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Ghana must change age of sexual consent to 18 – Population health analyst

Sexual intercourse or sex is an important act that human beings engage in.

Sexual Partners engage in sex for various reasons. Some people engage in sex for the purpose of achieving sexual satisfaction. Others engage in sex for the purpose of pro-creation. Regardless of whatever reason that influence people to engage in sex, the fact remains that sexual intercourse is an important aspect of human life.

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Several benefits have been associated with sex. It is believed that sex helps to reduce stress and improve the mood of individuals. Sex is also believed to improve the physical well-being of those who engage in it. Moreover, sexual intercourse helps to deepen the bond that exists between two sexual partners. There is no doubt that sexual intercourse helps in improving the social, physical and emotional well-being of people.

While sex has several benefits, the age at which individuals begin to have sex determines the life trajectory of those individuals. In Ghana, the criminal code stipulate that the legal age of sexual consent is 16 years. At the same time, the law stipulates that the age of adulthood which is also the age at which one can get married is 18. The gap in the age of adulthood and age of sexual consent is a cause for worry.

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Having different ages for adulthood and sexual consent portends grave danger for young people. Firstly, having different ages for sexual consent and adulthood is likely to have repercussions in terms of unsafe and illegal abortion. This is so because young people may experiment sex before they get married. This could lead to unwanted pregnancy in the event that they do not use protection. Taking into consideration the fact that Ghana is a highly conservative society, those who get pregnant might not be comfortable in divulging that they are pregnant or keeping the pregnancy. As a result, they are likely to engage in illegal and unsafe abortion. Illegal and unsafe abortion inherently can result in medical complications as well as death.

Also, having different ages for sexual consent and adulthood may play critical role in the occurrence of child marriage. This is so because some parents and guardians in the Ghanaian society may hold the view that their underaged children are sexually matured. In effort to use their children as alleviating household poverty, this parent may consequently marry off their children. This is especially the case for young girls. The future and education of the victims of child marriage get truncated. If the law is changed and the age of adulthood and sexual consent is aligned, it will go a long way to contribute to reducing child marriage in Ghana.

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Another possible harm that may arise as a result of the age of sexual consent and adulthood not being aligned is the issues of transmission of sexually transmitted infection. In the Ghanaian socio-cultural context, parents and guardians shy away from discussion issues concerning sex with their children. Most parents hold the view that children will learn these things when they grow.

However, most of the young people engage extensively in sexual activities and most times do not use sexual protection. As long as the young people assume the age of 16 and they give consent, the sexual intercourse cannot be criminalize legally. However, most of these young people do not have extensive knowledge on sexually transmitted infections and how to prevent it. Shifting the age of sexual consent to 18 years to align with the age of adulthood will ensure that most young people are able to acquire some appreciable knowledge regarding sexual transmitted infection and the use of sexual protection.

An interest dimension to the problem at hand is the issue of adults who sleep with young men and women. There are instances where men sleep with girls who at 16 years of age. However, in the case that there is sexual consent from the young girls before commencement of the sexual intercourse, most of the men end up being jailed for defilement. This is so because sometimes parents end up influencing their children to falsely accuse the men of defiling them without consent. Aligning the age of sexual consent with the age of adulthood will help to deal with this problem.

This is so because once young girls and boys turn 18 and engage in sex, they are considered adults. It will be difficult for them to falsely accuse their sexual partners of rape or defilement. This will ensure that innocent people are not thrown into jail.

There’s also a social, biological and economic dimension to the need to align the age of sexual consent with the age of adulthood. In terms of the social dimension, most of the young women who engage in sexual intercourse before 18 years may be subjected to some social stigma. This is the case because these young women may end being pregnant. Teenagers who get pregnant especially below the age of 18 years face a lot of social stigma within the Ghanaian contest.

Most of the stigmatisation comes from their peers, health workers as well as their families. This could lead to depression, suicidal ideation as well as marginalisation from the society. This equally goes for boys below 18 who impregnate their mates.

When it comes to the economic dimension, most of the young women who get pregnant are not able to take care of themselves or the baby. This is so because they are not empowered educationally to be able to get jobs that can pay them enough money needed to cater for themselves or their babies. This therefore result in situations where they have to depend on their family members and friends for survival. Most of the girls end up engaging in prostitution just to survive. For the underage boys who impregnate their females peers, they often tend to abandon their sexual partners due to their inability to cater for them and their babies. This creates serious financial burden in the society.

The biological aspect of the problem narrows down to the fact that some of the underage girls who engage in sexual intercourse get pregnant. However, some of them might not be physically matured enough to be able to carry the baby during the gestation period till delivery and to have safe delivery. Often times the life of the mother or the baby gets compromise. It therefore brings to question whether there was a scientific and empirical foundation for us as a country to have a lower age for sexual consent and a higher age for adulthood.

There is the need for us as a country to think critically on whether it is acceptable to have age of sexual consent and age of adulthood being different. The minister in charge of gender, attorney general and the president must take step to shift the age of sexual consent to 18. Parliament must also play a role to ensure that this is done. This is to ensure that the well-being of the young people is protected.

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