Tread carefully on sexual consent

The Prosecutor General, Johannes Tomana, was last week in the thick of a storm, and rightly so, for seemingly supporting the lowering of the age of sexual consent to 12 years. This is perhaps one of the most horrible positions that a high ranking civil servant has taken in recent years.

Granted, the law still contains contradictions and loopholes in provisions relating to the age of consent among minors, but that does not legitimate turning young and inexperienced girls into sex slaves.

The need to tread carefully when exploring the issue of the age of sexual consent can never be overemphasised, considering especially the recklessness with which authorities who are supposed to know better are conducting themselves in the context of this debate. It is outrageous that all those people who seem to be supporting the position that a girl as young as 12 must be empowered to make decisions on whether or not to engage in sex seem to be oblivious of the far-reaching implications of doing so.

A 12-year-old girl lacks the capacity to make informed choices in sexual matters. She can easily fall pregnant because she cannot insist on protected sex. Once she falls pregnant, it means an extra burden to the parents who are then forced to also take care of the extra child.

Let us imagine a boy aged 16 or even 14 is responsible for the pregnancy. Surely, the two cannot start a family. Both are supposed to be in school, cannot be employed and hardly have the sense of responsibility to care for a child. It is the weirdest thing, therefore, for the likes of Tomana to indirectly advocate for child families by supporting the call to enable 12 year olds to make sexual decisions.

Besides this, are the proponents of that position aware of the ramifications of such legislation on the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) and AIDS? The 12-year-old girls can easily fall prey to sugar daddies who lure them with simple things into unprotected sex, thereby exposing them to STIs as well as HIV and AIDS. That means the gains that have been made in reducing HIV would be overturned in a short period.

Granting the legal right to have sex as early as 12, clearly, is a way of condemning young girls to a cycle of poverty. Once they fall pregnant, their education is disrupted and they end up selling their bodies on the streets. Their children cannot be adequately fended for and the parents, who are already struggling to make ends meet, lack the capacity to take care of both the young parents and their children.

There is therefore need for caution and a strong sense of responsibility when discussing matters relating to sexual consent among children.

Post published in: Editor: Wilf Mbanga

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