FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 10, 2001
Contact: Rep. Galen Fox
GOP: We Made History!
Hawaii politics enters a new era as the State Legislature overrides a Governor's veto for the first time since statehood.
House Republicans said overriding the governors veto and raising the age of consent from 14 to 16 is historic for Hawaii. It could not have happened without the 19 House Republicans and public participation that reflected the will of the people. Republicans added there is a cultural change at the legislature; the veto override represents a new era with the legislative branch now a more equal arm of government.
Republicans brought attention to the age of consent issue when they attempted to pull HB 236 out of committee when the chair was bottling it up. When we pulled this bill, it was the first time many people in Hawaii even realized our age of consent was the lowest in the nation at 14, said Galen Fox, House Republican Leader.
The Republicans forced open discussion, the public showed its support, and the bill passed unanimously. That is the way a transparent government should work, said Fox. The Governors veto goes against public sentiment. With this override we are saying we choose to be on the side of the public.
Republicans disagreed with the Governor's assertion that "This veto override is about being politically correct, nothing more."
"The veto override is about our children and protecting them from predators. It is not only the politically correct thing to do, it is the right thing to do," said Colleen Meyer, Assistant Republican Leader. "The only person who is making this 'political' is the Governor."
Republicans said the overwhelming majority of the citizens of our state expressed their desire to raise the age of consent in public testimony before the legislature, in newspaper editorials, in letters to the editor and on radio talk shows. Legislative action reflected the outpouring of public sentiment by the fact that the overwhelming majority of legislators voted in favor of increasing the age of sexual consent from fourteen years of age to sixteen.
No other State governor and hardly any civilized nation in the world agrees with Governor Cayetano. Internationally, and in the view of the United Nation's Committee on the Rights of the Child, 18 is the preferred age limit for protecting children from sexual exploitation. This does not refer to a young person discovering his or her sexuality. It relates to child prostitution, child pornography, sexual trafficking -- issues where there is exploitation and abuse with or without consent. The threshold age in which a child is granted protection from sexual encounters regardless of consent differs from one country to the next. In the United Kingdom, it is 16; in Switzerland 16; in the Netherlands 16: in Sweden, 15; in Denmark 15; in Canada 18; and in 47 other States and the District of Columbia it is 16 or older. Hawaii still has a way to go.
Everyone knows that Hawaii has the lowest age of sexual consent in the nation. This fact has many negative consequences. In addition to statutory rape, these consequences include: teenage prostitution, drug addiction, pregnancy and abortions, venereal infections including AIDS, and the additional consequences of homeless teenage mothers, drug-addicted teenage mothers, sick teenage mothers, and teenage mothers still attending school.
The state of Hawaii has the third highest teenage pregnancy rate of any state in the union, following California and Nevada. The reported pregnancy rate for 15 year olds in Hawaii is 21.8 pregnancies per 1000 females of that age group.
A 1998 study by the Hawaii Department of Health revealed that there were 242 pregnancies reported by girls fifteen and under. Of those, 122 resulted in live births and 114 resulted in abortions. We don't know the age of the fathers, however, but an American Journal of Public Health study found that fathers of children born by junior-high mothers averaged 6.7 years older than the girls and that men over age 20 fathered five times more births to junior high school-aged girls than did junior high school-aged boys.
Another national report found that six of 10 girls who had sex before age 15 were coerced by males an average of six years their senior. We already have stiff penalties, raising the age of consent will harmonize the crime and the penalty and begin to protect children better.
When Georgia raised its age of consent from 14 to 16, they also increased to 10 years the minimum prison sentence for men aged 21 and older convicted of statutory rape. Florida voted in 1996 to make impregnation of a minor younger than age 16 by a male aged 21 or older a reportable form of child abuse -- a felony.
Teen-age pregnancy may be a great concern for parents of 15-year-old daughters but things could be worse. Our citizens know how adult men seduce these children into drugs and then into prostitution to support their habit and eventually toss these poor children out on the street when they are sick or pregnant. It has been the public outcry against these wrongs that prompted the override of the Governor's veto.