The age of consent is l3 years
Stabroek News
March 2, 2002

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Dear Editor,

Ms Bibi Shaddick, Minister in the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, and an attorney at law on the TV programme called 'Answers' aired on GTV said that her ministry is looking to have the age of female consent changed from 12 years to 16 years.

With all due respect to the minister the female age of consent is not 12 years but 13 years The Criminal Law (Offences) Act, Chapter 8:01 section 69 stated:

"1. Every one who ... knows any girl of or above the age of twelve years and under the age of thirteen years ... for five years." However, there is a proviso to this section which states:

"It shall be sufficient defence ... if it is made to the court of jury ... had reasonable cause to believe that the girl was of or above the age of thirteen years."

Section 70 of the said Act states:

"Every one who ... any girl under the said age of twelve years, whether he believes her to be of or above that age ... for life." This is also known as statutory rape.

Perhaps the Honourable Minister was thinking at the time of the Indian Labour Act, Chapter 98:02, which speaks of and defines:

"ADULT" as an immigrant of or above the age of fifteen.

"'Adult', 'Minor', and 'Infant' respectively include an immigrant of uncertain age who has been estimated by the .... To be an adult, minor, or infant ..."

"'Infant' an immigrant under the age of ten years; 'Minor' an immigrant under the age of fifteen years and of or above the age of ten years."

Section 137. (1) of the Act states:

"Where a male immigrant, not being under fifteen years of age, and a female immigrant not being under fourteen years of age wish to contract a marriage ..."

Under the English Common law Rule "A person attains a given age at the beginning of the day immediately preceding the relevant anniversary of his birth Re: Shurey, Savory v. Shury (1918) 1 Ch. 263". However, it is now the rule that:

"the time at which a person attains a particular age expressed in years shall be the commencement of the date of his birth" Family Law Reform Act 1969, s. 9 (1)

Since Ms Shaddick's ministry is looking to have the age of female consent increased, may I suggest to the Honourable Minister that she revisit the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1995, which specifically states in section 8 (3) and which contradicts the definition of a 'child' contained in the Criminal Law (Offences) Act, Chapter 8:01; the Marriage Act, Chapter 45:1; The Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act, Chapter 8:02; The Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children Act, Chapter 99:01 and the Juvenile Offences Act, Chapter 10:03 which all define a 'Child' as:

"any person who in the opinion of the court is under the age of fourteen years." Section 3 of the Juvenile Offences Act, clearly states:

"It shall be conclusively presumed that no child under the age of ten years can be guilty of an offence."

The reason for protecting a child of that age under the various Acts is that a child of such age does not have the capacity for understanding the wrongfulness of the conduct. Children are protected by law against consenting where, because of age, they are deemed incapable of making an 'informed consent' that is, consent based on full and complete understanding of all the implications of the consent.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1995 section 8 (3) specifically states:

"In the treatment of the termination of a child of any age .... he is not required either to obtain the consent of her parents or guardian or to notify them".

It seems to me that if the child is of the age of eight years or ten years old such child is protected by the Act and could demand treatment which cannot be refused.

In my opinion and it seems the Honourable Minister's opinion a child below the age of fourteen years does not have the proper physical and mental capacity to understand the wrongfulness of her conduct.

Yours faithfully,

Bertwald Bradshaw