Age of Sexual Consent by Country
For a detailed table of age of consent worldwide, please visit Avert (opens in a new window)
I have my own opinions on ages of consent. Primarily they are that the age for heterosexual consent should be the same as for homosexual consent, by which I mean male and female homosexual consent. However I also have strong feelings that any consent should be informed consent. And there the debate starts. Informed consent means not simply the ability to say "Yes, let's have sex", which is a thing many very young kids are capable of saying (emulating TV programmes), but also the ability to understand the physical and emotional consequences of a sexual act. Frankly some fifty year olds are incapable of giving informed consent, and some thirteen year olds are totally capable of doing so
Let me start by making a definition of my own thinking. My definition is that the "Age of Consent" is designed by legislators to draw a line to protect those unable to give informed consent. It is an arbitrary age in most countries, and is mainly designed to stop older men and women preying on kids. It removes the defence in court of "It can't have been rape, because the child said 'yes'!" Thus, technically, age of consent as a legal statute is, in my view, a good thing. I am totally against abusing a child, and am all for keeping all barriers to deter child sexual abuse.
The challenge is not for the obvious issue of the adult seeking young sexual partners, but for the young person who is wishing to engage in sexual acts with another young person of similar age. The legalilty of such acts when either or both are below the age of consent is nil. When one is over the magic age and the other under it, even by a day in either case, the older commits an offence, even if the younger person initiated and/or carried out the major part of the act
It is possible to argue as a parent that neither young person was capable of giving informed consent. But does this mean that either young person should feel the full weight of the law ranged against them? And what of the emotional damage that a prosecution would cause (assuming that no force or coercion was involved in the sexual act itself)?
It seems to me that we have a need for the reform of the age of consent. I feel it should be based upon proximity of ages. Even so the challenge is at what age should the law actually recognise that mutual sexual activity takes place, and how close should the ages be?
When I started to write this page I was thinking about me, and when I was thirteen. It seemed a good basis. So I thought, take a thirteen year old, and allow legal sexual activity with a partner who is within one year, plus or minus, of the thirteen year old's age. Then I thought that we should introduce a sliding scale, so that a fourteen year old had an eighteen month 'consent tolerance', a fifteen year of a 24 month consent tolerance, and so forth.
I soon realised that this sounds good until you look at the figures, because this means that a thirteen year old cannot legally have sex with a fifteen year old, but the fifteen year old can legally have sex with the thirteen year old. Obviously nonsensical! It also means that we have to legislate for the twelve year old, the eleven year old and so forth. This gets too complex.
I tried thinking then about the mental age for the participants, wanting to make some definition about "close mental age proximity" and found the subject too subjective. No court, no police force, no defender or prosecutor could cope with this.
I came to thinking that there has to be a "lowest permissable age" even with a tolerance band. I also felt that the consent tolerance has to be an upward tolerance, by which I mean based upon the lower age of the people involved.
Using this, if I postulate that, based on modern society, good diet and this the earlier onset of puberty, twelve years of age is the lowest threshold for legal sexual activity, I then decided that the following chart might be worth proposing:
|Suggested age differences for legal mutual sexual activity|
Age of younger person
Maximum upward age difference for older person
|sixteen||All ages of older partner are legal|
In all cases I make no distinction between male/female, male/male and female/female pairings. The sole purpose of this idea is to take the burden of criminalisation away form young people. This was an important fear of my own youth, and I would like to remove it from today's young people.
Below twelve years of age I am in a quandary. I want to protect children correctly, but I also want to protect a child from a nosy parker social worker who may have their own agenda. Below twelve years of age a child is usually indulging in play, not in sex. "Doctors and nurses" and "Mothers and fathers" have never been criminal acts. I feel that there should be a set of counselling guidelines for our social welfare people to help a child who has "gone too far in play" to understand what they have done and why they should not do it, much in the same way that anti bullying discussions are (or should be) held. No child should feel intimidated by adults or criminalised for playing.
I fully expect this to be a controversial issue. Yet all it does is recognises that young people become sexually active much earlier that the law caters for.