DCSIMG

GAY SEX AGE LOWERED TO 16

GAY sex at 16 will be legal from September 1. And the controversial scrapping of section 38 – which made the promotion of homosexuality illegal – will also come into force.

The Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act will come into force, equalising the age of consent for gay and straight couples and finally removing section 38 – both moves felt by many to be long-overdue.

The law also makes internet grooming and abuse of position offences.

When government went out for consultation on the proposed bill it sparked little interest. However, when one respondent suggested the opportunity should be taken to repeal section 38 there was controversy.

While many were shocked to find the section – mirroring the UK's section 28, removed many years ago – still existed, others battled hard for it to be retained.

Education Minister David Anderson was one of those strongly in favour of retaining the rule, despite claims it was preventing teachers from giving much-needed advice to youngsters confused about their sexuality.

His comments, including claims gay relationships should not be presented as equal to straight ones and that homosexuality carried health risks, outraged many.

The Council of Ministers ducked the issue, leaving it to an amendment by Peel MHK Hazel Hannan for section 38 to be repealed.

Government has tried to stress the chief aim of the law is to crack down on sex offenders who target young people over the internet or abuse positions of trust to take advantage of their charges.

An adult who travels to meet a person under 16 following sexual grooming will be guilty of an offence, even if sexual activity does not take place, or if the meeting is prevented, as long as the adult's intentions can be proved.

It will also be an offence for anyone who is over the age of 18 to enter into a sexual relationship with someone aged 16 or 17 when they are in a position of trust, which is limited to circumstances where a young person is particularly vulnerable or the relationship of trust is particularly strong.

That could include teachers and students, health workers and patients and care workers or youth justice workers looking after young people in a home or institution.

Anyone found guilty could face a fine or up to five years in jail, as well as being put on the sex offenders register.

Home Affairs Minister John Shimmin said: 'Protecting vulnerable children and young people from adults who might try to take advantage of them sexually is of the utmost importance.

'We must do whatever we can to prevent the sexual grooming of children, but I also believe that most people in the Island would consider it unacceptable for a responsible adult to have a sexual relationship with a young person who is in their care.

'In addition to being able to prosecute them for the first time, I hope the fact that anyone found guilty will have their name placed on the sex offenders' registrar will have a strong deterrent effect.'

 
 
 

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