Monday, November 2, 2009

"It's basically kids having sex".

Nov 1, 2009
Straits Times
When teens have sex...
Such cases involving teens who are in love are hard to prosecute, says Attorney-General
By Shuli Sudderuddin

SHOULD teens in love be prosecuted if they have underage sex?

There is no easy answer here.

Other cases involving underage sex — for example, when one party is an adult — may have a clear-cut answer, but teen cases are hard to prosecute, said Attorney-General Walter Woon.

“It’s basically kids having sex.What do you do if the couple think they’re in love? It’s less easy if the girl consents,” he noted.


Professor Woon listed four types of underage sex.

The first is when the perpetrator is an adult and the victim does not consent; the second, when the perpetrator is an adult and the victim consents; and the third, when the perpetrator is under 18 and the victim does not consent.

But it is the fourth type — when both participants are underage and have consensual sex — that is complicated. Prof Woon referred to this type as ‘Category 4’ cases.

Since both parties are young and in a consensual relationship, taking them to court can be traumatic for everyone involved.

He cited the case of a 15-year-old boy who got his underage girlfriend pregnant. “The problem is, do we send the boy to jail? What good would that do?” said Prof Woon.

He said that in the case of a relationship that is consensual or long- term, the law usually leans towards warning, as opposed to prosecuting, offenders.

“You need to balance this against the outrage that the girl’s family may feel. They may feel humiliated and taken advantage of, and may ask why we are being so lenient with this fellow.”

He said it is very hard to make rules to deal with such cases as each must be looked at individually.

Prof Woon noted that the law is a “blunt instrument” as it forces the boy to think twice and take responsibility for his actions — by making sex with a girl under 14 illegal and indefensible.

He said: “It is not easy and this is where the non-governmental organisations, the community services play a part. The judges cannot do very much by themselves. Sending them to jail per se will not make them reflect on their lives. That is the last thing that is going to happen. But good or ill, this is the framework that we have.”

(Full article.)
This underage sex thing is indeed complicated.

If a minor has sex with an adult, the adult likely lands in prison. If an underage girl has sex with an underage boy, the boy gets reformative training and probation. (I'm not up-to-speed with the laws of Singapore in this area, but I believe that a boy younger than the girl will nevertheless end up in hotter soup.)

I wholly support maintaining our statutory rape laws between adult and minor, and I do also agree that the law needs reform on consensual sex between consensual minors. So here, I applaud Attorney General, Professor Walter Woon's enlightened view that "It's basically kids having sex".

(I take my hat off, Dear Sir.)

In terms of adult-minor sex, I echo Magical Chicken generally: adults, please "don't fuck children". Their innocence is theirs to own and develop in cadence with their peers, not with or for you. Regardless of whether or not a minor is always offering his/her daisies and asks to take the adult's sunflowers, it is an adult responsibility to avoid all that deflowering. Society and this male unfeminist pig, in fact, expects the adult to not only understand the problem but also lead by example, or at the very least exercise some restraint.

So if an adult decides to breach the law, then you prove yourself irresponsible and incapable of dealing with the greaters freedoms afforded to you. Ergo, should arguably be put out of circulation for a while.


The way our current law has been framed is that people below 16 have the least life experience, education, maturity, etc to make an informed *enough* decision to do right or wrong about somethings. That compassionate stance is, I think, great. They are also rightly deemed most susceptible to influence by someone older, given the nature of our very limiting and limited older-(often adult)-mentor/ young-mentee socialising at that age. These young people are therefore afforded the least political and rights and access, which is why we cede a lot of proxy to parents and guardians. It also explains why we do not trust our young'ns to, for example, drive, carry arms, or *consent* to sex.

Statutory rape laws begin from the place where minors cannot even give any real consent, which also means that they cannot really initiate sex as well. Yet in this folly olympics between an underage boy and underage girl, it is often the boy held culpable. There're reasons for this bias like biological consequences (e.g. pregnancy) that have very severe consequnces for women--harking back to their health and our institutional control over their bodies, although I suspect much of it stems from people's unholy obsession with women's virginity. For most scenarios, I highly doubt crucifying the boy (or girl) will improve anything.

I think folly of youth should be treated as exactly that: the folly of youth, in all its celebrations and lamentations. Young people aren't impervious to love, sexual impulses or curiosity. Regardless of what our laws and schools tell them, they're going to fall in love, and some of them are going to touch each other's flowers. Instead of automatically exerting reformative action--suggesting therein that there's something essentially wrong in love at a young age, I think we should encourage them to learn and grow into their adult responsibilities. This will mean that we don't also expect them to turn within seconds from an immature 15 year-old, whose understanding of his/her sexual rights is deemed a legal folly, into a responsible young 16 year-old adult, whose still arguably youthful folly is suddenly and magically worthy of the greater weight of our laws.

This means two things, I think.

Firstly, the law can introduce an age relativity clause allowing, for example, the compassion to be accorded to nuanced pairings. This means that consensual sex between two young people of the same or even a year age gap, are not automatically thrown the litany of reformative action. Although, I will not profess to know what action, if any, they should face; perhaps they need to be sent for all sorts of medical tests to check for diseases or a bud, and then be nagged at for very, very long about the importance of being safe and planning for their future. I really don't know, but I'll revisit this after I've contemplated about it longer.

Secondly, this also forces young people to learn what consent really means. It's deeply regretful that a lot of internet discussions surrounding No To Rape proves that even adults have a hard time grasping the concept of consent. Non-consent or incapacitated, forced or groomed consent by someone else of stronger influence will always be considered rape, which first needs to be investigated, proven and brought to our courts accordingly.

Young people's sexuality education courses, then, can begin from a place where students are not treated as complete imbeciles who have not heard of Teh Interwebz or are unable to give consent responsibly. It can then be programmed to argue the different possibilities, such as contraceptives, other models of sexual engagement/ expressions of love, and even abstinence by their own merits. Averting the sweep-under-carpet hushing that underage sex is just illegal, this then allows us to focus always that respecting mutual-consent, our right to bodily safety and hopes for the future as imperatives, which is a more meaningful if we don't begin first with threats. Hopefully, these young people, who are going to one day be in all sorts of acrobatic positions anyway, will then function in a more enlightened and safer place.

Let's be honest, our 'strong Asian values and culture' of frowning upon sex, emphasis on abstinence, and what-have-you are simply not working. Kids are not only increasingly having sex, but also starting at far earlier ages because every new generation of kids are much more sophisticated than the last--to the chagrin of lot of irrelevant Good 'Ole Days loving elders. This is not to say that, I think, all young people should and will get into an orgy--I have faith a lot of them have other better things to do. The least we, as adult humans and animals, can do is begin to realign ourselves, and see what sorts of new frameworks and lessons we can learn from the young people, and share what relevant experience we have with them.

This male unfeminist pig knows all this is going to sound like an unimaginable, family-wrecking, far-liberal, amoral vision, and that a lot of human beings are all going to go, "We don't want to listen to your pigheaded ideas, because we're not animals!" Well, I can sympathise that it's difficult to be human-headed, otherwise we wouldn't all be suffering from global warming today.

Okay, not a good rebuttal, but please, can just try?

Help: If you are a young person who needs solid advice on your sexual needs, I recommend the non-judgey, neutral and much more enlightened, professional services of AWARE, and especially for gay youths, Oogachaga.

(Speaking for me only. I thank Magical Chicken for the discussions we've previoously had at the barnhouse for some ideas expressed here.)

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