It seems in recent times, with gay-hating groups getting trounced on the grounds of attacking homosexuality in terms of "nature versus nurture" and on the subject of Pride events - that they cling to that also disproved mainstay of the anti-gay movement - "homosexuals are pedophiles". Unable to argue the facts to the contrary in these other matters, they then try to show that gay people want to lower the age of consent "because they are after our children" - for the reason that they also push the cliche'd and just as inaccurate belief that gay people become gay through "recruiting".
When I was at school 16 was always the age of consent for girls and 18 for boys - heck I was 20 the first time I had sex - or even had a boyfriend. Back in those days I still looked like and lived as a boy and among the boys jokes were rife about "jail-bait" and underage "chicks" and statuatory rape.
Meanwhile many of my straight school mates had been bragging about their conquests since I was 14 or so - and some daring ones as far back when I was still at primary school. Many girls under 16 used to lie about their age anyway - and used to brag about it to their friends.
Many people around the world - date and even marry at 16 - with the support of their friends and family and without any pressure. It's certainly not a new thing. It seems the concept that one must be a certain age - or at least to be over 21 - to be allowed to marry is a fairly new concept. My own grandmother (born in 1898) married her only husband at 16, and they were very happy together until his death in military service in 1942 - and they had 7 children together.
Personally, I think 16 is old enough to grasp the concept of consent - but not really the consequences such as pregnancy or STD's. As conservative, racist, homophobic and heterosexist as the old government was, I think 16 should be the age of consent across the board, no matter the gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.
On the subject of age differences though, I can't understand a young person of 16 getting intimately involved with somebody much older (say 40 or so) - I just can't see the attraction from the 16 year old's part) - but as long as it is over the legal age of consent and consensual, it cannot be considered pedophilia - after all, many married couples have a twenty years difference between them.
A straight male friend of mine tended to prefer older women. At 16, he tended to look older than his true age and took pride in his half-shaved "designer stubble" look. When we were at high school he briefly dated a woman in her late 30's - and he did not spare the details when bragging of his "dirty weekends" away with her. This, while he also entertained some of the "wilder" girls from schools all over town, building on his reputation as a "playboy". If he were a woman he would have been called a "slut" - which just goes to show how sexist perceptions are taken at face value without any further thought.
It should also be noted that simply by lowering or increasing the legal age of consent, no law will prevent young people from having sex with each other - or from "being daring" and lying about their age to their older interests, which frequently happens with young people who look older than their age.
Also, increasing the age of consent can also be used as a tool to make people out to be "pedophiles", even if they are just 4 or 5 years older than their consenting partners and happen to be legally adult. Making different age laws of consent for gay and straight kids is unethical and grossly unfair. The law would intimate that a person knows what they are doing when they engage in heterosexual sex - but incapable of knowing what they want when engaging on same gender sex. I am sure you can see that this would lead to all sorts of inaccurate assumptions about gay people as well.
Let's take this a step further by looking at religious-based schools and places of education. Throughout the western world and here in SA, religious right groups are urging parents who buy into their right wing fairy tales and propaganda to take their children out of public schools and to educate them at home themselves - or to enroll them in "Christian" schools. When I was at school, yes there were prayers at assembly and occasional references to religion - but as far as we were concerned we were there to get an education - history, geography, biology, science, languages, and life skills such as business economics and typing and social development skills - not religion.
Religion was for Sunday-school or church, not school. And the funny thing is, nobody seemed concerned about it. There was no campaign to focus on religious indoctrination at the school. Sure, there was an SCA - "Student Christian Association" that met afternoons or break times - but you did not have to be a member. You also didn't have to be religious to attend school in those days - but now it seems some people are keen on forcing religion down innocent throats. Send your kids to a Christian fundamentalist school so they can get an education in a "biblical worldview" and maybe while they are there they might learn a few things about real life while they are there - like the fact that Satan put those dinosaur bones in the rock to trick us - and the Earth is only 6000 years old, at the center of the universe - and flat.
In my view, the "benefits" to constant 6 hour school days filled with religious indoctrination and the enforcement of the so-called literalist "biblical world view" on the unfortunate youths there are far outweighed by the negatives.
Naturally, such items as "promotion of homosexuality at schools" are touted as one of the main reasons for these fundamentalist parents decision. They are afraid of "child predators" and that gay people may "recruit" their children at a public school and turn them into sinners. Secondary to this I might add are considerations such as "quality of education" - by which they mean their children are not as indoctrinated in religious fundamentalism as the parents would prefer.
Well they sure are paranoid and deluded - first because gay people do not become gay through being "recruited" - and second, some of their children are already gay or trans and have been since birth - whether they like it or not. And thirdly, everybody is a sinner, if you buy into their mojo that is.
Quite a few "Christian" schools have made headlines around the globe recently by discriminating against, dismissing or expelling either teachers, staff or students because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Schools are employers too - and as such should not be allowed to discriminate.
It is a logical conclusion that if "Christian" schools can get away with discriminating against gay teachers they can get away with discriminating against gay students also, whether they expell them or not. The recent Moreletta Park case of 2008 in which a gay music teacher was fired for his sexual orientation - and awarded damages - was a political embarrassment for the religious right and they would dearly love to avoid another. A conservative legal group based in Cape Town (where else?) providing assistance to right wing anti-gay groups like Family Policy Institute recently made a contractual agreement form available to churches or religious bodies for prospective employees to sign on. Part of this focuses specifically on sexual orientation and would potentially give such bigoted organizations a "get out of court free" card if they want to fire any closeted gay people in future - or allow them to refuse employment - because "look - they signed the indemnity form". I personally have my doubts that such a document is worth the paper it will be printed on in a court of actual law.
If I were a parent of gay or trans kids, I would be very happy if the fundamentalists removed their bigoted little brats from public schools - and sent them to some fundamentalist bigot factory or boot camp far away. It would mean my kids would be safer and more likely to grow to adulthood without being bullied or victimized. Perhaps they might even reach 18 without ever hearing the word "faggot" being directed at them, or having used condoms dumped inside their school bags to find later. I would be happy for this, were it not for the other side of the coin. I didn't call such institutions "bigot factories" for nothing.
In most regular schools gay and trans students get a raw deal - and even more so in "Christian schools". Depending on the severity of the fundamentalism prevalent at the school in question, they will either be taught that same gender sex is wrong, disgusting and "evil" - or it will be ignored altogether in favor of heterosexual-only sex education - or no sex-education classes at all. Many gay or trans students will remain closeted, but if out, they will get discriminated against, taunted and bullied by classmates, punished by prejudiced staff. In some international cases students have been publicly embarrassed by being identified by staff in announcements, interviewed in the principals office - and some have their parents called in to discuss their child's "offences" and "delinquency". Often these students will at some point face expulsion and be treated like criminals - by the school, the church it is connected to - and their parents.
Shame, poor heterosexuals - they can't help being straight. Funny how some of them seem to think we can - and should - help being gay or transgender.
Personally I cannot condone the establishment and the continued entertainment of "Christian" (or religious) schools. Religion is supposed to be a personal choice which should not influence a persons education - which after all, is supposed to deal with FACT and not fallacy. In short, such places are breeding grounds for bigotry, prejudice, ignorance and all that is wrong with the world today.