The age of maturity

Ben brought up an interesting topic in this month’s Humanist Community of Leeds meeting. The topic was the discrepancy between the age of sexual consent and the age at which you can vote.

I’ve heard the argument before, and similar ones that I don’t buy in to – for example, you can pay tax at 16 but you can’t vote until you’re 18, therefore it could be suggested it is unfair that you pay tax to a government you can’t vote for.

I don’t find this a credible argument because you don’t necessarily pay tax as a way of gaining a vote in democracy. You’re vote in democracy is a guaranteed right, even if you’re not paying any tax at all – it simply isn’t available until you’re ready to make an informed decision. The reason you pay tax is primarily to pay for public services such as hospitals and schools, which you almost certainly have been making use of at the age of 16.

The argument for having a different age for sexual consent and voting is a less clear cut one though. Indeed, Ben made a very powerful argument that I think may be winning me over.

The reason we don’t let people vote until they are 18 is because we’re worried they would vote for the wrong political party – a lot of them might vote for the Monster Raving Looney Party, or the BNP, or the Greens, or one of the many other fringe parties and being the pretentious grown up real adults we are, we don’t approve of such free spiritedness.

But it’s very hard to make the case that they can do more damage with a vote, than they can do by having sexual relations.

Actually, having a vote probably won’t make any difference. Voter turn out is low in young people anyway, let along even younger people and at the end of the day, it’s only one vote and there are lots more people aged 18 or over than there are aged 16 or 17.

Sex however, can be quite damaging. Initially it could appear this is primarily damaging to themselves which is perhaps why we allow it (whereas voting for the wrong political party would be damaging to society and is therefore not allowed), but of course sexual relations can be incredibly damaging to society.

Unwanted children are a huge problem because they don’t get properly parented and therefore become out of control kids and eventually grow up to become criminals, breaking into your house and filling up those prisons that your tax money pays for. Not to mention the possibility of ending up in care, which our tax money also pays for.

In fact, one of the biggest reductions in crime has come from legalising abortion[1], simply because most of the unwanted pregnancies that would have previously been born and grown up to become criminals are now getting aborted. Unwanted pregnancies cause problems, as do STIs which are also prevalent with young people who engage in regular exual intercourse with multiple partners.

Therefore, giving how damaging it is in society, it is very difficult to justify having a higher age for voting than you do for sexual consent.



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This entry was posted on Saturday, November 26th, 2011 at 12:45 pm and is filed under Religion & Politics, Thoughts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.