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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Legislature set to pass bill raising consent age

By Ronna Bolante
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

State lawmakers are poised to pass a controversial bill that would outlaw sex between minors who are less than 16 years old and adults who are at least five years older.

House and Senate lawmakers resolved differences in their respective versions of the bill yesterday at a conference committee.

The proposal now goes to the full House and Senate for final approval.

Present law prohibits sex with minors younger than 14. Under House Bill 236, which would raise that age, adult violators would face a mandatory prison sentence of up to 20 years.

"We're very pleased that there was a consensus from the House and Senate and across party lines to take steps to protect our children from adult sexual predators," said Kelly Rosati, executive director of Hawaii Family Forum.

The bill faced strong opposition from Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle, who has said it would not solve the problem of adults taking advantage of minors. Carlisle has argued that minors often are unwilling to testify against their "boyfriends" in these cases, which makes prosecution impossible.

Carlisle has also criticized the bill's penalties, arguing it would unnecessarily impose one of the state's harshest sentences on violators.

Sen. David Matsuura, D-2nd (S. Hilo, Puna), said he expects a conference committee to approve a bill tomorrow that would toughen penalties for the commercial sexual exploitation of minors. Under House Bill 978, proprietors of strip clubs, escort agencies and massage parlors that employ minors could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and face revocation of business licenses and forfeiture of property.

Matsuura said, "We'll be offering substantially more protection for our daughters and girls."