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Deliberations on whether to raise age of consent ongoing

Thursday, November 09, 2017

MINISTER of state in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information Floyd Green says a Joint Select Committee of Parliament is currently deliberating on whether or not the age of consent should be raised to match the age of majority.

Green was responding to a concern raised by Pauline Pink of the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse, who said that there is a gap in the law as it relates to the age of majority and the age of consent, which are 18 and 16, respectively.

“I wouldn't say there is a gap. The law is clear, and there are varying views in relation to whether our age of consent should be raised to be aligned with our age of majority or whether it should remain. Fortunately, we are currently reviewing our laws in relation to children and women, and we've had very strong submissions on both sides of that point,” Green told those in attendance at the briefing held last Wednesday at the Regional Headquarters of the University of the West Indies in St Andrew by UNICEF Jamaica, to share findings of a report on violence against children.

Last year, there were 340 reported cases of people having sexual intercourse with children under the age of 16.

Green said the committee, chaired by Justice Minister Delroy Chuck, would have taken all the submissions for and against raising the age of consent.

“We're at the stage where we're taking the minutes and will have to deliberate on it. Also, there are a couple things that we have to look at. Raising the age to the age of majority does mean that if you just do that, it means that a child having sex with a child would be seen as criminal.

“However, there have been suggestions that we should include in the law, a close-in-age provision which would ensure that children, in the case of being children and are exploring while close in age, would not be held as criminals because they are exploring in relation to sex; that, we have to look at as well,” Green stated.

He said the National Family Planning Board has made a strong submission to the ability of medical practitioners and family planning agents to be able to counsel children if they are not able to have sex.

He said the reality is that under 16, you should not be counselling a child in relation to sex or distributing things such as condoms because a child is not allowed by law to have sex, but that there is the reality that they do, so all sides need to be explored.

“I outline the situation because it is not as easy, sometimes, as it sounds,” the state minister said.

The age of sexual consent is the age at which a person is considered to be capable of legally giving consent to sexual acts with another person.

An individual who engages in sex with someone below the age of sexual consent commits a crime called carnal abuse.

The Jamaican Constitution stipulates that a citizen must reach the age of 18 years before he or she can vote. Eighteen is also the age at which one is allowed to work full-time. These two very important milestones of achieving adulthood is in direct contrast and conflict with the age of sexual consent.