Guest post: The one irreversible, life altering decision

Originally a comment by Djolaman on All on the rainbow.

It’s remarkable, isn’t it? If you’re under 16 then there are hardly any consequential decisions which you can make you yourself in the uk. You can’t sign a contract of any kind, get a loan, own property, leave school, consent to sexual activity, work more than 12 hours a week, get a tattoo, get a piercing, drink alcohol, get married, be tried as an adult in a criminal case, be sent to an adult prison, live alone, drive any kind of vehicle except a pushbike, receive any inheritance that isn’t managed by a trustee, view or appear in sexually explicit material, open a bank account, act as legal guardian for a child or undergo elective cosmetic surgery.

Some of these things, (bank accounts, piercings,) you can do with parental consent, others (driving, inheritance, pornography) have higher age limits of 17 or 18, which parental consent can’t overrule. The common thread linking all of them is that they’re decisions which can go badly wrong. Taking out a loan you can’t repay is a huge problem, and it’s rightly felt that children need to be protected from the consequences of making those kinds of decisions.

Yet looking at that list there are only one or two items where the potential downside is as stark and unavoidable as the decision to remove or mutilate your genitals or breasts, making yourself infertile and developing a lifelong dependence on continuous medical interventions. But as we all know that is the one enormously significant, irreversible, life altering decision that there is a strong push to have handed over to children, ideally without parental oversight or indeed knowledge. This is at an age where the most important long term decision most people have made is whether to continue with history or geography for GCSE. Utterly incredible.

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