Teenage flirting gets the kiss-off

Allan Hall, Berlin
December 13, 2007

GERMANY will bring in a new law today that will effectively outlaw kissing and cuddling between children under 17 in public places.

The back-seat fumble in the cinema or the stolen kiss at a dance will be forbidden under legislation aimed at protecting children from sexual predators.

A popular teen magazine called Bravo has been warned it will have to censor its regular dating and sex column: essential reading among the young.

While experts say the bill has good intentions, they fear it will deprive teens of their sexual rite of passage flirting, experimentation and choice in the years when they lose their innocence.

The German Society for Sexual Research calls the bill "moral colonisation" and said it was triggered by a case in Pittsburgh, America, where a 15-year-old girl sent a friend nude pictures of herself over the internet. The girl was charged with distributing child pornography and faces a long jail term.

Under the new law, to go before the Bundestag today, a teenage boy up to the age of 17 who is caught "fondling or stroking the chest" of someone younger will be liable to prosecution regardless of consent.

If he does it in a cinema and the girl complains, he will be deemed to have been guilty of planning the "assault" by paying for the cinema ticket to commit the crime.

"Groping forbidden!" the influential news magazine Der Spiegel said of the law, which has a plethora of clauses about age and circumstances where certain acts will be punishable.

The law will also be aimed at people who throw parties where there is no transportation home for minors if a teen later makes a complaint of sexual harassment at the function.

Lawyers see a minefield ahead: false claims from girls shunned by the school hunk at a disco, or false claims from boys spurned by the class vamp.

Until now the law stipulated that sexual abuse among minors occurred when the perpetrator was 18 and the victim at least two years younger. This age disparity is done away with under the new legislation.

Wolfgang Neskovic of the Left Party said: "In a ridiculous way we are trying to regulate the hormones and lifestyle of teenagers and criminalise that which has gone on since time immemorial."

Under the new law, a 15-year-old who posts a picture of herself in a bikini on the internet would be guilty of disseminating a pornographic photograph.