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20 November 2013

Relationships project criticises call to lower age of consent

Relationships project criticises call to lower age of consent

The national youth charity, The Romance Academy, has said that a call to lower the age of consent is a red herring which skirts around the real issues of sexual health, informed decision-making by teenagers and sex education.

On 17 November Faculty of Public Health president Professor John Ashton was reported as saying that society had to accept that about a third of all boys and girls were having sex at 14 or 15 and a lowering of the age of consent from 16 to 15 would make it easier for teenagers to get sexual health advice from the NHS.

He also said that in countries with a lower age of consent, young people got involved in sex at a later age and teenage pregnancy rates were lower.

The call has been rejected by David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, echoing the rejection of previous calls to lower the age of consent, which was set for women at 16 in 1885.

Co-founder of Romance Academy, Alliance board member and newly-elected president of the Girls' Brigade England and Wales, Rachel Gardner, said: "I'm grateful to Professor Ashton for raising his concerns. However, I'm concerned that lowering the age will remove support from young people at the very stage in life that they need it most. In reality, the age of consent rarely features in a young person's decisions about whether to have sex or not, so keeping the discussion focused on lowering the age of consent is a bit of a red herring and ignores the simple truth that sexual behaviour is often something 'caught' not 'taught'.

"Evidence tells us that young people benefit from delaying the start of sexual activity. We welcome a discussion about what young people need and call for more to be done to help young people develop the emotional tools to build and sustain healthy relationships.

"In today's very sexualised culture many teenagers are being sexually traumatised by the violent sex they see online, so it's vital that we talk about how to keep them safe and empowered to make the right decisions about their relationships. Lowering the age of consent isn't the way to do this. 

"It is important that the Evangelical community emphasises the importance of talking about sex and relationships in our homes and churches and that we re-enforce positive messages."

Romance Academy is a relationships project that tackles under age sex head-on and helps young people to resist negative pressures and make wise choices about relationships.