Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Age of Consent Concerns

I'm generally in favour of the age of consent increase to 16. I think promoting abstinence is a good thing until our kids are mature enough to handle the consequences (good and bad) from a mature sexual relationship.

That all said, I remember what it was like to be a 16-year old boy, too. Promoting safe sexual activity is also extremely important, because like it or not, it's going to happen and no amount of legislation is going to prevent it. Telling kids "don't do it" doesn't work.

In the United States, a Kansas law apparently had required doctors to notify police if someone under the age of 16 had engaged in sexual activity. The legislative abuse came when the Attorney General interpreted it to mean any sexual activity - consensual or otherwise. I'm not in favour of and could never support what I perceive as a general crack down on teenagers having sex via government legislation. Look what could happen when you try to do that [TheAnnaLog, Parents, Keep the Government Away From Your Kids]:

A Kansas law would require health-care workers to report teen sex to state police. A group called the Medical Institute got federal money to teach med students about abstinence-only sex ed. I see a trend here: parents want to stop kids having sex, and the government wants to help.

...

Take the Kansas law. Say a teenager starts having STD symptoms and is afraid to tell her parents. What's the best solution? According to Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, when she goes to a local clinic for help, the clinic should report her to the police. But faced with the prospect of angry police and angry parents, the average teenager will do one thing: wait for the symptoms to go away. They probably will -- many STDs have long periods of dormancy -- but she will remain contagious and potentially infertile.

Thankfully, a Kansas federal judge clamped down on this view of the law [Daily News Central, Fed Judge Clarifies Teen Sex Reporting Law in Kansas]:

Kansas' chief law enforcement officer misread the law and in doing so threatened the sexual privacy of the state's teenagers, a federal judge in Wichita ruled Tuesday.

In a case watched across the nation, US District Judge J. Thomas Marten ruled that Kansas healthcare providers should retain discretion in deciding what teenage sexual activities they report to the state as abuse. Attorney General Phill Kline had wanted most sexual contact involving children under age 16 reported.

Marten pointed out that both sides agreed certain abusive acts should always be reported, including incest, sexual abuse of a child by an adult, and sex involving a child under age 12.
While Justice Minister Vic Toews has indicated that the new age of consent law will include a "acceptable age range" for teenagers having sex with one another, I think we must be vigilant against any legislative abuse at trying to crack down on it.

We have to ensure that teenagers engaging in sexual activity have access to privacy when seeking medical advice, rather than punishing them for seeking out help. This ensures that they do, in fact, seek medical advice, rather than weighing the consequences of getting caught having had sex. This is in addition to providing them the information necessary to make informed decisions regarding sexual activity.

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