The Government’s abuse of trust clause in the new age of consent Bill is “inadequate, misguided and oppressive”, says OutRage!.
“It fails to give young people sufficient protection against sexual abuse and unjustifiably criminalises consenting and loving relationships”, according to OutRage! spokesperson, Peter Tatchell.
OutRage! is calling on the Government and the House of Lords to amend the Bill to require all schools to provide earlier, better quality sex education which, it argues, is the key to combating sex abuse.
“The age of consent Bill does not go far enough to protect teenagers against sexual exploitation”, said Tatchell.
“We want the Bill amended to require sehools to provide improved sex education. Young people need to be empowered with the skills and confidence to resist unwanted sexual advances and to report abuse if it occurs.
“Current sex education fails to address abuse issues in an upfront, honest way. Pupils are not taught what to do if they are pestered for sex by a parent, teacher or care worker. They don’t get information about how to deal with sexual harassment.
“All the evidence shows that young people who are equipped with the ability and assuredness to say ‘no’ to unwanted sex are much more likely to rebuff and report would-be abusers.
“If the Government and the House of Lords are serious about safeguarding teenagers against sexual manipulation, they should amend the age of consent Bill to ensure that school sex education lessons promote young people’s sexual rights, which include the right to reject sex they don’t want.”
OutRage! is highly critical of the Government’s new abuse of trust law.
“The abuse of trust legislation concentrates on penalising abuse after it has happened. Our emphasis on improved sex education would help stop abuse happening in the first place”, said Tatchell.
“OutRage! opposes the way the abuse of trust clause criminalises consenting sex. Sexual relations between a young person and an adult in a position of authority over them are inappropriate, but they should be subject to discipline under professional codes of conduct, not criminalisation.
“We don’t believe that teachers and care workers should be punished by up to two years’ jail for a sincere, loving relationship”, said Tatchell.
OutRage! supports equality and is backing the campaign for an equal age of consent of 16 for everyone: gay, straight, and bisexual.
Since September 1998 we have been engaged in an on-going review of issues concerning consent and protection, covering both homosexual and heterosexual relationships.
Equality is our priority, together with better-quality sex education to inform and empower young people of all sexualities to protect themselves against unwanted pregnancies, HIV infection, and sexual manipulation.
In the past OutRage! has championed an age of consent of 14. Our aim was to reduce the criminalisation of young people involved in consenting relationships, and to remove the legal obstacles to earlier, more-effective sex education in schools.
Last September we agreed that it was not helpful to campaign for a specific age of consent. Given that young people mature at different ages, any specific age of consent is somewhat arbitrary. OutRage! therefore decided to cease campaigning for consent at 14. We opted for a policy of not supporting any specific age of consent, putting the emphasis instead on improved sex education and the protection of young people against abusive relationships.
As part of our continuing review of the consent laws, we are still exploring what an ideal age of consent might be. This review includes looking at the experiences of other European countries, where ages of consent vary widely, and at the policies of child welfare groups.
We remain committed to opposing the prosecution of young people involved in victimless relationships and want to encourage a calm, considered public debate about how the sexual rights of young people can be balanced with laws to ensure their protection against abuse.
Sex education can play a major rôle in protecting young people. It should include nonjudgemental information about heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality, with practical advice on how to refuse unwanted sexual advances, negotiate safer sex, and sustain fulfilling relationships based on mutual consent and respect.
One way to protect young people against sexual abuse is by sex education lessons challenging the notion that sex is something sordid which should be kept hidden, and by empowering young people to stand up for their sexual rights, which include the right to say “no” to sex.
Sexually knowledgeable and confident young people are more likely to resist sexual exploitation than those who are sexually ignorant and ashamed.
Join the Age of Consent Lobby of MP’s and Lords
The second reading in the Commons of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill is expected to be on Monday, 25th January 1999, after which the Bill will go into the Committee stage, returning probably at the end of February for the report stage and third reading.
To ensure that we get another strong vote in the Commons before the Bill goes to the Lords, and to maximise the likelihood of getting the Bill through the Lords, we are asking you to write today to your MP, at the House of Commons, London, SW1A OAA and also to one of the peers who voted against an equal age of consent last summer, at the House of Lords, London, SW1A OPW
Baroness Young of Farnworth, who organised the homophobic vote in the Lords last summer, claims she has had a very large postbag supporting her stand against equality. You can either write to her at the House of Lords,
or fax her on 020-220.127.116.11,
or sign Stonewall’s electronic petition. Letters should be addressed to “The Rt. Hon. The Baroness Young, DL”,
with salutation “Dear Lady Young”, and signed “Yours sincerely”.
Stonewall’s web site also includes an Age of Consent briefing, together with help on lobbying your MP, and a grab-yourself-a-Lord system, which will allocate you a personal peer, to ensure even lobbying.
If you are able to travel to Westminster, make a note of the following date. —
Thurs., 4th Feb., 3 p.m.
House of Lords, Committee Room 5
Parents Lobby of the Lords — Bring your parents to meet the Lords!