Calls to lower the age of consent to 15 were rejected by Downing Street this morning.
Words by Zoe Hazel Thomas.
The proposal was made by leading public health expert Professor John Ashton, who told press last week that a quarter to a third of young people have already had sex by the time they reach 16.
In a BBC 5 Live interview, Prof. Ashton told journalist Sonia Poulton that young people are: “In a very sexual environment. We can either address that, or we have to face the consequences.”
He believes the best way to address the negative impacts of pornography and sexual imagery in the media is to lower the age of consent – the legal age at which a person can have sex – from 16, to 15.
He said that this would help us: “Begin to deal rationally with all these young people in relationships at an early age, and who may feel inhibited in seeking help, and whose teachers may be confused about what they can and cannot discuss with the youngsters in their class.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that while he accepts action needs to be taken to reduce the number of teen pregnancies in the UK, lowering the age of consent is not the answer.
Dean Caldecourt, a 16-year-old student at City College Brighton and Hove, agrees with the decision.
He said: “Lowering the age of consent to 15 is not a good thing. Some 15-year-olds aren’t mature enough.”
Martin Brown works in the counselling support department at the college. He said: “Rejecting Prof. Ashton’s proposal is a good thing. We live in an overly-sexualised society and we shouldn’t be encouraging teens to have sex.
“Sex education is so poor – and that comes from experience as a teacher. I think it’s about educating kids rather than lowering the age.”
UK sexual health charity Brook posted a response to Downing Street’s rejection in a blog this morning, which said:
“Young people tell us that the Age of Consent sometimes feels a bit irrelevant if they have made a decision to have sex – then it’s love and trust that counts.
“[Our] concern is that the debate about the Age of Consent filters onto young people’s airways and what young people hear is ‘you cannot access services if you are under 16 and so we need a change in the law’. That must not be allowed to happen, so lets shout from the rooftops ‘you can access services even if you are under 16s, tell your friends’.”
What do you think about this? Should the age of consent be lowered to 15? Leave your thoughts in the comments box below.