Georgina Guedes

12 years old is just too young

2015-07-14 07:42

Georgina Guedes

Two news stories today have made me frown very hard as I try to make sense of them. The first is that, after elections, grandstanding and a referendum, Greece has agreed to a bailout package that insists that they do pretty much all the things they were resisting.

The second, much closer to home, is that the Changes to the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Bill were signed into law today. These changes mean that it is no longer illegal for children (yes, children) between the ages of 12 and 15 to have sex with each other.

If the older teenager is 16 or 17, they may have intercourse with a younger child, as long as the difference isn’t more than two years.

The way things are...

I accept that there is a reason for this legislation – that many teenagers are sexually active before they reach their sexual majority at 16, and that it would be pointless to charge both frisky parties with statutory rape.

So now, instead, two very young teenagers (children) can now merrily and legally do the horizontal hokey-pokey before they are emotionally mature enough to do so.

However, I agree that two 15-year-olds – or even 14-year-olds – shouldn’t be prosecuted for having sex with each other, if there is consent in the absence of coercion. But 13 and 12 is terribly young, isn’t it?

You have to draw the line somewhere

It feels to me that in trying to make sense of a complicated situation, we’ve erred on the side of ridiculousness. It is now legal for 12-year-olds to have sex. And yes, the sex has to be had with other 12 year olds (or up to 15 year olds), but that’s then two of them having sex when they should be watching Cartoon Network.

There’s a big difference between a child of 12 and a teenager of 16. I get that we have to draw the line somewhere, but haven’t we just drawn it a little low?

There are three very significant years between 12 and 15. And it’s still illegal for a 16-year-old to have sex with a 13-year-old, but not for a 15-year-old to have sex with a 12-year-old. What’s the greater crime here?

Or what happens if a young couple is happily sexually active while one is 13 and the other one is 15, and then the 15-year-old turns 16? Do they have to wait a whole year for the 13-year-old to catch up? These are impossible questions to answer...

Failings and ridiculousness

While I am glad that our legal framework still protects the very young from older and more powerful sexual predators, I remain unconvinced that this new legislation is a step forward for children’s rights.

It seems to be to be about as silly as lending a country money to pay their debts and making them carry out reforms that will only shrink their economy. But I guess that’s the way the world works today – full of failings and ridiculous conditions that fail to benefit the real victims in any scenario.  

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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