Age of consent reform: Wikis


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Age of consent reform refers to efforts to change age of consent laws, whether to raise or lower or abolish the age of consent, or to change the ways in which the laws are applied. These efforts vary greatly in intensity and popularity, and have manifested in a variety of forms, such as legislation for close-in-age exemptions to age of consent laws, advocacy to change the way age of consent laws are examined in court, to lower or increase the age limits, and increase or reduce related penalties. Some organized efforts have occurred ranging from academic discussions to political petitions and pedophile advocacy groups.


Close-in-age exemptions

A number of jurisdictions have adopted close-in-age exemptions in recent decades. These are frequently called Romeo and Juliet exemptions. These exemptions to age of consent laws take account of varying circumstances such as sex between a minor under the age of consent and a much older adult, a minor under the age of consent and a person of the same age or older by only a small amount, whether or not under the age of consent, or a minor under the age of consent and another minor under the age of consent.

In a typical jurisdiction with close-in-age exemptions, sexual intercourse between (for example) a 14-year-old and a 21-year-old might be a criminal offence on the latter's part, while sexual intercourse between (for example) two 14-year-olds would not constitute a criminal offence by either party. Other jurisdictions have laws that allow a minor under 17 and a adult over 18 to consent to sexual intercourse based on age difference, or (for example) to allow a 3 to 5 years age difference (16-year-old and a 19-year-old or a 15-year-old and a 20-year-old). Some see this as a means to allow young people to have a normal sexual development while protecting them from dangerous and violent sexual predators.

Initiatives to raise ages of consent

Examples of legislative initiatives to raise the age of consent that have been considered or enacted include those in Georgia (USA)[1] and in Canada.[2][3]

Kerala, India

In January 2004, a Division bench of the Kerala's High Court in Southern India suggested that the age of consent should be raised from 16 to 18 in that state. Justice R. Basant said he considered "illogic(al)" that a legal system in which an age of 18 is used for other purposes – like the Indian Majority Act, the Contract Act, the Juvenile Justice Act, the Child Marriage Restraint Act and the Representation of People Act – has a different approach in the case of sexual consent.[4].

Georgia, USA

In June 2005, a bill was proposed before the General Assembly of Georgia (USA) to raise the age of consent from 16 to 18.[5] The proposal is still being analyzed by local politicians.[6]


In Canada, the age of consent was raised from 14 to 16 on 1 May 2008 (in 1890 it was raised from 12 to 14).

In June 2006, the Canadian government proposed a bill to raise the age of consent from 14 to 16, while creating a near-age exemption for sex between 14-15 year olds and partners up to 5 years older, and keeping an existing near-age clause for sex between 12-13 year olds and partners up to 2 years older. The initiative also maintains a temporary exception for already existing marriages of 14 and 15 year olds, but forbids new marriages like these in the future.[7]

Initiatives to lower or abolish ages of consent

Pedophile advocacy groups

During the late 1950s to early 1990s, several pedophile membership organizations advocated lowering or abolishing age of consent laws[8][9][10][11] to legalize sexual activities involving an adult and a child (defined as child sexual abuse by all modern cultures, socially, medically, and legally[12][13]). As one of their arguments to lower or abolish the age of consent, members of pedophile advocacy groups promoted their belief that children are psychologically capable of consenting to sexual interactions with adults[14] (although this opinion is contrary to legal and scientific consensus [15][16]), and they often portrayed themselves as fighting for the right of children to engage in what the activists consider to be consensual sex with adults.[11][14] Some activists tried to link their goals with those of the early LGBT social movements, but in the course of time those movements universally rejected this linkage.[8][17][18][19]

The age of consent reform efforts of pedophile advocacy groups such as the Danish Pedophile Association and the North American Man/Boy Love Association did not gain any public support[8][11][17][20][21] and today those groups that have not dissolved have only minimal membership and have ceased their activities other than through a few websites.[11][21][22][23] Beginning in the 1990s, public focus on and disapproval of pedophilia resulted in more stringent legislation and stronger criminal penalties regarding child pornography, child sexual abuse, and use of the internet to facilitate these offenses.[24][25][26]

The Netherlands

Partij voor Naastenliefde, Vrijheid en Diversiteit (Party for Neighbourly Love, Freedom, and Diversity) is a Dutch political party founded in 2006.[27] The party currently has no parliamentary representation and did not receive enough signatures to partake in the 2006 elections.[28]

The PNVD seeks to have the legal age-of-consent lowered to 12, and, in the long run, completely eliminated, except in dependent or intrafamilial relationships. They also aim to equalize the legal age where one can perform in pornography with the legal age-of-consent.[29]

The former Dutch Pacifist Socialist Party also supported the lowering of the age of consent to 12.[30]


1977-1979 petitions

In 1977, while a reform in the French penal code was under discussion in the parliament, a petition was addressed to the parliament calling for the abrogation of several articles of the age-of-consent law and the decriminalization of all consented relations between adults and minors below the age of fifteen.[31] In 1978 , the petition was discussed in a broadcast by radio France Culture in the program "Dialogues", with the transcript later published under the title Sexual Morality and the Law in a book by Michel Foucault. The participants, including Foucault, play-writer/actor Jean Danet and novelist/gay activist Guy Hocquenghem had all signed the petition. Other signers included philosophers Jacques Derrida and Louis Althusser and the pediatrician and child psychoanalyst Françoise Dolto.

United Kingdom

According to sociologist Matthew Waites, in the 1970s, a number of grass-roots political actions took place in Britain in favor of lowering the age of consent, that he described as based on claims of children's rights, gay liberation, or, as a way to avoid unwanted pregnancies or sexually-transmitted diseases.[32]

In September 1974, the United Kingdom's Sexual Law Reform Society proposed a system in which the age of consent would be replaced with what was called an "age of protection" - if not for all ages below the age of majority (18), then at least for the ages between 14 and 18, in combination with an age of consent of 14. People below this "age of protection" (if totally replacing the age of consent) – or between a lower age of consent and this age of protection -would be subject "to a context in which the onus of proof that valid consent existed would lie with the older partner".[33][34]

A similar proposal was recommended in May 1974 by the UK's Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE). CHE's Working Party on Law Reform suggested a basic age of consent of 16, but 12 "in cases where a defendant could prove the existence of meaningful consent". [35][36]

The modern Communist Party of Great Britain lists abolition of age-of-consent laws among its immediate demands, with the added provision that there be alternate legal methods to protect children from sexual abuse.[37]

In 1976, the British political pressure group Liberty, under their alternate name National Council for Civil Liberties, published a report presented to the Criminal Law Revision Committee, proposing – among other things – "a minimum age of 10 in circumstances where both partners were over 10 but below 14". Additionally, "where only one partner was in this age bracket, real proof of consent would be required", and also "an overlap of two years on either side of 14 was proposed to achieve legal flexibility, such that 12-16 year olds could legally have sex".[38]


John Holt (1923 - 1985), an American teacher who authored Escape from Childhood – The Needs and Rights of Children, stated that "all people, including young people, should have the right to control their own private sex lives and acts". He considers that "it is not the proper business of the state or government to pry into such matters". Holt refutes the concept of child innocence and opposes laws on age of consent as unfair and morally wrong.

Judith Levine, an American journalist and author of Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex, is against the legal regulation of children's involvement in sexual activities.[39] Levine suggests that, if such laws are to exist, an appropriate model would be the legal framework that existed in the Netherlands during the 1990s, now abolished, which required a complaint from a parent or other authority to pursue a prosecution where 12-15 year olds were involved.[40] [41]

British journalist Miranda Sawyer maintains that the age of consent should be lowered to 12 in the United Kingdom, arguing that the criminalization of all sexual activity for ages under 16 is "laughably unrealistic".[42]

American academic Jacob M. Appel has argued for public debate and downward revision of the age of consent in the United States in order to bring American law into accord with those of other Western nations. Appel has written that "whether the age of consent should be 16 or 15, or even a year younger, is a complex question that our society needs to address. Keeping the age of consent at 18, as do twelve [American] states, is no more reasonable that setting it at 10."[43]

See also


  1. ^ hb722.html
  2. ^ - Canada's Conservatives Seek to Raise Age of Consent to 16 - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News
  3. ^ | Mixed reviews to Tories' sexual consent bill
  4. ^ Asian Sex Gazette - Kerala, Raise age-limit for giving consent for sexual intercourse to 18 - South Asia
  5. ^ The House Bill #722 was presented by Representatives Forster (3rd District), Rice (51st District), Cooper (41st District), Randall (138th) and Walker (107th), among others. See
  6. ^
  7. ^ | Age of Consent FAQ
  8. ^ a b c Jenkins, Philip (2006). Decade of Nightmares: The End of the Sixties and the Making of Eighties America. Oxford University Press. pp. 120. ISBN 0-19-517866-1.  
  9. ^ Spiegel, Josef (2003). Sexual Abuse of Males: The Sam Model of Theory and Practice. Routledge. pp. 5, p9. ISBN 1-56032-403-1.  
  10. ^ "The Case for Abolishing the Age of Consent Laws," an editorial from NAMBLA News (1980), reproduced in We Are Everywhere: A Historical Sourcebook of Gay and Lesbian Politics. Ed. by Mark Blasius and Shane Phelan. London: Routledge, 1997. pgs. 459-67.
  11. ^ a b c d Eichewald, Kurt (August 21, 2006). "From Their Own Online World, Pedophiles Extend Their Reach"". New York Times.  
  12. ^ Levesque, Roger J. R. (1999). Sexual Abuse of Children: A Human Rights Perspective. Indiana University Press. pp. 1,5–6,176–180.  
  13. ^ "United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child". Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. 1989.  
  14. ^ a b Dallam, S. J. (2002). "Science or Propaganda? An examination of Rind, Tromovitch and Bauserman (1998)". Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 9 (3/4), 109-134
  15. ^ Finkelhor, David (1993). A Sourcebook on Child Sexual Abuse. SAGE. p. 26. ISBN 0803927495.  
  16. ^ Kinnear, Karen (2007). Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Reference Handbook. ABC-CLIO. p. 3. ISBN 1851099050.  
  17. ^ a b Jenkins, Philip (1992). Intimate Enemies: Moral Panics in Contemporary Great Britain. Aldine Transaction. pp. 75. ISBN 0-202-30436-1.  
  18. ^ Harris Mirkin (1999). "The Pattern of Sexual Politics: Feminism, Homosexuality and Pedophilia". J.Homosex 37 (2).  
  19. ^ Heinze, Eric (1995). Sexual Orientation: A Human Right : An Essay on International Human Rights Law. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. pp. 150–1. ISBN 0-7923-3018-8.  
  20. ^ Stanton, Domna C. (1992). Discourses of Sexuality: From Aristotle to AIDS. University of Michigan Press. pp. 405. ISBN 0-472-06513-0.  
  21. ^ a b Hagan, Domna C.; Marvin B. Sussman (1988). Deviance and the family. Haworth Press. pp. 131. ISBN 0-86656-726-7.  
  22. ^ Benoit Denizet-Lewis (2001). "Boy Crazy," Boston Magazine.
  23. ^ Trembaly, Pierre. (2002) "Social interactions among paedophiles."
  24. ^ Mattei, Monique; Ferraro, Eoghan Casey, Michael McGrath (2004). Investigating Child Exploitation and Pornography: The Internet, Law and Pornography. Academic Press. pp. 7–8,112–113. ISBN 0-12-163105-2.  
  25. ^ Bocij, Paul (2004). Cyberstalking: Harassment in the Internet Age and How to Protect Your Family. Greenwood Publishing. pp. 160–176. ISBN 0-275-98118-5.  
  26. ^ Clark, Mathew D. (2002). Obscenity, Child Pornography and Indecency. pp. 74–76. ISBN 1-59033-396-9.  
  27. ^ Naastenliefde, Vrijheid & Diversiteit: Nieuws (official website). "Vandaag, 31 mei, is de partij officieel opgericht." Accessed 31 May 2006. (Dutch)
  28. ^ "Pedopartij haalt verkiezingen niet". NOS. 2006-10-10.   (Dutch)
  29. ^ "Naastenliefde, Vrijheid & Diversiteit 2006 Programma" (2006 platform; official website). Accessed 31 May 2006. (Dutch)
  30. ^ Brongersma, Edward (1988). "Schutzalter 12 Jahre? - Sex mit Kindern in der niederländischen Gesetzgebung ("Age of Consent 12 years? Dutch legislation on sex with children")", in Leopardi, Angelo: Der pädosexuelle Komplex ("On the topic of pedosexuality") (in German). Frankfurt/Main, Germany: Foerster Verlag, 214. ISBN 3-922257-66-6.
  31. ^ Foucault, Michel. Politics, Philosophy, Culture –Interviews and Other Writings 1977-1984. Edited by Lawrence D. Krizman. New York / London: 1988, Routledge, Pp. 272-273.
  32. ^ Waites, Matthew. The Age of Consent – Young People, Sexuality and Citizenship (2005), pp 122, 132-133, 220).
  33. ^ WAITES, Matthew (2005, op.cit., p.132).
  34. ^ Sexual Law Reform Society, 1974. Report of the Working Party on the Law in Relation to Sexual Behaviour. "in" Antony Grey papers, file 2/1, at Hall Carpenter Archive, British Library of Political and Economic Sciences, London.
  35. ^ WAITES, Matthew (2005, op.cit., pp. 132 and 243, Note 6.6)
  36. ^ Gay News, no. 46, 9 May 1974, p.3 – 'CHE Report angers reformers'.
  37. ^ Communist Party of Great Britain - Draft Programme
  38. ^ Waites, Matthew (2005, p.135-136). The age of consent – Young people, Sexuality and Citizenship. New York/London: Palgrave MacMillan. ISBN 978-1-4039-2173-4. ISBN 1-4039-2173-3.
  39. ^ LEVINE, Judith. Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex, p. 88. Minneapolis: 2002. University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-4006-8.
  40. ^ WAITES, Matthews. The age of consent – Young people, Sexuality and Citizenship, p. 221. New York: 2005. Palgrave MacMillan. ISBN 1-4039-2173-3.
  41. ^ LEVINE, Judith (op. cit.), p. 89.
  42. ^ SAWYER, Miranda. Newspaper article – 'Sex is not Just for Grown-Ups', The Observer, 2 November 2003, Review section, pp.1-2.
  43. ^ Jacob M. Appel, Embracing Teenage Sexuality: Let's Rethink the Age of Consent, Jan 1, 2009

Further reading

  • University of Minnesota – Dept. of Communications Studies – Detailed summary of the whole book "Politics, Philosophy, Culture", chapter by chapter, including a summary in 9 paragraphs of Chapter 16, "Sexual Morality and the Law".
  • HOLT, John. Escape from Childhood – The Needs and Rights of Children. E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc.: New York, 1974; Clarke, Irwin & Company Ltd., Toronto/Vancouver, 1974. ISBN 0-525-09955-7

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