age of consent update

Just to update the situation on the ‘Scottish age of consent non-consultation‘, even though it’s not particularly up to date – last week the Times reported that the Scottish parliament has rejected the recommendation that the age of consent should be lowered (to as young as 13 if the child’s partner was 15).

If you remember, the consultation exercise on this particular recommendation was remarkably low-key, but I heard second-hand from someone who phoned up on the day that the consultation officially closed, and was told that the government had received several hundred responses in the extremely short period of time between the publicising of the consultation and the closing date. I was impressed.

As I wrote in my hurried email response, “At a time when the public is increasingly concerned at the sexualised nature of a great deal of the popular media, and the pressures which this places teenagers and young people under, I find it very disturbing that the Scottish government may be about to undermine the legislative protection which is currently afforded to children and teenagers in our communities.” Thankfully, the concerned public in this case made their voice known and, equally a matter of thankfulness, Holyrood has this time acted in accordance with these concerns.

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8 thoughts on “age of consent update

  1. Actually: the word is, in spite of press reports, the final decision hasn’t actually been taken yet, and it might not be entirely clear that these proposals have been dropped for good. So keep an eye on developments people …

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  2. Reported on Wed:

    “Ministers in Scotland are preparing a compromise over plans to decriminalise certain cases of under-age sex.
    The Scottish Law Commission said consenting sex between two children under 16 should not be prosecuted.
    Ministers will reject calls to end prosecutions but they are in favour of a more lenient approach.”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/7447584.stm

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  3. According to the BBC today:

    “Under the Scottish Government bill, consent would be defined in law, creating a broader statutory offence which includes male rape.

    There would also be new offences for sexually offensive e-mails and texts and spiking people’s drinks.

    … sex between consenting 13 to 15-year-olds would remain a crime.”

    “The secretary said the proposal to decriminalise sex between 13 and 15-year-olds were rejected to make clear that society does not encourage sex between children.”

    (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/7461031.stm)

    A lot of the proposals (esp relating to how consent is defined among adults) are completely unobjectionable as far as i’m aware and overdue. As long as they don’t end up with more of a muddle than presently exists, wrt under-16s.

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  4. In fact – just checked the Scottish Parliament’s website and Kenny MacAskill is reported as saying this:

    “The Commission made a clear distinction between non-consensual or adult predatory sexual behaviour and consensual sexual activity between older children and we have recognised that distinction.

    “But having considered the proposal to decriminalise sexual intercourse between 13-15 year olds, and the various consultation responses, we have decided against such a change. The law must continue to make clear that society does not encourage sex between children, as it can be cause for concern for a child’s welfare, even where apparently consensual.

    “Our sexual health strategy places particular emphasis on respectful relationships and encouraging young people to delay engaging in sexual intercourse, which can lead to unintended pregnancy, as well as sexually transmitted infections.

    “There are also concerns that decriminalising sexual intercourse between children may make it more difficult to resist peer pressure and we have noted particularly the concerns of senior police and Rape Crisis Scotland. …”

    ** Further down, it also says this: “A public consultation on the Commission’s final report and draft Bill was also published on December 19. More than 1,200 responses were received, the vast majority of which were from individuals.” Just out of personal curiosity i would love to see a graph showing the rate of responses over time!

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  5. According to the BBC today:

    “The Children’s Commissioner, Kathleen Marshall, has warned that a change could end up deterring young girls from seeking medical help.

    Ms Marshall stressed she did not want a lowering in the age of consent.

    But she wants to delay moves which could see girls facing prosecution for consensual sex in the same way as boys, until any consequences can be studied.

    At present, boys aged 13 to 15 who engage in consensual sex with girls the same age can technically face a criminal record, although prosecution is rare.

    In a new Sexual Offences Bill, ministers propose to treat young teenage girls the same way.

    Ms Marshall said she acknowledged the principle of equal treatment, but was concerned that the move could deter young girls from seeking vital medical help – because they fear a criminal record.”

    “Ms Marshall said a welfare, rather than criminal, response was needed to consensual sex between under-16s, but said it was important any change in the law was not perceived as being a lowering in the age of consent.

    She added: “I don’t want a distinction between boys and girls. What I am saying is if you want to make things equal, let’s make them equally better and not equally worse.” ”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/7646934.stm

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  6. Honestly, I just can’t make out this Kathleen Marshall. She seems like a cautious academic thoughtful person who genuinely wants to do the best she can for Scotland’s children. So is she just hopelessly muddled? Or what?

    The latest (in the Times) is her suggestion that 8-year-olds (EIGHT year olds!) should be consulted on whether underage sex should or shouldn’t be treated as a criminal offence. You’d think that the Children’s Commissioner would have some sort of concept of development, or developmental appropriacy. What could a focus group of Primary 3s possibly contribute to a discussion of how our legislation should deal with underage sex? When I was 8 we were reading The Twits, learning to use counters to add up tens and units, and couldn’t quite yet use a clock to tell the time. The concept that the law has a function of protecting children and young people from things they’re simply not equipped to work out for themselves seems to be completely and destructively missing from all that she’s been reported to have said.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/scotland/article5114737.ece

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