Get married at 14

Two Toronto groups are opposing any attempt by the federal

government to raise the age of consent for sex.

“It’s just another burden that the kid will have to carry,” says the Coalition For Lesbian And Gay Rights In Ontario’s Christine Donald. “You’re told that homosexuality is wrong, that homosexuality is immoral and now they’ll be told it’s illegal.”

CLGRO and the AIDS Committee Of Toronto (ACT) have both sent responses to the Department Of Justice warning that raising the age of consent to 16 from 14 will severely affect gay and lesbian youth.

“A problem with sexual identity is shown to be the biggest cause of

teenage suicide,” reads CLGRO’s statement. “Raising the age of consent to 16 would give homophobic parents an extra weapon to use against their children.”

The law sets the age of consent at 14 (unless the older person is in a position of authority over the child, in which case the age is 18). The age of consent for anal sex is also supposedly 18, but courts have ruled the distinction unconstitutional.

Provincial justice ministers have been calling for an age increase, and a federal consultation paper expresses concern that the current age “is too low to provide effective protection from sexual exploitation by adults.”

Both CLGRO and ACT staff are worried that a change would make it even harder to teach safer sex and tolerance in the schools.

“It would diminish people’s ability to do suicide prevention,” says

Donald. “You can’t rely on parents to do it. We have to be in the


ACT expresses similar concerns.

“Will raising the age of consent motivate school boards and public

health departments to change sexual health curricula or other educational outreach so as to make HIV/AIDS prevention information less available to young people in school? Will there be increased

public pressure to reduce or eliminate sexual health and AIDS prevention education in the schools?”

ACT’s Mar 13 position paper states that a change would also affect “marginalized youth,” especially those living on the streets or working as prostitutes.

“Will raising the age of consent marginalize these young people further, pushing them underground and away from services that would help them avoid HIV infection?”

ACT also worries that access to health services might be limited under a new law.

“Will raising the age of consent interfere with young people’s access to appropriate and ethical health care services including HIV and sexually transmitted infections testing and treatment, birth control, abortion services, emergency contraception and safer sex materials including condoms, female condoms, spermicides and dental dams?”

CLGRO’s Mar 3 document also points out that the government has not discussed raising the age at which one can get married from 14. This would discriminate against gay men and lesbians, who cannot legally get married.

“You might want to ask why if someone can’t consent to sex, they’re able to consent to marriage, which if you think about it, has more significant burdens,” says Donald.

Krishna Rau

Krishna Rau is a Toronto-based freelance writer with extensive experience covering queer issues.

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