MPs across the board are against lowering the age of consent, saying that it would send a wrong signal to those who sexually exploit children, a new survey has revealed.
The current law makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 16 to have sex and over 90 per cent of MPs think the age of consent should be kept as it is.
Over three quarters of the MPs surveyed – 79 per cent – also disagreed that lowering the age of consent “would simply reflect reality”, an argument touted by the UK’s Faculty of Public Health President, Professor John Ashton.
In November last year, Ashton called for the age of consent to be lowered to 15 explaining the need to “recognise the facts of what’s going on by the age of 14 or 15”.
Downing Street rejected the call and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that lowering the age of consent would not solve the UK’s high teenage pregnancy rates.
Polling company ComRes surveyed 151 MPs, 86 per cent of whom agreed that reducing the age of consent would not be good for the sexual health of young people.
Others including the lawyer Liz Dux – whose firm is representing 72 of Jimmy Savile’s victims – have also voiced concerns that “predatory adults” could justify their focus on even “younger teenagers”, if the age of consent is lowered.
When asked if lowering the age of consent would “increase the pressures on young people to become sexualised at an inappropriately early age”, 86 per cent of MPs agreed it would.
This week, a Guardian video debate between homosexual rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and Ellie Cumbo of grassroots network UK Feminista further underlined concerns surrounding the age of consent.
Tatchell, who is calling for the age of consent to be lowered, said the law shouldn’t “criminalise young people” who agree to sexual acts with “other people of the same ages”.
“One option might be to keep the age of consent at 16 but have a policy of not prosecuting sex involving young people under 16, providing there is no more than two or three years difference in their ages”, he added.
Arguing to keep the age of consent at 16, Cumbo told Tatchell “the law is designed to protect children not criminalise them”.