Age of consent debate – a wider societal issue

An upward shift in the age of consent and increased penalties for sex crimes are  being called for, as concerned Child Rights Advocates in Grenada laments increases in all forms of sex crimes.

I call on lobbying groups to start discussions with the relevant government and non-governmental organisations in order to bring new solutions to address the scourge of sexual offences and increase the reporting of sexual crimes.

We are asking that social partners in the future make a determination as to whether or not we ought to increase the age of consent to have sex to the age of 18. This would seem to be consistent with the Constitution, which stipulates that a person reaches his or her age of maturity at 18; you can vote then and you can enter into contractual relations at that age.

So we are raising the question as to whether, against this backdrop, it is proper that persons below 18 years old can consent to sexual activities?”

Penalties for sexual offences were increased in September of 2012 when the 1987 enacted  Criminal Code was reviewed, prior to this, the sentence for sex crimes was a maximum five years.

After the 2012 review of sentencing, if a man has sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of 13  he could be jailed for 15-30 years.

If he engages a girl between 13-16 years, he faces a maximum of 15 years in prison.

However, we recognise that stiffer penalties for sex crimes cannot be the only approach to addressing the growing problem.

We have got to work comprehensively with the Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Education, Churches and other social partners to instill, in young women in particular and men in general, an understanding of healthy relationships and the importance of exercising self control.

All stakeholders need to develop programmes to enlighten parents of their responsibilities; to educate men and women about morality and teach them that they have a responsibility not to exploit and take advantage of anyone.

We must do all that we can to stop the act of men exploiting young girls. Unfortunately, too many young girls can fall victim to sexual exploitation because of the lure of expensive phones and latest clothing and going to parties and getting their hair fixed. This exploitation is ruining our girl children and must be stamped out.

Senior Crown Counsel, Howard  Pinnock said recently that he knows the court pays attention to crime statistics and “will demonstrate abhorrence through their sentences”.

Of convicted sex offenders he  said, “Judges should be mindful that criminal sentences are meant to protect the society, to punish the offender, to rehabilitate him to deter others from all of these things and that the sentences ought to be such as to maintain public confidence in the Criminal justice System.” (Quote from  Chief justice of England and Wales Regina v Howels. 1999   WE ARE ASKING FOR MORE STIFFER SENTENCING.

Last year 2015,  the Police CRD (Criminal Record Department) spelt it out in full. It reported on complaints of all forms of sex crimes, which included incest, adult males having sexual intercourse with under-aged girls, the sexual assault of boys, indecent assault and serious indecency.

THE REPORT HIGHLIGHT THAT IT  IS  NOT JUST OUR GIRLS BUT THE BOYS ARE ALSO UNDER SEXUAL ASAULT.

Of the 128 cases down for the 2015 May Assizes 56 are sexual offences. This is alarming.

In 2015 we conducted stop in the street interviews with a broad cross section of members of the public, in order to gauge the level of public feeling on the issue of the age of sexual consent.

Here are a few of the responses we got:

*My heart bleeds •  It’s ridiculous you say the present age of consent is 16 years old while 12 year olds are giving birth at the hospital. Where is the law then? The father has to sign the birth paper at the hospital. I find this to be total hypocrisy. Also granting a man who blatantly abused a child constantly bail to go out and do it to another “wow” while a man that takes food is remanded for years. The way law works in this country is ridiculous. Thinking about an innocent child whether they act like it or not is sick. So I ask you, what will be done different? How will this be monitored? Who will be monitoring the complaints in this corrupt place?

*Why is it that we are only focusing on adult males who have sex with under-aged girls? Should we not be just as concerned with adult men having “sex” with under-aged boys, too? Furthermore, how about the much overlooked issue of adult females having sex with under-aged girls and boys? Clearly, there is a double standard when the victims are little boys and also when the perpetrator is female; we just do not take those crimes seriously. It will make a difference if these old farts who prey on our girls will get a hefty prison term.

*How will raising the age of consent reduce sexual crime? In fact, if it is done, we will see an increase in statutory rape statistics simply because there are a lot of men who are having sex with girls age 16/17 who will suddenly now be committing a crime where there was none before. A change in law is going to determine…this is an issue for social transformation. Raise it and enforce it. Protect the youth.

Who are we trying to fool? Nothing will be done. The fact is, this sort of crap (incest, men sleeping with children, rape, men beating women) has been so common not only here. These behaviours have now become part of culture. It has been accepted as normal behaviour, and I don’t believe the law is serious about changing it.

*This is a little too late, but as they say, better late than never. I believe they should raise the age of consent, remove the statute of limitation, and prosecute those in positions of authority who used to sleep with, and even impregnate in some instances, our young women.

*Thinking that a individual at the age of 18 is more mature than a 16 or 17 yr old is nonsense, because the truth of the matter is a person could be 17 today then turn 18 tomorrow and  suddenly their whole mind changes magically and it is okay to have sex? Nonsense. Raising the age of consent will only cause more crimes.

A man at the age of 19 that was having sex with a sixteen year old is suddenly wrong now? All of a sudden. An individual is allowed to get their permits at 16 so why if you are being trusted to drive which is a life and death situation you cannot be trusted to have sex? Which is quite personal? It should not be raised.

Protection of our youths is crucial to the ethics and behaviour of our people. It speaks volumes of the government, society and agencies, when child protection is enforced and age consent is increased.

It decreases the potential for sex crimes against these young ones and heightens awareness that minors are not to engage in acts of ill repute and drive home a zero tolerance stance for the lawbreakers.

What is your take on this? We need you the public to speak out. The fate of our nation’s children is our business.

Cheris Reid-Allard
Executive Member
GNCRC

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