Spotlight seeks reform to stop criminalising adolescents who have consensual sex
Young people under the age of 16 who have sex with each other freely should no longer be criminalised, argues the Grenada Spotlight Initiative, a legal reform project supporting so-called ‘Romeo clause’ legislation.
The criminalisation of consensual sexual acts among adolescents, Spotlight argues, results in the conviction of boys and their possible imprisonment for up to 15 years in some cases, an unacceptable outcome which blights lives.
In addition, it is argued that criminalising consensual sexual acts among adolescents can impede their right to access sexual reproductive health (SRH) services and lead to stigmatisation of their normal sexual development. It can also prevent young women from seeking contraception and result in unintended pregnancies, HIV or other STIs.
“We ask that lawmakers and stakeholders recognise that existing laws criminalising consensual sex are mainly aimed at stopping adults from engaging in sexual acts with children – they should not be used against young people exploring their sexuality. That’s why we support ‘Romeo clauses”.
International best practice is moving towards the decriminalisation of consensual sexual acts among adolescents. The focus is more on educative approaches that will instead enable and empower young people to make informed choices about their SRH rights and needs.
‘Romeo clauses’ have been adopted in other countries, such as Canada, South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago. This is where exemptions from prosecution exist if both adolescents are consenting, it is non-exploitative and the age difference is relatively small. In Grenada, the call is also to extend such protection to same sex minors.
Further notes Spotlight Initiative
The European Union partnering with the United Nations launched the Spotlight Initiative to secure political commitments and catalyse global actions aimed at eliminating violence against women worldwide. The initiative currently operates in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific, providing funding, capacity and connection building, programmatic support and other forms of assistance towards its purpose of eliminating VAWG.
The Grenada Spotlight Initiative “is designed to focus attention, coordinate human effort, and strategically apply resources to the implementation of a well-conceived comprehensive national programme to contribute to end family violence and all forms of violence against women and in Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique”. The initiative is organised around six pillars of programming, namely: (1) ‘Legislative and Policy Frameworks’, (2) ‘Strengthening Institutions’, (3) Prevention and Social Norms, (4) ‘Delivery of High Quality, Essential Services (5) Data Availability and Capacities’, and (6), ‘Supporting Women’s Movements’.
The proposed legal reforms fall under Pillar 1 – Laws and Policies and addresses the legislative and policy gaps that create an environment of impunity as it relates to violence against women and girls. This focus is the context of “the current challenges with effective implementation of several … laws and policies and the ability to translate them into meaningful impact in the lives of the intended beneficiaries,” as noted in the Spotlight Programme Report (2019). The challenges include “general lack of awareness amongst stakeholders about new policy and legislation…”