Former Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall has posited that in light of recent calls for the age of consent to be raised to 18 years old, it is advisable that Government agencies embark on countrywide consultations before making a decision.
These sentiments come after a petition was launched by non-governmental organisation (NGO), “The Caribbean Voice” (TCV) on March 25 for the age of sexual consent to be raised to 18 years. Currently, the age of consent in Guyana is 16 years, while the age of majority is 18; and thus far, the petition for this amendment to the Sexual Offences Act has attracted significant support on social media, and over 100 signatories who support the call.
The petition states that the fact that the age of sexual consent is at such a young age – 16 years – is possibly a factor of the increased cases of teenage pregnancies, which incidentally can lead to higher suicide rates and more often than not, condemn young mothers and their children to lives of hardship.
The NGO is of the opinion that by increasing the age of sexual consent to 18, the Government will be one step closer to tackling the issues of teenage pregnancy and suicide in the country.
However, the former Legal Affairs Minister stated that while the idea may seem feasible to the supporters and TCV, it is important that regard be paid to how the current age of consent was arrived at. “Our laws are similar to other Commonwealth jurisdictions, and in the Commonwealth, generally the age of consent is fixed at 16 years,” he stated.
He explained that the Sexual Offences Act of Guyana was only drafted, passed and enacted in 2010, and this was done after meticulous consultation exercises.