The age of consent in New Zealand - Is twelve enough?

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In New Zealand, the age of consent is 16. In the rest of the Western world, this varies from between 12 and 21. From our high teen pregnancy rate, it's obvious that they just want to party, mainly on each other! Should we continue to demonize this natural behaviour with outmoded and ineffective laws that create further problems?

There has been some serious debate as to whether the age of consent should be lowered to twelve years old. Girls can have human beings at twelve, with rights and expectations of their own. Many explore their sexuality regardless (see the movie 'Kids'), making life decisions unleavened by experience, with the conundrum that experience is only gained by living through those choices made. Opposing this, we have naturally protective parents, and a conservative legal system that is a shibboleth of the Judeo-Christian myth.

Yet at the same time we also have a population with an unfortunate biological tendency to want to engage in sexual intercourse with young adolescents; this sense is honed inescapably by market forces through media imagery on a simple majority of individuals. Just look at Calvin Klein's models who look 12 years old. The conflict is essentially between human biology, and the rules and morals of the particular society which they belong to. In much the same way that many travel at 120 km in the 100 km zone, so does the 16 yr old age limit theoretically provide an entry barrier, so to speak. Really we are talking about young women here, although recently there has been increased legislative interest in young men's sexual issues. [...]

Any legislation that promotes biologically normal sexual behaviour will create desirable side effects. With younger people having sex and taking responsibility for their lives in this way, increased economic production would result from this earlier 'adult' attitude. A sexually healthier society, respecting human biology as primal, over that of moral systems of judgement, could well reduce the numbers of child sex offenders. Many sex offenders are people who never enjoyed sexual relationships during adolescence or who were abused themselves. With a healthy sexual environment established in early adolescence, persons are far more likely to go on in life happy, healthy and capable of enjoying loving warm relationships. This would save huge amounts of money in law enforcement, in victim support, and a reduction in criminality.

If girls were allowed to have sex at twelve, they would have the extra few years to gain experience of men before they move to a 'marriagable' age or indeed a business tending age. It would tend to let people iron out their emotional development whilst their hormones were at an absolute peak which would no doubt be good for overall life development. Unwanted teen pregnancy levels, unacceptably high in New Zealand, would also drop as a larger amount of fertile girls and guys became more aware of contraception issues. Moreover, New Zealand has one of the worst teen suicide rates. Perhaps treating our youngsters with the respect of adults may help to reduce this dreadful statistic? Adults forget that twelve year olds are people too, and that we were all that age once. Let's educate them, and give them their best shot at a happy life and free their sexuality.

source: Article 'The Age of Consent in New Zealand: Is Twelve Enough?'; by Nicholas P Keesing (mongrelnick); www.varsity.co.nz/sex/articles.asp?id=5296; 28 March 2006