Bid to legalise consensual teenage sex

2015-02-05 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Consensual sex ­between teenagers may soon no longer be an offence, with the intention of keeping them out of the criminal justice system.

This is one of the proposed amendments to the Sexual Offences and Related Matters Act currently before Parliament’s justice portfolio committee.

Professor Ann Skelton of the Centre for Child Law at the University of ­Pretoria said the current law makes criminals of teenagers experimenting with sex with their peers, who are then marked as sexual offenders.

“People must remember that the amendment concerns situations where both parties consent to sex. Parents can still teach their children and advise them to avoid sex. They still have control over their own children.

“What the amendments do is ensure that teens don’t land up in court if they both consent to sex. If the act isn’t completely consensual, it’s still a crime.”

The amendments also mean teens of 16 and 17 would be allowed to have consensual sex with partners not more than two years younger than themselves.

“We need to focus on getting adult sex offenders through the criminal justice system,” said Skelton.

Shaheda Omar of the Teddy Bear Clinic for abused children said organisations that work with children find that being accused of a sexual offence causes humiliation and long-term ­psychological trauma.

Sanja Bornmann of the Women’s Legal Centre said that being accused of a sex offence for consensual sex has a far worse impact on girls than on boys.

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