SVG’s Opposition Leader wants age of consent increased

KINGSTOWN – Opposition Leader Godwin Friday has reiterated his support for increasing the age of consent, saying that while 15 “definitely” is “too low”, the new age should be decided after consultation with the public.

“As to the exact age, that is something, of course, that can be discussed as well,” Friday said, adding that his view as well as that of his New Democratic Party and the public is that the age should be increased.

“If you look around the world, you will find that between 16 and 17 tends to be around what the higher level is,” Friday said on a radio programme here, noting that some people have called for it to be 18 while others have said 21.

“But this is something I believe that we must have some public discussion about it. But definitely, I agree 15 is too low and it should be raised.”

Friday said the NDP has discussed the matter.

“And the proposal is between 16 and 17, which is the age group that most people are talking — 16 and 18. But again, I would prefer to have a more broader public discussion on the issue, not just the age of consent.”

He said the age of consent is “critically important, but the whole problem of sexual violence in our society and the abuse of girls and women and so forth that you find is too prevalent in St Vincent and Grenadines as a broader question that should be addressed as well”.

Friday said that the NDP had canvassed the issue in its discussions about crime, adding that the age of consent is an important part of that discussion.

“But what I believe …should be done and has been lacking is that you should have forums where these matters are addressed by persons who have expressed their views about it, persons who are affected.

“You’re thinking about school teachers, church leaders, ordinary people, young people, and so on,” he said, suggesting a fora like town hall meetings and presentations by expert groups.

“Because this is something that is not just affecting you in St Vincent. There are other countries in the Caribbean who have looked at it as well and looked more broadly at how you deal with the problem of crime, sexual crimes and so forth against women and girls.”

He said the fora can give people a chance to express their views.

Friday said he has even heard talk of increasing the age of consent to 21.

“I don’t think that that is practical. But certainly, between the ages of 16 and 18 is where most opinions are expressed.” (CMC)

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