Let’s give youth the authority it deserves

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From Paul Williams.

I WRITE with reference to Donald McGregor’s letter (JEP 5 December) regarding statutory rights. In suggesting that laws regarding such rights are wrongly decided, he misses a few important points.

Mr McGregor begins by stating that 16-year-olds are allowed to marry and have children and further claims that they are often unable to provide for their upkeep. Maybe so, but this is also the case with older parents. It is a minority of 16-year-olds who have children, let alone who are married.

Furthermore, he mentions the law passed allowing those over the age of 16 to practise homosexuality. In his view, they ‘won the right to be homosexual and lesbian’, although clearly he does not realise that perhaps they deserved this right rather than earned it like some kind of privilege. Perhaps it would be useful for Mr McGregor to recognise that this law amended the previous one which criminalised gay people between the ages of 16 and 18.

It may be useful for him to also consider the psychological welfare of young gay people before, and perhaps still now after the law has been changed – as the feeling of inferiority due to homophobic bullying and marginalisation experienced by some gay people was, in a sense, given the nod by a law which almost suggested that they ought to be treated differently.

Indeed, this raises the issue of whether some of the language used to describe homosexuality should be legally available for use in the media. It truly is puzzling to read that Mr McGregor was ‘horrified’ the day the law was changed (exactly why he felt that way is left unexplained), although that day, for those it affected, was surely a liberating one nonetheless.

The letter goes on to complain about the fact that 16-year-olds now have the right to vote. They should have the right to vote. A 16-year-old paying tax in full-time employment, for example, should have the right to decide how his or her taxes are being spent via choosing which politicians would represent their interests best.

Mr McGregor suggests that it is inconsistent to introduce a law banning the sale of harmful products to those under 18. The sale of such items being restricted would not be too dissimilar to the fact that admission into licensed premises has the same age restriction. The same could be said of alcohol and tobacco sold in shops. Moreover, each statutory right is different and should be viewed as such – which might explain the different age limits.

Not once in his letter does Mr McGregor suggest what an alternative age would be alongside each statutory right; nor does he put forward any reasons for his disagreement. Moreover, comparing the legal age of consent, for example, to the legal age to buy alcohol would simply not add up.

He then states: ‘Wisdom comes through experience and time, not when you are 16, 18 or even 21’. Wisdom is not just consistent with age and experience; wisdom is consistent with intelligence, intellect and questioning the world around us.

If Mr McGregor claims to possess the ‘final quality of human wisdom’ that he feels people in authority lack, perhaps he should question what type of wisdom is as outdated, homophobic and ageist as his own appears to be.

Clos du Poivre,

Rue du Becquet,


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