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Puerto Rico proposal would lower consent age to 14

Associated Press Modified: December 2, 2009 at 5:11 pm •  Published: December 2, 2009

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Legislators are hoping to lower the age of sexual consent in Puerto Rico from 16 to 14, arguing that complaints from protective parents are overwhelming courts and teens should not be prosecuted for their sexual curiosity.

"Many children have faced criminal proceedings for experimenting with their sexuality," said local Rep. Charlie Hernandez, a sponsor of the legislation. "That to me seems outrageous."

The proposal would reverse a 2004 amendment making it illegal to have consensual sex with anyone under 16, the minimum age for marriage with parental blessing.

That decision was part of broader changes to Puerto Rico's penal code, making it difficult to gauge what consent age most lawmakers support.

The proposal to lower the consent age faces stiff opposition from religious groups, who say it would lead to more pregnancies and an increase in single mothers struggling to raise a child.

"This is nothing but a plan to initiate minors into a sexual life," said Juan M. Gaud, a member of the Alliance of Christian Lawyers. "We are raising 14-year-olds to be mothers."

But the 14-year-old limit is backed by the head of the government Women's Advocate Office, Ivonne Feliciano, who says education is key to helping teens.

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