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The political and legal discourse surrounding legislation governing the minimum age of sexual consent in Singapore is dominated by the idea of protection. However, tracing the evolution of this legislation from 1888 when Singapore was a British colony to 2018 it is clear that protection meant very different things at different times. This seminar tracks how the justification for minimum age of consent laws changed from an approach routed in prostitution legislation which sought both to protect women of all ages from moral evils, and to protect society from such women, through an approach predicated on the need to protect young women from their own inappropriate sexuality, to the modern conception of protecting children from adult sexuality. Key to understanding these changes is to focus on how the adolescent body is constructed both as a gendered body and an aged body, and how that body becomes a subject of the state.

Charlotte is a DPhil student at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford. This seminar is based on a chapter in her thesis “How has law and regulation, both formal and informal, regulated key issues of female bodily autonomy in the transition from childhood to adulthood in Singapore from 1955 to 2018?”.