Beware of emotionalism Editorial
Kaieteur News
June 18, 2004

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AFTER more than 100 years, there is a move to have the government adjust the age of consent. At present, the age of consent stands at 13 but many people have come to the realisation that such an age is far too young for an individual to agree to consensual sexual intercourse.

We have been regaled with the fact that the age of consent was set at 13 because way back then, girls would have attained the age of puberty. There was no compulsory education so mothers often wanted to ‘marry off’ the girl so that there could be no embarrassing episode as pregnancy outside of wedlock.

Of course, the society frowned on pregnancy outside of wedlock and the child so born was considered by the derogatory name ‘bastard’. Forbes Burnham was to later pass legislation to change that designation. Today, more than 70 per cent of the population is unaware of the true meaning of a bastard. But back then, bastards were not recognised in society. They were denied certain rights as the child born into wedlock and they suffered tremendous embarrassment to the point that many hid their bastardy.

However, many people of Indian ancestry were particularly keen to marry off their pubescent daughters. Such was the culture of their ancestors. Eventually, the colonial authorities changed the laws to allow for a girl of 13 to engage in concubinage.

This week, the Guyana Human Rights Association came up with a plan that would see the law being applied to one set of people and not to another. A proposal by the GHRA said that the age of consent should be raised to 18. In no other country of the world is there such a law. Perhaps, Guyana needs to set the pace.

We know that girls are more mentally developed that boys during the teen years. A girl of 18 is in effect an adult. Many leave school at 16 and enter the world of work. Perhaps the GHRA wants to consider it a crime for a working person to have sex once they are below 18.

But what is truly amazing is that the GHRA is proposing that the law should only apply to grown men who form liaison with young girls. In this case, if a grown man, and the GHRA does not specify who it considers a grown man, goes with a girl under 18 then he should go to jail.

What is a grown man? What should be the age difference between consenting partners?

Further, the very GHRA says that if a teenager under 18 engages in sex with another teenager under 18 then there should be no penalty. How can one readily expect the law to discriminate?

One is tempted to believe that perhaps the society is making a move to correct a perceived deficiency. There are a lot of grown women who seem to be left all alone to raise families even as the men gravitate to the younger women.

And it is strange that the formulators of the law have not addressed the case of a grown woman going with an under-aged male. Perhaps, the belief is that only grown men go with young girls.

Though it is not readily accepted, many grown women seduce young boys. According to our statutes, a woman is incapable of rape but that does not prevent them from being charged with common assault.

It is understood why the young male would not report abuse but there are many cases of abused boys and the society does not pay them any attention.

It is clear that any decision arrived at by the GHRA and the supporting groups came about because of emotions. When we respond to emotions we tend to make mistakes; we tend to be irrational.

We are now proposing that the age of consent be raised to 18. At 18 an individual can do anything that an adult could. The law is already there. There is vote at 18, the ability to get married without parental consent, the right to buy alcohol and the like.

However, sexuality should not be tied to adulthood. That is the worst mistake that a country could make. As everyone knows, sex is physiological drive.