There should be a consent age for boys, too – Registrar of Psychiatry
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January 6, 2017
There should be a consent age for boys, too – Registrar of Psychiatry

The Registrar of Psychiatry at the Mental Health Rehabilitation Centre believes that an age of consent for boys should be introduced into St Vincent and the Grenadines’ law books – something that 67.44 per cent of participants in a recent SEARCHLIGHT survey agree with.

Karen Providence MD pointed out that current laws are more protective of young girls than of young boys, even though early sexual activity in young boys can have the same negative effects on young boys as they do on young girls.

“I think we need to review our laws about sexual activity and protection of minors and this needs to include all minors, not just females!” asserted Providence, who spoke with SEARCHLIGHT last Thursday, December 29.

“Usually, a young boy who is in a relationship with somebody who is older… might be induced into that. It’s almost like prostitution – we wouldn’t call it that – but they’d be doing it for some other benefit.”

She added: “How then do we have that young person transitioning out of that kind of cycle, where they form normal relationships as they become adults? I imagine it would be a problem.”

The registrar acknowledged that introducing a consent age for boys would not stop all of them from engaging in early sexual activity, but at the very least, it would provide a legal framework through which older adults who entice them into such activity could be held accountable.

“The rules should be similar. We see the fallout of this when our children, be it male or female… are sexualized from an early age. Sexualization, I think we don’t pay enough attention to. We pay a lot of attention to when they become sexually active, but sexualization also includes exposing them to sexually explicit information or products,” explained Providence.

SEARCHLIGHT’S recent survey (which was taken by 87 men) looked at whether or not a consent age for boys should be introduced, and also looked at the age at which participants first engaged in sexual activity.

The survey showed that 39.08 per cent of participants were between the ages of 15 and 18 when they lost their virginity; 20.69 per cent were in the 10 – 14 age bracket; 18.39 per cent were in the over 18 bracket; and 11.49 per cent were younger than 10 years of age.

The survey further showed that 85.06 per cent of participants first engaged in sexual activity with a female partner, while 48.84 per cent said this first experience was with someone in the 15-18 age bracket.

Moreover, 25.59 per cent of participants said their first experience was with someone over the age of 18, and 15.12 per cent said it was with someone under the age of 15.

In a recent interview, Minister of National Mobilization, Social Development, Family Affairs, Persons with Disabilities and Youth Frederick Stephenson acknowledged the discrepancy in the law, which is designed to protect underage girls, and not necessarily underage boys.

Stephenson also noted that there are situations where older women have sexual intercourse with underage boys, but the penalty for such is much less (if she is charged) than if a man engages in sexual activity with an underage girl.

“It is something that we will have to have some discussions on because we are hearing more and more about it in society. But the law generally doesn’t speak to the [specific] protection of boys,” he said.

SEARCHLIGHT’s survey indicated that 9.2 per cent of participants had lost their virginities to adults (over the age of 18) when they had been under the age of 18. Of this group, 50 per cent had been between 15 – 18 years old; 37.5 per cent had been between 10 – 14 years old; and 12.5 percent had been under the age of 10.

Such a situation (adult women engaging underage boys in sexual activity) is currently covered by Section 128 of the Criminal Code, which states: “Any person who commits an act of gross indecency with or towards a child under the age of fourteen, or who incites a child under that age to commit such an act with him or another, is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for one year.”

Another such discrepancy of the law occurs in the event where an underage boy has sexual intercourse with an underage girl.

In regard to intercourse with a girl under 15 years of age, Section 125 (2) of the Criminal Code states: “A man is not guilty of an offence under this section if he is under the age of nineteen years and has not previously been charged with a like offence and, at the time of the intercourse, he believed the girl to be of or over the age of fifteen and had reasonable cause for that belief.”

This indicates that if an underage boy, who had sex with an underage girl, does not meet every condition listed in Section 125 (2), then he could be charged with an offence. However, there is nothing in our law books that speaks to an underage girl being possibly charged for engaging in sexual activity with an underage boy.

SEARCHLIGHT’s survey further showed that 11.49 per cent of participants first had sexual intercourse with a partner aged 15 – 18 years when they had been under the age of 15.

According to an article published on Psychology Today’s website (‘Overexposed and Under-prepared: The Effects of Early Exposure to Sexual Content’), expert Carolyn Ross MD says that there are several negative effects associated with persons being exposed to sexual content and indulging in sexual activity at too early an age.

Published on August 13, 2012, the article states: “The earlier a child is exposed to sexual content and begins having sex, the likelier they are to engage in high-risk sex. Research shows that children who have sex by age 13 are more likely to have multiple sex partners, engage in frequent intercourse, have unprotected sex, and use drugs and alcohol before sex.”

The article also highlighted that engaging in early sexual activity can cause sex addictions and other intimacy disorders in later life, and put the individual at a greater risk of either being the victim of sexual violence or inflicting such on another.

In another article (‘Double Standard When It Comes to Underage Sex?’); published on ABC News website on March 13, 2008, New York psychologist Dr Richard Garner opined that although most males who had sex with older women said the experience was positive, they are also more likely to have emotional and sexual problems later.

“They may drink a lot, they may get into drugs, they may start seeing prostitutes, they may gamble… they may be sexually dysfunctional,” he explained in the article.

“…none of which seem, in their own mind, to be related to the idea that they were sexual victims; which is very hard for a boy to say he was… To say I was sexually victimized is to say ‘I’m not male’ and boys aren’t likely to do that.”

Registrar of Psychiatry at the Mental Health Rehabilitation Centre Dr Providence further pointed out that introducing a consent age for boys and raising the consent age for girls on its own is not enough to address this issue – there also needs to be a discussion of the early sexualization of children.

“We know the ease with which inappropriate and pornographic information is available. I think that in looking at sexual activity in children… we have to first look at the sexualization of our children…

“We need to review our laws about sexual activity and protection of minors and this needs to include all minors, not just females. The consent age of 15 is simply an absurdity… At the time it was raised… lawmakers then thought that they were doing a favour, which obviously they did to raise it from 13 to 15.”

She added: “Now that we are a more enlightened society, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be raised… We are now much more informed than those people were, and there are so much more ills now that our young people are exposed to.”