PM Rejects Call To Lower Age of Consent

The prime minister has rejected a call from a leading expert on public health to lower the age of consent to 15.

Faculty of Public Health president Prof John Ashton said society had to accept that about a third of all boys and girls were having sex at 14 or 15.

He said the move would make it easier for 15-year-olds to get sexual health advice from the NHS.

Downing Street said the current age of 16 was in place to protect children and there were "no plans to change it".

Official figures suggest that up to a third of teenagers have sex before the age of consent.

Prof Ashton said lowering the age by a year could "draw a line in the sand" against sex at 14 or younger.

'Recognise the facts'

He said: "We need a debate here. It's time the adults started talking about the situation to take these enormous pressures off children and young people from becoming sexually active too early.

"Also to recognise the facts of what's going on by the age of 14 or 15 so that we can respond helpfully to them and support them on this journey into adult life."

"I suspect we might be better off with it at 15 because the teachers and people who are in contact with young people would feel on a firmer footing pointing them in the right direction where they can get advice and contraception to protect their physical health from disease and other problems."

"The problem we have in this country is we still have this fantasy about young people and we live in a world of wish-fulfilment," he told BBC's Breakfast.He also said that in countries with a lower age of consent, young people got involved in sex at a later age and teenage pregnancy rates were lower.

"They are doing it and we need to be able to support them and protect them.

"The negotiation of your first adult relationship in your mid-teens some time is something that will set the record for the rest of your life.

"At the moment youngsters are getting the most incredible messages from pornography, from social media. What we are seeing is more physical abuse and mental abuse in relationships."


He said pornography was causing young people to have "strange expectations" of their relationships and this needed to be "corrected" by open discussion in a sensible environment. “Start Quote

Do I think simply a blanket reduction in the age of consent is the answer to this difficult dilemma? No”

Nick CleggDeputy Prime Minister

He also called for more resources to go into sexual and relationships education in schools.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said he was concerned about "high levels of teenage pregnancy" but he said lowering the age of consent was not the answer.

"I'm worried, like everybody's worried, about the sexualisation of the culture and the information that so many young people are bombarded with at the moment. That's why I do want see action," he told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.

"I'm constantly urging (Education Secretary) Michael Gove and the Department for Education to update and modernise sex education in schools which hasn't kept up with the internet age.

"But do I think simply a blanket reduction in the age of consent is the answer to this difficult dilemma? No."

The Faculty of Public Health, part of the Royal Colleges of Physicians, gives independent advice to the government.

'More sex?'

David Tucker, head of policy at the NSPCC, said it would be prepared to engage in debate on the issue after considering Prof Ashton's arguments.

But Mr Tucker added: "Has there really been a significant change in the amount of young people having sex over the past 20 or 30 years? If it has changed, then is reducing the age of consent the most sensible way to deal with it?"

The age of consent in the UK for any kind of sexual activity is 16 for gay and straight men and women.

In England and Wales, the age of sexual consent for women has been set at 16 since 1885, when campaigners fought to raise it from 13 to prevent child prostitution.

Other countries have set the legal age for sexual consent at anything from 12 to 20.

In 2001, the age of consent for gay men in England and Wales was reduced from 18 to 16, bringing it in line with heterosexuals for the first time. Lesbians, who until then faced no statutory age of consent, were also included in that legislation.

Scotland and Northern Ireland made 16 the age of consent for gay and straight men and women later that decade.

In my country the age of consent is 15 and there were debates about lowering it to 14. In the end it was discarded. Although the 15 only applies to sex with someone who is over 15. So eg. 2 people aged 14 can have sex without one of them going to jail. Although it is not considered ideal.

But one thing we do have and that is lot of sex education at work. I remember from my days at school many years ago, that all girls had a session with a teacher about the female hygiene plus explanation on how the female body worked. And it included both explanation about menstruation, but also about prengancy and how to avoid it. I think we were about 13 back then, 14 at most, as it was still at primary school, but they still gave it to us. In order to protect us.

We also had some sessions as whole class about STDs, including visiting people, who eg. were HIV positive. And were fighting with it. It was rather awaking, if I may be honest. At least for me, as I am very self conscious when it comes to my sexual health.

I think we have lower early pregnancies rate compared to UK, which means that maybe this talk helps. The talks are not mandatory, as some parents do not want their kids to attend it, but most parents encourage it. My parents did the talk through with me when I was rather young, but the talks by people who work with people who did catch STDs or people who were HIV positive talking about it was far more... awaking.

I don't think its a bad thing. Kids are not emotionally equipped to deal with with a sexual relationship at 15. The law may not reflect the reality but its there to protect children. Im sure some kids are sexually active at twelve or thirteen do you lower the age of consent to reflect this?

[edit: remove age reference.] I probably would have done so at an early age if the girl involved was as eager as I was.

Sorry I have to disagree. Physically children are ready for sex but I question the mental side. I do not see children enjoying or having sex for the right reason. Most of it is peer pressure.

My experience of this is generally children who are having underage sex either come from broken homes or one perant families. In no way am I blaming the parents but these children are vulnerable and just want attention.

For as with a lot of modern society,s issues you are discussing a symptom and not the problem. What I see is a breakdown of families and children left with poor or little proper advise. It is not the job of schools or government to educate our children on moral issues or sex. My children learnt about these things from there family.

Lastly it is a deterrent, to stop adults from preying on children. There have been a few high profile cases of teachers male and female recently. Any one of these would of been lawfully if you get your way. Sorry but wrong.

I think schools can play important role when teaching schools about morality and sexual education. Family IS important, but I admit that actually speaking to someone who was HIV positive and their telling about it, or someone who went through syphilis, does make a huge impact. I mean, its nice when my parents tell me about it, but speaking to someone who has been there... I dont know. For me this was really really huge impact and shaped my sexual behaviour too, apart from what I learnt at home.

I guess because it was a real person telling about it and what impact it had on his life first hand rather than someone telling us what the impact may be.

I also agree with Cat Lady's comment. Instead of lowering the age of consent to make it easier for them to get sexual health advice, I think children and teenagers should be educated properly on sex in the first place. I know that when I was in school, we barely got taught anything, we had about 2 lessons on pregnancy and sti's and that was it!

Although our body's are physically ready for sex from an early age, I feel as though the media, as well as peer pressure from friends and other students, are putting way too much pressure on kids at such a young age to act upon it even though they may not be emotionally ready or have any knowledge on the matter. This is probably the issue that needs addressing the most. Just because someone's younger than 16, doesn't mean it should be harder for them to get sexual health advice. Advice should be available for everyone regardless of the legal age of consent.

I don't think that the age of consent should be lowered.

I do think however, we should not be educating our children about sex in isolation from the importance of relationships. I strongly believe that our children deserve the best possible education and that includeds on sex. however I do feel that there is a danger of too much focus on the sex.

Unfortunately I feel that as a society we have moved from the family towards the indiviual and the rights of an individual to do what they want without thinking about the effect it has on others.

It seems to me that the view these days is that sex comes first then the loving relationship. I know from previous posts on here, that the majority of people know that sex is much better within a loving long term relationship, so why are we not teaching our children this?

We should not be ignoring issues like pornography and focusing on how we stop children viewing it on the internet, because they will find a way.

We need to be teaching our children about their right not to be pressured to get involved in sexting for example, that they have to take responsibility for their actions and understand how these might affect others and that the should respect others.

We need to teach our children to treat others as they would wish to be treated themselves. I do think that when it comes to sex and relationships recent generations have made some mistakes, which we should make sure our children learn from.

I believe that by lowering the age of consent, we would be sending out the wrong message.

I don't think age of consent should be lowered. I also don't think schools should be blamed for lack of sexual education. We had a few sessions on periods and sex and STIs in school, starting in year 7 up to year 9. It wasn't a lot, but I think the responsibility of making sure children are sexually aware and educated should fall on their parents, not on the school.

Discussing sex with a parent may seem embarrassing at first, but I never got 'the sex talk' from my mum and I think that was the worst thing she ever failed to do. She never talked to me about periods either (which I mentioned a few years ago, and she claims she did - clearly lying because I would have remembered that talk) and I think establishing that bond and trust between a parent and child so important. If children don't feel like they can talk to the people most important to them about sex then who would they turn to? Probably friends, who have no idea what they're taking about either. That's how you end up with teenage pregnancies, STIs and broken hearts.

I agree with Ork about age and maturity, but we have to have an expectation that at some point a child (or young adult) is mature enough, so we do need to set a line somewhere.

I also don't think it is about chastising young people who have sex at a early age, if they "screw up" they need support not punishment. But it would be much better if they were educated in such a way that they don't screw up in the first place.

Following your argument in reverse, should the age of consent be lowered, to 14 or 12 or 10 because when know of some very "mature" children? I think is is a very dangerous road to travel. If as Ork says the age of concent is a joke then there is no need to change it, is there?

You're right Ork, there are some mature children. But like you said, there are people who are much older yet aren't mature at all. So surely, its better and safer to protect those who aren't as mature? Lowering the consent age might put pressure on the younger, less mature children who are definitely not ready for sex, physically or mentally. The more mature ones will be fine, whether the age is lowered or not. If they're mature enough then they will understand why the law is there in the first place and if they still choose to ignore it then they will have no problem in finding the information or help they need.

I don't think it should be lowered. There are many teenagers out there at 13 that may be more mature than some 17 year olds, but for most 13-16 year olds they are not ready for sexual relationships.
We have to remember that This law is there to protect our children, not to stop them from understating sexual relationships. In the cases of older men or women taking advantage of younger more impressionable teenagers then this law is very important. I know at 17 I thought I was ready for a sexually relationship but I really had no clue. I wouldn't say he forced me inito sex but I did undertake a relationship with someone who was 6 years older than me and I felt it was something I has to do to keep him. I would hate to think of what pressure younger teenagers may be under, which is why this law is required. In Northern Ireland the legal age is 17 and I think it's a good age.
Educations from parents and schools is what's important. Easier access to family planning clinics for all teenagers is the way forward. I know I gained the majority of my sexually education reading teenage magazine articles about STD,s and birth control. We only covered the basics in school

i personally agree that family is important as a key player in developing the moral awareness and sence. as well as sex education. but not all the families can play this role. for some kids not coming to their parents is not about embarassment. but more like not enough trust.

another potential problem is what i came across recently. some parents saying they do not want anyone taking to their kids about condoms because they dont want them to know about them or use them. while they can have this opinion, should their kids get not the best information? just in case their opinion is different? to be able to make their own choice based on the information available to them?

the fact is that my country has lower age of consent and i think we have less problems with teen pregnancies. moreover, it seems the younger generations are more aware of risks and take better care when choosing sexual partner. or i came across articles suggesting the older generations, 40 +, have more stds infected. plus although we have 15 as consent age, the average age for loosing virginity is stable at about 17,5 years.

I also don't think the age of consent should be lowered. If a fifteen year old has sex with someone their same age or 16, possible even 17 there are unlikely to be any consequences as far as the law is concerned but I agree that we do need to look at the help and support on offer to those under the current age of consent, both in schools and from medical professionals. I think that the age of consent should stay at 16 to protect 15 year olds (who are essentially still children) from predatory older men and (to a lesser extent) women

I really don't think it should be lowered. At the age of 14/15 I was incredibly naive and definitely not ready for sex, and whilst I realise this is unlikely to be true of all teenagers that age, I definitely don't think sexual activity of any kind should be encouraged in that way from such an early age. In my eyes, a 14 or 15 year old is still navigating the change from child to adult, overcoming the pitfalls of friendship, puberty and such like without adding the confusion of sex to the mix as well. I think if the age is lowered, it will place uneccessary pressure of teenagers of this age to start having sex- picture the scene, two 14 year olds in a relationship, one of them brings up the subject of sex and the other isn't ready, but because it is now 'legal' they end up going through with it because they feel that they should (I realise this could be the case in any relationship, at any age- I felt that kind of pressure age 19, after being 'legal' but a virgin for three years). Ultimately, 14/15 year olds will always be having sex, regardless of the legal limit, but I really do not think it should be encouraged by making it legal and effectively waving the green flag. As for making it easier for them to seek advice, I don't think lowering the age will have all that much of an effect, advice is readily available from all kinds of sources for teens of all ages, as is contraception. I know a number of my school friends were placed on the pill by their GP at the age of 14, and when I was 15 I attended a talk at a youth club where free condoms were handed out to anyone who wanted them, regardless of age. Lowering the age, in my eyes, will only ever do more harm than good x

I think it should be lowered, when I first started having sex I had watched porn and knew how it worked but a lot of it is contraception, luckily a friend told me about a sexual health clinic near me but if not then I wouldn't of had a clue, I actually spent £12 on condoms before I knew I could get them for free because nobody had told me. I couldn't afford to spend that much money on condoms all the time so I have no idea how I would of gotten any more. I couldn't even imagine telling my parents anything to do with sex as they would probably kick me out so I just had to find everything out myself, I was always told not to have sex and never told anything about it so what I knew I just picked up from the interent, friends and my boyfriend. I had sex education a few times in school and was told about the types on contraceptive but I had this idea in my head that if I got the pill my mum would find out and go mad! I think parents should be a lot more supportive of these things, telling their children not to have sex won't help at all, if you want to have sex it's your personal choice, everyone knows by now people aged 14-15 are now having sex and adults don't seem to understand that. If my parents found any form of contraception on me it would be taken off me and i'd be told not to have sex, if this happened to some people they could just try and have sex without contraception as they don't have any and then could end up pregnant. Instead of telling teens not to have sex we should be educating them properly! Boys are relying on porn and their mates which can be perfectly fine but not always.

It makes no sense, because if 2 people under 16 have sex with eachother it is ok, but if a 16year old has sex with a 15year old it is wrong. Teenagers have sex, and it will happen sooner or later

Magikally, at 16, these children transitioning to adults are suddenly mature enough to have sexual relationships? That is not what the age of consent is about. It's a purely legal matter, under sixteen a person is not in a legal position to give consent (yes, we are all owned by the crown) and so sex becomes statutory rape. Age of consent is only an aspect of statutory rape.

Changing the age of consent would make no difference to early teens, they will do what they want anyway. In america they have a young love exception, which means someone who is (just) over 18 can have sex with an under 18. Their age of consent is 18.

To improve the confidence of children in confiding with adults and seeking help and advice about sex the young love exception should be implemented, instead of being a vague idea that your actions will go unpunished.

There should also be a greater understanding amongst adults, many of whom would fly of the handle if their 15 year old had sex; understanding that the chosen age of 16 is a law protecting against predators and has nothing to do with maturity, emotional or intellectual development or sex education.

Oh yeah; IMO. (surely doesnt need to be said eh?)

I think that sex needs to be discussed more openly in this country. No one can deny that underage sex does go on.

I dont think the age of consent should be lowered but I go along the lines of when I first started drinking in pubs. The age was 18 and I sixteen and id requirements werent that high. Its difficult to tell the difference between a 16 year old with make up on and an 18 year old.

If consent was lowered I believe the same would happen and in reality how difficult would it make it for guys, if I girl says shes 15 and she is say 12 dolled up to the eyes with make up, could you tell?

If everyone waited until the right age then it would be easier but life isnt like that and I only have to metion the name of certain celebrities who are on trial or have passed away to send shivers down everyones spine.

I believe the lower the consent age the more reasonable it becomes for these guys to say I thought she was legal. That can never be acceptable and I think thats why the age limit has not been lowered.

keep it how it is!! its 17-18 before I really understood sexual matters. I was 17 before I discovered lube! now I am 22 I want to have fun with an older lady 30-44 will do.

I'm in favour of leaving it as it is. The idea of moving a boundary because a minority break it isn't very sound (what proportion of people break speed limits? - probably far higher than 30% but no one would see it as a justification for raising them).

Picking up on LilMissFrustrated's point you certainly can't tell age from looks or mannerisms with any accuracy. My daughters are more than 5 years apart in age however, when they were about 14 and 19 it was quite common for people to wrongly assume that the younger was the elder - not because our elder was immature - far from it! - but junior, perhaps because of having a much older and somewhat serious sister to observe, had developed the manner of someone much older and could easily pass for early 20s.

AFAIK this ability was only used to gain early access to pubs. 8-)=