The age of consent should be lowered to 15 so that teenagers can access sexual health advice, a public health expert has said.
And homosexual rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said the age of consent should be 14, because the age of sexual arousal is at around 11 years old, and the current limit persecutes rather than protects teenagers.
But the Prime Minister has rejected the call from Faculty of Public Health President Professor John Ashton, saying there are “no plans to change” the current age of 16.
Liz Dux, a lawyer representing victims of Jimmy Savile, warned against a reduction.
She said: “Predatory adults would be given legitimacy to focus their attentions on even younger teenagers and there is a real risk that society would be sending out the message that sex between 14 to 15-year-olds is also acceptable.”
The age of consent has been at 16 in Britain since 1885, following a campaign led by Josephine Butler, a Christian.
She fought to change the law because children as young as twelve were being forced into prostitution.
Daily Mail columnist Bel Mooney said the move would be a “disastrous step for young girls”.
She said: “To change the existing law would be to disperse the message that since teenagers are ‘at it’ anyway, we might as well enshrine that uncomfortable reality within the law.”
She added: “If a large group of people behave in a manner damaging to their welfare, we don’t have to give them the nod and say: ‘Get on with it.'”
Prof Ashton said society needs to accept that boys and girls are having sex at 14 or 15.
He said it’s time 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”.
He also said lowering the age of consent by a year could “draw a line in the sand” against sex at 14 or younger.
Labour has criticised the call, instead saying school children need mandatory sex education.
Luciana Berger, the shadow Public Health Minister, said: “Labour has called for improved sex and relationship education, and tabled amendments to recent legislation for it to be made mandatory, not voluntary, in all schools.”
Peter Tatchell wrote in a blog for The Huffington Post that “society has moved on to more informed and enlightened attitudes about sex” since the existing law was introduced more than 100 years ago.
He said: “Criminalisation, even if rarely actioned, is wrong. It sends a hostile signal to teenagers.”