The legal age of sexual consent, raised to 16 from 14 in 2008, is not safeguarding younger teens, according to a study released yesterday by the University of B.C. and Simon Fraser University.

The age was raised to protect teens against sexual exploitation by adults and to prevent poor sexual health decisions.

However, study researchers found the 2008 law was not formed around factual evidence.

The study states 39 per cent of children who had sex before age 12 — already protected under the law — had a sexual partner 20 years or older.

While 14- and 15-year-olds are just as sexually responsible as their adult counterparts, they are also more likely to be exploited by those within their own age range.

“The law itself is not enough,” said Elizabeth Saewyc, senior author of the study. “We need to talk to our youths about healthy relationships and how to resist being manipulated.”