Editorial: New law makes punishment fairer for sex offenses concerning minors

A new law passed by the Texas Senate last week makes sex laws concerning minors fairer.

A bill written by Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, alters the law concerning sexual offenders, stating that Romeo and Juliet cases, those concerning sex between teenagers, can no longer be prosecuted if the sex was consensual and there is less than a four-year age gap between the couple.

The law will prevent young people charged with statutory rape from having to register as sex offenders if they are involved with a minor that is within their age bracket and if the relationship was consensual.

The legislation also made changes to sexting laws in Texas. Previous laws charged minors who sent nude pictures of themselves or of friends a felony, as it was considered possessing or trafficking child pornography.

Sen. Kirk Watson, R-Austin, introduced the law that makes sending nude pictures of a minor a Class C misdemeanor for first-time violators under the age of 18.

According to the Dallas Morning News, the bill is meant to keep up with moving technology and the common practice of minors sending nude pictures to one another, with approximately 22 percent of teenage girls electronically sending or posting nude pictures of themselves.

Before these changes, Texas law placed unrealistic pressures on minors and young people. Statutory rape laws easily ruin the lives of young men and women, as they are forced to register as a sexual offender for the rest of their lives for having consensual sex.

Educational opportunities, work opportunities and housing opportunities are forever closed to young people and they are unjustly judged by society forevermore.

Teenage girls and boys, who often as a way to gain popularity and/or out of ignorance send nude pictures of themselves, inadvertently become felons as they traffic “pornographic” pictures of their own bodies.

The former laws did not take into consideration the ignorance of minors and young people and were too harsh for their infractions, allowing simple mistakes to follow them well into adulthood.

In addition, the new laws take into consideration the different scenarios and ends of the spectrum related to each issues. For example, the four-year age restriction for the adjustment of statutory rape laws ensures that adults will still not be permitted to prey on minors.

And the new laws regarding sexting between minors also gives a judge the right to have convicted minors and parents participate in a sexting education and awareness program, reinforcing education of minors over harsh punishment of minors.