Children’s Advocate cites benefits to be gained if Jamaica’s age of consent is raised to 18
KINGSTON, Jamaica – Children’s Advocate, Diahann Gordon Harrison, says there are benefits to be gained if Jamaica’s age of consent is increased to 18 years.
This revision would bring it on par with the Child Care and Protection Act, which defines a child as any person under the age of 18, one’s eligibility to vote and obtain a driver’s licence, among other things.
Speaking on the Love 101 radio programme, ‘Good Morning Minister’, on Wednesday, Gordon Harrison said children would be given an opportunity to be themselves.
“You also give the brain a little bit more of a chance to develop. With maturity, they are able to make better decisions, which, hopefully, will impact teenage pregnancy, and so on,” she maintained.
The Children’s Advocate further noted that parents will also be afforded the opportunity to actively protect their children with the use of the law.
“It’s a very painful thing when you see a mother coming to you to say, ‘my 16-year-old, who used to do so well, is now falling off in school, no longer hanging out with friends because she has a boyfriend who is 42, and I see that he’s beating her; I see the bruises when she comes home’; and all I can say is ‘I’m so sorry’ because there is no legal recourse that that mother has, even though the dangers are very clear and we have her living under her mother’s roof,” she explained.
Gordon Harrison indicated that she has “submitted strenuously” before Parliament’s Joint Select Committee, both orally and in writing, that she does not believe the age of consent should be 16.
“It should accord with when you attain adulthood, which is 18,” she reiterated.
Gordon Harrison explained that in instances where two children willingly engage in sexual activity, a close-in-age exception would apply.
“There is a response that I recommended, which is that they be put into counselling in terms of sexual behaviour and appropriateness and responsibility; but I don’t think it’s something for the courts. That close-in-age exception would prevent those youngsters who are experimenting with sex from being criminally charged or going to prison,” she informed.
Gordon Harrison pointed out that if a 57-year-old engages in sexual activity with a 17-year-old, it is “clear exploitation and a great example of inappropriate sexual contact with a child”.