You've heard what the politicians have to say, but what do teenagers think about the gay age of consent?

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The Independent Online
"I DON'T agree with homosexuality at all, so I think the Government should raise the gay age of consent as high as is legally possible." Hussain Kahn's comments yesterday, made as MPs debated whether to lower the age of consent for homosexual sex, were representative of many of his fellow students at Kingsway College, north London.

The teenage students, all of whom are studying for their BTec national diploma in business and finance, were at one in urging their MPs to forego the England World Cup match and turn up to the vote on the lowering of the gay age of consent - but only as long as they voted against the motion.

Indeed, most felt that the age of consent for homosexuals should be higher.

"I think 16 is too young to decide whether you're going to be gay or not. You can't just decide like that - it takes a lot of time and thought. You might decide you're gay at 16 because of certain circumstances, but then you could easily change your mind as you get older, so it's better if you grow up a bit and then decide." said Irene Hapojaro, 17, echoing the majority view.

"I think gays should be at least 21 before they're allowed to do their business. I disagree with people of a young age making that sort of decision," added Nicola Smith, 18.

While in favour of equality between homosexuals and heterosexuals, Tugba Inal, 17, felt that the age of consent should be raised to 18 for gays and straights alike: "Sixteen is too young to have sex, full stop."

Tugba, like many of her classmates, regards gay sex as a lifestyle decision. "Sixteen just seems too young to decide whether you want to live a gay or lesbian life. I think it's something that depends on your upbringing and environment and children should have time to break away from all of that before they make up their minds."

Although homosexuality "makes no sense" to Simeon Parker, 19, he pointed out that it is a diffficult area to legislate: "How can we stop them? There are loads of people having sex under 16, so what the law says doesn't make any difference."

Only one out of this class of around 20 students was in favour of last night's motion. "Gays should have the same age of consent as everyone else because everybody's equal," said Blanche Lashmann, 18. "At 16 they're old enough to make a decision by themselves and they should be allowed to do what they please."

The class was divided on the question of the proposed amendment outlawing relationships between people in positions of authority, such as teachers, and those within their jurisdiction.

Many of the girls were in favour of legislation, citing favouritism and abuse of power as their arguments against teacher-pupil relationships, but a lot of the boys felt it was a "personal decision".

"I think some students are mature enough to have relationships with teachers and sometimes things just happen between them. They're going to do it anyway, so why try and stop them?" said Hussain Kahn.

However, Jason Samuels, 17, disagreed. "I genuinely think it's wrong for a teacher to start something with a student.

"Even if someone's 16, they're still a teenager and likely to be far less mature than a teacher. That puts them at a disadvantage in the relationship, which is wrong. I think there should be a law against it."

Would the way their MP voted last night affect the students' future voting decisions? Probably not, they said, because they were unlikely to bother to find out who voted how, or which way the vote even went.

"It doesn't concern me. I'd rather watch the England match than sit around talking about homosexuals," said one.

No doubt more than a few MPs in the chamber last night were thinking the same.