides, such as Radha, 15, Gora, 13, and Rajani, 5. They were married in India to adult men. What might Ms. Hewson’s thoughts be on some 900,000 children who are trafficked every year in the U.S. in the sex trade?
By promoting the sexual “readiness” of children as young as 13, Ms. Hewson is admitting that children can be married, prostituted and used for the sexual pleasure of adults. For pedophiles and sex traffickers, satisfaction will not come from a slap and tickle as Ms. Hewson suggests. Lowering the age of consent would simply put a stamp of approval on predatory behavior. Ms. Hewson, as an officer of the court, you should know better. For shame.
This article originally appeared on the website of the Acton Institute and is reprinted with permission.