Opinion: On The Age Of Consent

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Every few weeks, Twitter reminds us, for those who may somehow have forgotten that we are at war. And war is not an exaggeration. Generally, it features men on one side and women on the other although that is not a hard and fast rule. If we were going for accuracy, it would be misogynists on one side and humanism on the other. This week, the battle is about the age of consent.

How It Began

There’s a case that recently came into the public’s attention in which a 23-year-old man had been engaging in sexual acts with a girl from the time she was 11 to the time she was 14. One side agreed with the ruling by a judge holding that the 11-year-old girl did not deserve the protections afforded minors under the law under the sexual offences act because:

  1. The child took herself to the man’s house to have sex
  2. She allegedly enjoyed said sex which immediately graduated her straight from child to woman
  3. Her family and brothers in particular knew where she was and were cool with it.
  4. Children are having sex earlier and earlier because of societal changes.
Arguments For The Reduction Of The Age Of Consent

It is this side that noting the societal changes and the view that children are having sex earlier advanced an argument in favour of lowering the age of consent. This argument in favour of lowering the age of consent is not new. They cite Romeo and Juliet situations in which two underage kids are having sex with each other as justification as well.

The argument was also advanced when it turned out that thousands of girls had been impregnated when the schools were closed in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In Machakos alone, up to 4000 girls ranging from age 10 to 19. You read that right, age 10.

That argument, however, is a Trojan horse. The greatest beneficiaries of lowering the age of consent are men. Grown men. The question of lowering the age of consent is always about men and their sexual proclivities. The entire debate is about giving them permission to do what they are already doing or intend to do or wish they could do without incurring any social or legal repercussions. They are in effect attempting to force society to make whatever changes it takes to accommodate them. Grown Boda Boda men have been adversely mentioned in nearly every county in relation to impregnating school girls. This rhetoric is meant to protect and absolve these men, not protect the young girls.

It should go without saying that 10-year-old boys are not impregnating 10-year-old girls. It is grown men doing it. The argument has been made that teenage boys want, more like desperately need to have sex and that denying them because of pesky consent laws is not just needless torture but also cruel and unusual punishment. As a result, we should alter the laws of the land in order to accommodate them and their raging hormones. Once again, it is not at all about girls as much as it is about boys desperately needing sex for which they must be exempted from consequences and protected as much as possible.

The law should take into consideration two minors having consensual sex, and this is something that should be looked into. COWAV has summarized it well, “The only consideration if at all that should be put in place would be to respond to the rise of Romeo and Juliet cases (child-to-child “consensual” teenage sex). There has been an increase in the number of teenagers engaging in voluntary sex. In this regard, a proposal would be to amend the Sexual Offences Act to put in special measures to protect these children who are voluntarily engaging in these relations. Even then, borrowing from the Canadian jurisdiction, there should be limits on the exemption and the age difference should be say two years, both in school and no force or coercion should have been used by either child. The extension could be made to persons who are eighteen and still pursuing high school education but in no way, can it be extended to adults who are not within the high school student purview and are instead choosing to prey on our young girls.

The thing that people conveniently forget about sex is that it is more than just a physical act. Viewing sex as a purely physical act is dehumanizing to the persons involved. It denies their humanity and reduces them to their sexual organs. The fact that two 14-year-olds both have the requisite parts needed to engage in intercourse does not then make them ready for it.

Then there’s the question of the gender-based power imbalance in heterosexual relationships. Fully grown women find it difficult to say no to men when pressured to have sex. Fully grown women have difficulties requiring their partners to use condoms during intercourse. Married women still suffer marital rape. Women everywhere are still subject to rape and other sexually exploitative acts. We live in a patriarchal society in which men have disproportionate power in relationships. What are the chances that two teenagers will manage to design an egalitarian relationship?

Another question people pro-reduction of the age of consent should answer is why they want to engage in sexual engagements that have the kinds of power dynamics that exist between adults and children and worse male adults and female children in a patriarchal society. The appropriate response when it comes to minors engaging in sex is instituting comprehensive sexual education that goes beyond abstain until marriage and visiting the fear of God on them. Grown adults are still arguing about what constitutes consent, how can we expect children to figure it out when adults are so completely clueless? We need to fearlessly institute comprehensive sexual education that covers all of this and more.

On Assigning Responsibility

The responsibility to do better and make better choices lies with the person who has the most power. That is men. That is boys. The people deserving protection are the ones who are most negatively affected by the consequences of engaging with the powerful party. That is girls. There is no contest. Girls disproportionately suffer the effects of pregnancy, including risks associated with pregnancy and childbirth, any risks associated with abortion when they desperately try to save themselves from a bad situation, the burden of child-rearing, and all the societal weight that comes with it.

The Law On Protecting Girls

The law recognizes this and requires that girls are protected. Children are entitled to protection from physical and psychological, neglect and any other form of exploitation. A child shall be protected from sexual exploitation and use in prostitution, inducement, or coercion to engage in any sexual activity and exposure to obscene materials. Children cannot give consent so any sexual contact with them is sexual exploitation and abuse. Lowering the age of consent is not the appropriate way to deal with sexual exploitation and abusive men’s social proclivities. Men who sexually groom young girls are the problem and it makes no sense to reward them by lowering the age of consent. There is simply no logic in that response. So no, the age of consent cannot be lowered. It must not be lowered. Until then, the war rages on and we will not stop until we win.

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