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the truth about raising the age of sexual consent

Publishing Date : 21 August, 2018

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It is quite clear that the proposed amendment has brought mixed reactions to the public, what is most certain is the fact that defilement continues to be a plague that has engulfed our nation and threaten the exact moral fibers our nation is founded on.  The question is, is there a link between the escalating defilement cases and the age of consent.

I am inclined not to raise any hopes that raising the age of sexual consent will lower cases of sexual defilement.  It is crucial to reflect on our practices and expectations when addressing this issue, this will assist us in understanding whether the ever rising defilement cases are a result of lower age of consent or other factors. Firstly I am of the view that at the age of at least sixteen years we must allow the youth to start sharpening their decision making skills at their own initiative.

That is to say, when we continue to make decisions for the youth up to the age of eighteen, not only are we questioning their decision making skills, we are also being detrimental to their chance of improving or learning decision making skills. I am of the view that the youth at the age of sixteen and above must be allowed the chance to make their own decisions more especially where their lives and bodies are concerned. Giving a person a chance to improve or make their own decisions more especially in personal matters does not only make one feel trusted with responsibility, it also becomes a drive for them to want to earn that trust. 

Proponents to the age raise may argue that this is solely meant to protect the youth from sexual predators, the truth is that we have failed as a nation to reduce the alarming number when the consent age was 16, how do we intend to win with a raised number when we failed at a much younger age.  I am of the view that morality is clouding our judgment and threatening reality, the truth is that raising the age of consent will not only impair the decision making skills of the youth but will go a long way to threaten public health and expose the youth to sexually transmitted  and possibly HIV/ AIDS.

Needless, to say, we live in a society that places morality over logic at times, religion and tradition/ culture are all woven into our being, whilst it is already difficult for the youth below sixteen to access sexual health information because of fear for stigma associated with access to such information at that age, the age raise will only broaden the age groups of youth who will shy away from obtaining information they so need and they will resort to keeping their sexual relations a secret.

The bottom line is, no matter how much we want to deny it, perceptions on youth sexuality is still a hindrance for the youth to obtain necessary health information the world over, in our very own Botswana it is still common to hear people that are supposed to be helping the youth asking questions as, ‘e le gore o itseng ka thobalano, or fa e le tsa thobalano o di itse go gaisa bagolo’, such notions continue to make information dissemination a problem.

Similarly such notions are derived from cultural perspectives that do not condone elders discussing sexual matters with the children. My point is, raising the age of consent will not only raise the irrational social stigma associated with the young people engaging in sexual activities but will go a long way the guilt and fear that encompasses the issue and that will prevent the youth from getting the necessary information and assistance they may need to protect themselves.

I find myself reluctant to applaud to this proposal more so that that there is really no study or evidence to suggest that raising the age of sexual consent will reduce children’s sexual exploitation. Control of one’s body, sexuality an decisions thereto, I believe is a basic human right that should be given to teenagers from the age of sixteen without holding back if we are to mold responsible, independent thinking and great leaders of tomorrow. Decision making is a skill which should be imparted at a very young age of course under guidance of those with wisdom but at some point it should be allowed to blossom.

When children are empowered to make good decisions from a younger age, when cultural barriers, religious opinions, traditions, personal feelings and other barriers that have always made the fight against defilement impossible are addressed, we will realize that we didn’t need to raise the age of consent after all.  Furthermore, whilst at it maybe the proponents might consider what is known as the ‘Romeo and Juliet Law’ in other jurisdictions.

This is to say, they may want to look into the age of exemption issues, which makes an allowance for certain age groups to be exempted. For example, it will be very absurd to suggest such a proposal was intended to curb sexual relations between a 19 years old and a 17+ years old. Finally, it is every parent’s responsibility to nurture their child’s decision making skills, let alone our children start learning that after the age of eighteen. That’s not good enough, then we expect them to get driver’s licenses, vote, and make other life impacting decisions not to be learning to make decisions.



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