The Score on Minors: Rights, Protections, and the Age of Majority [Last Modified on 2008.01.24]
The age of majority should be 17, an age at which individuals can be expected to behave like adults, and therefore should be given the rights and responsibilities of adults. Before that time, a minor's rights must be both restricted and protected. This is because there are very real physical and mental differences between adults and children.
At 17, all adult rights should be conferred upon a citizen. This includes qualifying for an automotive license (contingent on passing the tests), suffrage, the right to serve in the military, the use of recreational drugs (including alcohol, cigarettes, and those drugs that should be decriminalized), the ability to enter into legal contracts (including marriage) without the consent of a parent or guardian, the responsibility to file and pay taxes as an independent, and more.
Until the age of majority, the child is the responsibility of parents or guardians, and decisions can be made by them on the child's behalf. However, the government must keep tabs on families to ensure that parents or guardians are living up to their responsibilities, both protecting and providing for the child. The governmental body assigned to this has the right to observe the family, and if neglect or abuse is found, to take children away for their own welfare. The current system of foster parenting and adoption should be expanded and encouraged.
Statutory rape laws are a sound idea, because they correctly criminalize pedophilia. Children must be protected by these laws. However, the spirit of statutory rape legislation is not honored when we enforce such laws on consenting couples who closely straddle the dividing line between minority and majority. Therefore, we believe there should be a three year buffer placed on statutory rape laws; as long as the ages of the two involved parties are within three calendar years of each other, no statutory rape has been committed. This allows, for example, seniors in high school to date freshmen in high school (18 years to 15 years), while effectively prohibiting pedophilia.