A senior Tory MP has questioned why there are no legal consequences for children who break the law by engaging in underage sex.
Tim Loughton, who made the comments during an interview with the Guardian newspaper, said: “How many kids get prosecuted for having underage sex? Virtually none.
“Where are the consequences of breaking the law and having irresponsible underage sex? There aren’t any.”
The Shadow Minister for Children and Young People blamed the nation’s high teenage pregnancy rate on the benefits system, and the “easy lifestyles portrayed in the media”.
And when asked if he was advocating more prosecutions for underage sex Mr Loughton replied: “We need to be tougher.
“Without sounding horribly judgmental, it is not a good idea to be a mum at 14. You are too young, throwing away your childhood and prospects of developing a career.”
But Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, dismissed the idea as “abhorrent”.
She said: “It’s widely recognised and accepted that young people are having sex at an earlier age. The notion of criminalising that activity, and in particular criminalising motherhood at any age, is abhorrent.”
This claim was refuted by Patricia Morgan, sociologist and author, who said: “The age of consent is there to protect children up to a certain age because they can’t necessarily judge things for themselves.”
She added: “I agree with Tim Loughton that we should be sending a message out. There should be more prosecutions.”
This approach to tackling the nation’s high rate of teenage pregnancies stands in stark contrast to Labour’s approach to the issue.
Last month it was revealed that the Government’s £280 million plan to half the number of teenage pregnancies between 2008 and 2010 is falling desperately short of its target.
The Government’s response was to ‘refresh’ their strategies, but many will see it as ploughing ahead with the same failed strategies.
The age of consent was raised to 16 during the Victorian era because girls as young as twelve were being sold into the sex trade.
The age of consent law stands at 16 thanks to the efforts of Christian campaigner, Josephine Butler, who fought to protect girls and prostitutes from liberal laws.
Listen to a lecture on the life and work of Josephine Butler: