Critics have hit out at a barrister who called for the age of consent to be lowered to 13, saying her comments were “foolish” and “despicable”.
But gay-rights activist Peter Tatchell says there should be a serious debate about the issue, and wants the age of consent to be lowered to 14 accompanied by assertiveness training.
Barrister Barbara Hewson said a change in the law would end the “persecution of old men”, in the wake of recent high-profile arrests over alleged historic sex offences.
But lawyer Malcom Underhill, writing for The Daily Telegraph, said the call is “one of the most foolish proposals on the issue of child welfare that has been laid before the public”.
Mr Underhill warned that in lowering the age of consent, the risk of paedophiles “taking advantage of innocent children for their iniquitous ends will become even greater”.
He added, “this proposal must be snuffed out as quickly as possible, to protect the most vulnerable in society”.
Barbara Hewson also said young people should be trained in social skills to avoid “compromising situations”.
Today’s editorial in The Sun newspaper told the barrister she should be “ashamed”, and said for a lawyer to suggest children should take responsibilty for the behaviour of adults is “despicable”.
But Peter Tatchell thinks there are discussions to be had about changing the law.
He said that even though he disagrees with what Barbara Hewson said, “there should be a calm, serious public debate” about her call to reduce the age of consent to 13.
He added: “I would support a reduction in the age of consent to 14 but only if it was accompanied by earlier, better quality sex education in schools – to encourage wiser, safer, more responsible and respectful sexual relationships.”
“This education should include assertiveness training to encourage young people to say no to unwanted sexual advances and to report abusers.”