Law on teenage sex infringes child rights – ruling

Laws that make consensual s ex between teenagers a crime are unconstitutional, a High Court found yesterday. The Criminal Law (S exual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act had been widely condemned as absurd and unenforceable. It makes it a criminal offence for children between the ages of 12 and 16 to have s ex – even when they consented to it, notes a BDlive report. It also makes consensual kissing, and even cuddling, an offence if there is an age difference of more than two years between the children.

Last year, the Teddy Bear Clinic and Rapcan challenged the Act, arguing that instead of protecting children, the effect of the law was to traumatise them by exposing them to the criminal justice system. In his judgment, Judge Pierre Rabie said it was clear that ‘s exual violation’ was defined so broadly in the Act that it ‘includes conduct (such as kissing and light petting) that virtually every normal adolescent participates in at some stage or another’.

’There can be no doubt that the impugned provisions as they stand, infringe a range of constitutional rights of children,’ he said. Rabie said to subject ‘intimate personal relationships to the coercive force of the criminal law’ was to ‘insert state control into the most intimate area of adolescents’ lives’. Rabie said the Act was overly and unjustifiably broad, but he tailored his order carefully, so that it would still be a crime when the sexual conduct was between adults and children, or where it was not consensual.

Source: Legalbrief, 16 January 2013

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