Government plans to legalise oral sex for children as young as 13 should be scrapped, an influential committee of MSPs says in a report published today.
The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee says changing the law would send out the message that such activity is socially acceptable and risk free.
The committee has been scrutinising the Scottish Government’s Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill which includes an overhaul of Scotland’s age of consent laws.
The committee invites the Government to look again at its plans for a ‘proximity of age’ defence which would effectively legalise a wide range of sexual activity between young adults and older children.
Government plans would also mean that masturbation or groping by one child on another would be legal for children as young as 13. The committee has not addressed this matter.
The committee’s report says, “The Christian Institute pointed out that sexual activities other than full sexual intercourse carried a number of risks for the participants, including the risk of sexually transmitted infection.”
The Christian Institute’s David Greatorex and Care for Scotland’s Gordon Macdonald give evidence to the Justice Committee:
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The committee’s report also notes that ACPOS (Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland) and others shared concerns about legalising oral sex for teenagers under 16.
The report adds: “The Committee does not believe that the Scottish Government has provided sufficient justification for treating oral sex differently from other penetrative sexual conduct and recommends that the section should be amended to include oral sex within the scope of the offence provisions.
“In so doing, however, the Government must ensure that normal teenage consensual activities such as kissing are not made criminal.”
Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, said: “We welcome what the Justice Committee has recommended regarding oral sex and the proximity of age defence.
“We strongly urge the Scottish Government to back the committee’s recommendations on these matters.
“However, we remain concerned at plans to legalise the masturbation or groping of a child by another child. We believe this should remain an offence under the age of consent law, as it is now. The committee did not address this point.
“Weakening the age of consent law on this matter not only sends out the wrong message, but it also removes a key aspect of the law which gives appropriate authorities the discretion to act when such activities may be exploitative.
“A Panorama investigation into sexual bullying in schools shows unwanted groping between children to be a live issue and we think the Government should not weaken the age of consent law in this area.
“We all know that proving a lack of consent can be notoriously difficult in sexual abuse cases. In such instances the age of consent offence has shown itself to be a very useful child protection measure.
“The committee appears to have noted this in regard to oral sex and we believe it is just as important regarding masturbation or groping by one child on another.”