Its amazing how magical the age of 16 is! There is a whole big section in Wikipedia just on the age of 16! I have reproduced parts of that so that the importance of this age can be better understood. Here goes (courtesy Wiki):
- Sixteen is the minimum age for being allowed an official beginners driver's license with parental consent in many U.S. states and in Canada. In Australia, Iceland, Norway and the Isle of Man, it is the age one can begin to get a learner's licence
- Sixteen is the minimum age for getting an adult job in most states and provinces across the globe
- In the United States, female sixteen-year-olds earn the right to privacy laws surrounding OBGYN (Obstetrics and Gynaecology) practices.
- In the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy, it is the legal minimum age for a person to purchase any tobacco product
- For its "coming of age" significance, this age has inspired the titles of many songs, such as "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen", "You're Sixteen", "Sweet Sixteen", "U16 Girls" "Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Sixteen Candles"
- Sixteen is the minimum age to get married with parental consent in many countries and without parental consent in Scotland
- In the Netherlands, sixteen is the age when all adult rights are granted, but the age of majority is 18
- Minimum age at which one can donate blood with parental consent in many states
- Minimum age at which one can join the Armed Forces in the United Kingdom
- Voting age in the Isle of Man, Austria and Nicaragua.
And two more features which is the subject of this post:
- In the United States, sixteen is the most common age of sexual consent. Sixteen is also the legal age for sex in many foreign countries, including the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
- Sixteen is the legal drinking age in Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands and Portugal
So yes, I am a big supporter of the government’s move to reduce the age for consensual sex to 16. Its clear from developmental data that 16 is the new 18 and there really can be no reason to arrest young adults of age 16 for expressing their new found “wisdom”.
What I am keen to see is the reaction of the religion-based parties of the country. The Muslims are obviously going to oppose the move, considering how orthodox their agenda has traditionally been. But I am quite sure even the Hindu parties – most notably the BJP – are going to oppose this move. There has been this eerie silence from the BJP in the run up to this decision by the government. It’s like the BJP has been holding its horses till the government decided. Well, now that it has done so, expect a furious retort from the BJP! And what about the Left parties. Now I would normally expect them to be liberal minded, but in an election year, anything is possible. So lets wait for the fireworks!
The BJP will of course tell us that “bharatiya sanskruti” is under attack. That an Italian lady is messing with India’s “ancient” traditions. That this government is asking young people to break the “maryada” even though as Sandeep Dixit of the Congress has clarified recently that the move is not intended to promote sex amongst the 16 year olds. It is only meant to decriminalize the issue. The BJP can also be expected to accuse the Congress of trying to woo the youngsters; that this is just a way of getting their votes (even though voting starts at 18, youngsters would surely appreciate this move). And so on and so forth. The fun begins now!
The issue that this positive step raises however is about the age of drinking. I have argued many times that drinking per se is not such a bad thing. It becomes bad only when drinking is abused. Raising the legal limit for drinking to 25 makes us look like a prudish society; certainly out of sync with our liberal ambitions. Besides, the question gains a lot of new currency – now that the age for consensual sex has been lowered. What possible reason can the government give for increasing the age for drinking? If we trust the young to be mature enough to handle a complex subject like sex, why can’t we trust them with something far less complex (and harmful) like drinking?
The one last important point with respect to the age 16 – and again in line with the same logic as described above – is that the age for defining juveniles should be brought down to 16. A 16 year old of today is physically stronger than an 18 year old of 50 years back, thanks to much better nutrition levels. Also the exposure to worldly news and views is far more today, so youngsters grow up far faster.
Those who argue that 16 year olds are still babies, and not worthy of being called adults, should consider some of the readily available statistics: Just look at the under 16 cricket team – they are all strapping young men capable of cricket….and much more! So many songs have been written about the age of 16, and I can’t think of anything more appropriate than Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ‘69”, composed not surprisingly when he was 16 (the album was released in 1985)! Want more? Justin Bieber, the “young” heart throb of millions around the world (followed by 36 million on twitter!) released his first full length studio album “My world 2.0” when he was 16 (this info also from Wiki). Here’s one more. Sachin Tendulkar was exactly 16 when he made his international debut, playing against Pakistan. So “koi shak” about 16????!
The real truth is that the decision to lower the age for consensual sex to 16 is a good one. The government must follow this by lowering the age for drinking also to 16 (for light drinks). This is the new world. Life begins early!