Saturday, January 27, 2001
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Posted on: Saturday, January 27, 2001

Low age of consent results in exploitation

The age of sexual consent in Hawai’i — 14 — is the lowest in the nation. The state Legislature should not fail to raise it this year.

The chief objection to raising the age of consent has been the difficulty in prosecuting statutory rape cases. Experts say the girls are often reluctant to testify.

That raises the question of whether the right approach to protecting these girls is through extended social services rather than tougher laws.

The answer is that more social services are surely needed, but so is a sophisticated age-of-consent law.

The objection to previous legislation is overcome by a refinement that would make it a crime to have sex with a girl under the age of 18 — if the partner is substantially older than the girl.

There is no point in prosecuting kids for having sex with kids. It’s been going on since Romeo and Juliet. But predatory older men preying on young girls presents a serious problem that must be dealt with.

Kelly Rosati, executive director of Hawai’i Family Forum, has written in these pages that in Hawai’i, any man would go to jail for 20 years for so-called consensual sex with a 13-year-old — that’s statutory rape. But your 14-year-old daughter’s 35-year-old soccer coach is entirely within his legal rights having sexual relations with her.

It’s not just soccer coaches. Rosati writes that adult male perpetrators in our community lure girls into the commercial sex industry by first becoming their "boyfriends." These girls end up in strip bars, massage parlors and prostitution.

And these girls are fair game under present law. That’s "absurd public policy," says Rosati. We agree. Lawmakers should raise the statutory rape age to 16 when the adult is 20 or older.

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