Many people were upset when a 21-year-old national bowler escaped imprisonment recently for statutory rape, after the appeals court bound him over for five years instead for good behaviour.
The appeals court had set aside a five-year jail term by the high court in lieu of the good behaviour bond.
The bowler committed the offence against a 13-year-old girl in June 2009, according to Bernama, which means that he was only 18 at that time.
According to a report by The Star in 2011, both of them were lovers at the time of the incident.
Bernama reported the appeals court as saying that the consensual sexual relationship between the two was considered, as well as the fact that the bowler had a “bright future”.
Some people questioned if he was given a lighter sentence due to his fame as a national tenpin bowling ace.
Rather than condemn the judiciary for supposedly letting off a young man because of his status, we should commend them for imposing on a 21-year-old an alternative punishment to imprisonment.
After all, he was only 18 when he had sex with the 13-year-old girl. Does he deserve to go to jail for having sex with his girlfriend?
All we know from the media is that they were lovers at that time. We don’t know if he knew she was 13, or if he knew that it was illegal to have sex with a girl below the age of 16.
The judiciary must realise, however, that every youth has a bright future, regardless of whether they are a bowler or a regular joe playing Warcraft all day.
Hence, this case should be a precedent for similar cases involving all sorts of youths, not just famous athletes.
An 18-year-old man having sex with a 13-year-old girlfriend is vastly different from a 40-year-old man getting it on with a girl less than half his age, or a girl being forced into having sex.
I am a feminist and believe that all children should be protected, especially from sexual abuse.
Perpetrators in the last two cases deserve the harshest punishment like imprisonment as they are clear examples of sexual abuse.
But in the bowler’s case, he may not have intended to sexually abuse his girlfriend.
Both boys and girls below the age of 16 are likely not mature enough to understand the physical and emotional effects of having sex, among other things. Hence, the age of consent is necessary to protect them.
Will consensual sex among teenagers be deterred by sending this bowler, who is barely an adult and can’t even vote yet, to jail?
I don’t think so.
Teenagers will simply keep their sex lives a secret. Teenage girls may lie about their age, or even have abortions to save their partners from being jailed.
We should not be asking ourselves whether a young man should be sent to jail for having sex with his teenage girlfriend.
Instead, we should ask ourselves why a 13-year-old girl had sex at such a tender age. Was it peer pressure? Did her partner pressure her into having sex because they were in love? Did she see some TV shows and want to experiment?
Teenagers need to be taught that it is not okay to have sex below the age of 16 because they may simply not be mature enough to handle sex, especially when unwanted pregnancies occur.
They need to know how to handle romantic relationships in their early teenage years, as well as their sexual desires.
Sending young people to jail is not going to teach teenagers anything, except to have sex without getting caught.
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