Age of Majority / Yoani Sánchez

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Going to a movie theater to see adult films, buying a beer in some bar, or being hired as an employee, are some of the proofs that we have arrived at the age of majority. When we are fourteen or fifteen years old, every day brings us closer to that legal adulthood we await so anxiously. We approach a milestone that we flaunt in front of friends, while reminding our parents that we are no long so small, that they can no longer treat us like children. But the sensations associated with reaching sixteen are quite distinct from those that overwhelm us when our children reach the age of legal responsibility. It’s exactly then that we realize how physically and mentally immature they are to take on so much responsibility.

I am reflecting on this because my son will reach the age of majority this coming August. He will then be ready–according to the law–to buy alcoholic beverages, to be drafted into the army, or to go to prison. From that moment, nothing he does will be treated by the criminal code as if he were a minor. He could even be called to die or to kill in a war, a not ridiculous option in today’s Cuba. All the teenagers born in the difficult year of 1995 will pass through, in this 2011, the barrier between childhood and adulthood. And I say, without maternal excess, that they are too young, too fragile, to face the burden of being considered adults by a legal system that does not correspond to international norms.

Several weeks ago, the United Nations asked the Cuban authorities to raise the age of majority to 18 years. But there is little hope that such a demand will become fact. Were it to be successful, all the women between 16 and 17 who are selling their bodies to tourists would become minors trapped in child prostitution. And postponing the end of childhood would also deprive the government of a great number of voters–easier to manipulate–in local elections. And, of course, it would temporarily prolong the ascendancy of parents over their children, to the detriment of that of the State over these young citizens.

Now that I am more than twice the age required to exchange the card of a minor for the ID of an adult, I realize they robbed me of a couple of years; that an incorrect legislation placed a responsibility on my shoulders that I did not have the discernment to assume. At that time, I enjoyed it as if it were a letter of freedom, but today I see it as the loss of a legal protection that was my right.