ARE CONSENT LAWS ROOTED IN RACISM?
The age of consent in America has a very broad and peculiar history in the American justice system. The age of consent has been a widely debated legal topic dating back to the early 1800s. During this period, the age of consent was just seven years old. The age of consent was set in place to ensure the safety of little girls and younger women from sexual exploitation. While debating where to set the age of consent, there were different arguments against raising the age of consent. Many debates had a common denominator: racism. One analyst has said of the arguments, “many were well rooted in fear and disdain for young women, specifically, young Black girls living in southern America.” Consequently, in the south, the argument for an increase in the legal age of consent met with much opposition due to the fear of cross-racial lawsuits. This led to the age of consent remaining at seven years old throughout the 1800s. Eventually, during the nineteenth to early twentieth century, the age of consent was raised to 16 years old. Women in America from across all racial and class demographics argued against the racism that influenced these laws. This article will apply a critical and analytical lens on the arguments against raising the age of consent.
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