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Age of Consent is too low in most developed countries

November 21, 2006

It’s shocking that in many developed countries the age of consent is as low as 12 or 13 (they take into account the physical maturity of the girl, not emotional.) At the same time, it’s interesting to know how different societies and countries view this issue. For example, the laws pertaining to the age of consent for sex.

Britain and India
At present, Britain and India both have set the same age of consent: 16 years. Before I go on I want to add that this age of consent (in India at least) is dependent on it being allowed by the parents. For example in India if you are a minor in the eyes of the law (below 18) then the parents/guardians call the shots. If they want to marry off their daughter at the age of 16 it’s okay according to the law, but if they find out that their daughter has run away with someone or is having sex with someone and they don’t like it, they can take legal action and have the boy thrown into jail. A Supreme Court order on this can be read here.

When it comes to Britain, it’s interesting that there is a debate on about reducing this age from 16 to 12 years. The British Police feel that men who have sex with girls above the age of 12 and below the age of 16 should not be termed ‘pedophiles’ and this is what sparked off the debate.

In India there is a debate suggesting just the opposite: that the age of consent should be increased to 18. We know why the increase in age of consent is needed in India. There are far too many teens being married off in semi-urban and rural India. This brings on early pregnancy and consequent health problems, which is what women’s organisations and NGO’s want to avoid. But why Britain should want to reduce the age of consent is a bit puzzling.

Isn’t mental maturity more important than physical?
True, girls are becoming sexually mature earlier – but how many psychologists would agree that girls in their early teens are mentally mature as well? Mature enough to take the consequences of early sexual relationships and perhaps an early pregnancy? Mature enough to make the right decision, after evaluating the consequences? Mature enough to be able to judge the character of the boy they are entering into a relationship with? In fact one keeps reading about girls who get messed up – both mentally and physically – because of a promiscuous lifestyle. This applies to young girls all over the world. Boys rarely have to take the consequences.

We don’t need early sex in modern societies
Early sex is fine for tribal societies – but wrong for our modern way of life. Premature sex and early marriage distracts the child from doing the most important thing that she needs do – growing up into an emotionally independent human being, getting a good education and becoming financially independent.

Some of the following statistics appeared in the TOI on 22nd November and other statistics I collected from AVERT, an international HIV and AIDS charity based in the UK :

Age of Consent

Canada: 14
France: 15
Japan: 13-18
Hong Kong: 16
USA: 14-18, depending on state
Italy/Lithunia/South Carolina/China: 14
Mexico: 12 +
Australia: 16-18, depending on state.
Germany: 14-16
Pakistan: Must be married
Denmark: 15
United Arab Emirates: Married/18
Argentina: 13-16
UK: 16
India:16
Switzerland: 16

Amazing isn’t it – that in so many countries grown men can have sex with little girls as young as 14? The law approves of it. The men who have sex with children have nothing to fear! Neither from the law, nor from their conscience. Neither the girl, nor society demands that they take responsibility. One can only hope that the Age of Consent is never reduced in India.

Note: After the comment on this post I looked for the age of consent for boys. I found that in most countries it is the same as for girls. However, homosexuality is illegal in many countries (including India) so the question of boys legally suffering at tender ages does not arise. Not only is Sodomy (rape of a male by another male) a crime, even a consensual relationship between two males is a crime in the eyes of the law.  

Related Reading: Dating for a permanent mate is common in India
Being a single mother is tough
At a young age you might make the wrong choice and land up with a wife-beater 
Men who have regressive attitudes towards women
Indian teens do have sex

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59 Comments leave one →
  1. November 21, 2006 5:27 pm

    Well I do believe we need to look into this issue beyond physical growth. I guess Britain feels need to reduce age due to overexposure on various issues to these teens. And India might feel other way due to lack of Sex education and social restrictions.

    I do not believe Teens anywhere in the world should be subjected to early motherhood.

    Good article. Nice blog.

  2. November 22, 2006 10:38 pm

    Are you sure that the age of consent in India is 16? It is shocking to know that in Britain there are people who feel that intercourse with girls aged 12 is not pedophilia.

    It is extremely strange that physical maturity, rather than emotional intelligence is the criterion.

    Any data available for age of consent for boys?
    I mean, isn’t the other side equally horrific?

    • Dhruti permalink
      January 23, 2010 2:33 am

      I can assure you we do. That is why it was debated. Most people I know who live here regard men having sex with anyone younger than 15 as paedophilia – we’re not all that bad. :)

      • Michael permalink
        December 26, 2012 4:39 pm

        ‘Paedophilia’ doesn’t refer to people having sex with those under the age of consent. The term applies only in regards sex with children who haven’t reached puberty or in a legally defined sense, pre-teens, IE those 12 or under. Having sex with those under the age of consent but are 13 or older is called carnal knowledge. They’re 2 completely different things.

  3. November 23, 2006 5:34 am

    Yes I am sure about the age. This has been published time and again in the newspapers. Ofcourse, families who want to marry off their daughters earlier in rural India tend to do it anyway. However these families can be prosecuted by law, though there have been cases where some judges have taken a ‘lenient’ view if the ‘bride’ is 15 or so.
    About the boys, I agree it is equally horrific. In fact I am trying to get data from all over the world about the age of consent for boys and then will update my post.
    Thank you.

  4. shahryar permalink
    November 29, 2006 7:00 pm

    Age of consent in Spain used to be 12 – it has now been raised to 13.

  5. December 10, 2006 7:55 pm

    Timely post. A new movie potraying the birth of Christ, The Nativity, has the 16-year old heroine playing out a pregnant mother, both on screen and in real life. Keisha Castle, a New Zealander who acted in Whalerider, is expecting a baby with her 19-year old boyfriend. Although I believe that her financial situation is far from as bad as other teen mothers and that she’s a very capable actress, she sets the wrong precedent in my opinion. Not only is she too young, emotionally, but she and her boyfriend are also not married. There is overwhelming evidence that although a child may belong to both the father and mother, the father has less of an emotional obligation to raise the child. Hopefully, Keisha won’t have to go through the worst of those possibilities, but what do you say to teens who choose to become pregnant? Because that is what she is, a teen.

  6. December 26, 2006 10:37 am

    In Britain, there is a problem with what it considered (at the time) “pedophilia”. Noting this, the NHS has been attempting to prevent teenage pregnancy by offering free contraceptives and the ‘morning-after’ pill (the pill was only for last week, might I add). On top of the anti-pregnancy route they’ve been taking, the NHS has been conducting studies that would prove that a 12-13 year old female would be mentally ‘prepared’ and ‘matured’ enough to make such a decision for herself. There hasn’t been much documentation from this research, just a few articles that circulated via local newspapers. Even so, the main reason is that there are a fair number of 18 year olds having intercourse with 13-14 year olds (or somewhat similar situations). The Catch22 of this is that even older men (30 and going) would be able to have sex with girls this young as well.

    Of course, the opposite sex is just as problematic. There are an equal (if not greater) precentile of older females attempting to attract younger males. Even if it were proven that males at that age are in no condition to make such a decision for himself, if the females’ age of consent was lowered based on the opposite being true for them ..the age of both would most likely be lowered. Seperating the ‘age of consent’ would be a tad difficult to enforce.

    Overall, the sense of ‘emotional maturity’ is a subjective one (at best). What is true for one will be false for another. Not all 13 year old females are ready to decide if they are ready to initiate intimate relationships. Heck, not even all 20 year olds know if they’re ready for such a physical committment. The point is, really, people are ready when they’re ready. The “Age of Consent” is really just a bar that sets what is considered ‘pedophilia’. Teenagers aren’t too afraid of the laws simply due to the elaborate procedures there are to enforce it. Only time that they embrace law is when they were engaged in [a] sexual relationship(s) without their consent (intoxicated, raped, etc).

  7. December 26, 2006 6:02 pm

    You are right David. What is true for one cannot hold true for another. However, I do think that 13 years is a bit young. I know girls are more emotionally mature today than they were earlier…but it’s not just that. An intimate relationship at an early age has consequences like pregnancy. And this can interfere with the girl’s future. Mainly her education.

  8. December 26, 2006 8:33 pm

    Agreed, Nita. This is why governmental health care systems have been attempting to combat teenage pregnancy over using anti-intimacy propoganda. As we have noticed throughout time, governments have tried to make sure to get the point across that “Sexuality is a bad thing to embrace until you’re married or old enough to understand.” This also falls into regards to religion as well (though, a totally different topic at hand, that). Never have I been attempting to sway in saying that a girl shouldn’t have her own desired future; in fact, quite the opposite.

    Obviously, the difficult situation at hand is that an age of consent won’t really derail anyone from engaging in such activities unless they do break such a law from another standpoint (pedophilia, for example). Just because the restriction is there, doesn’t mean that it will cross a 12-13 year old girl’s mind before, during, or after the action has been done. As you may have found in life, intimiate relationships aren’t always something that comes from a logical decision (either physical drive [sexuality] or love [emotionality] can play signifigant factors in this). With that in mind, the only thing a group or organization could really hope to achieve would be to explain to these adolescents that there are ways to avoid pregnancy while engaging in intimate relationships (as you’ve read in my own blog about the NHS dispensing the ‘morning-after’ pill for a week). On top of that, most governments allow girls in their teenage years to pick up free contraceptives from a health centre or their doctor(s).

    Governments, Health Officials, and us commoners have realised that the only thing that can be done to prevent pregnancy is give these girls (and boys) preventive means in a confidental manner. This is where everything starts making sense and why these officials have started changing their approach in more openly sexual countries (US/UK for example). You can’t stop people from being sexual, considering it’s a private thing that happens within doors and isn’t always something that’s mentioned outside of said location (just sexual partners, per se). The consequences are clear, Nita; it’s just that the only thing we can do is attempt to prevent them from happening. Abstinence wouldn’t be the most logical thing to attempt to enforce either.

  9. James permalink
    January 30, 2007 4:04 am

    It’s NOT about ‘men’ having sex with “little girls” as young as 14! It’s about 17 year olds, like me, who’re seeing girls just below the age of consent (e.g. 15!) not being criminals. Why can people like you not see past the difference between a dirty old man and me?!

  10. January 30, 2007 5:24 am

    Whether the boy is 17 or 27, a girl as young as 14 is not mentally mature enough to decide whether she should have sex or not. In fact to start one’s sex life this early can have an adverse impact on the girl’s education. Very few girls can handle it. And the law cannot go about deciding the merits of every case.
    The tribals did it aeons ago…started to have sex as soon as boys and girls were physically mature…but we have moved on.
    This is my personal opinion James. You are welcome to disagree.

  11. Rob permalink
    March 8, 2007 10:55 pm

    when i was 13-14 i had sex with my girlfriend, of course that does not means that a 30 year old should be allowed to sleep with a 13 year old but if the age difference between the two individuals is not to great (ie. +/- 2-3 years)there is no reason for it to be illegal!

  12. Rob permalink
    March 8, 2007 10:57 pm

    in addition most people who are 12-14 are mentally mature to give consent, with some exceptions of course, but i am referring to about 70% of the teen population

  13. March 9, 2007 11:36 am

    Rob, well, I am not really talking of pedophelia, where an older man has sex with a 12-14 year old. This is ofcourse wrong and you agree to that.
    As to whether 12-14 year olds are emotionally mature enough to know whether they want sex or not, well, it is a debatable issue as the varying ages of consent in most countries shows. And frankly I am not talking of the moral issue here, whether it is right or wrong. I am trying to see it from the practical point of view. 12-14 is an age where sex can distract a person from doing what is most needed in our society today – get an education. There may be some who say that sex is not a distraction, that a 12-14 year old can handle it, well I don’t think so. A few people can, but not the majority.

  14. Ray permalink
    May 11, 2007 9:52 am

    Unfortunately many of the responses here show the usual ignorance. Most societies for most of history accept that sexual life begins at puberty. The age of consent in the British Empire used to be 10! It was raised to 13 in 1868, and then to the current 16 in 1886. However, the age of marriage was 12 until 1929. This means that the idea that consent can only occur in the late teens is only historically recent and confined mostly to the British Empire. This means the British Empire is out of step with history. Furthermore the Biblical age of consent is based on Jewish law, which was 12. It is very likely that Mary had Jesus when she was 12, 13, 14. Does this make God a pedophile?

    You have all used the term pedophile incorrectly. A pedophile is someone who is exclusively attracted to children. Look up child in the dictionary and you will see it means ‘pre-pubertal’. An adult who is exclusively attracted to adolescents is an ephebophile, and as I’ve explained ephebophilia is normal is many societies, including during Christ’s time. However, most child-adult sexual contact is opportunistic exploitation by non-pedophile adults. True pedophilia is rare.

    Consent can occur when the individual has both adequate knowledge of the consequences and the cognitive capacity to apply the knowledge. Developmental psychology tells us that the cognitive capacity varies and is not strictly tied to age. Some ‘children’ are quite cognitively advanced and are smarter than some adults. Some adults barely make the grade. I would suggest that the ‘mean’ age for consent is now 14, if not younger, based on current educational and cognitive standards.

    Nita needs to look at how adolescent sexuality has been approached by other cultures. Some cultures tolerate and even encourage teen exlploration as being beneficial. Btw, it is no more distracting for teens than it is for Uni students!

    Most of this topic is mired by moral judgement, not the facts. The age of 16 has no rational basis and is simply the age at which people think young girls should start having sex. It was based on the moral argument of social harm and does not reflect the real capacity to consent.

  15. Ray permalink
    May 11, 2007 10:02 am

    I just thought to add that Nita expressed that she feels 13 is too young. That’s it exactly. She ‘feels’ it is too young, but does she ‘know’ if it is or not? Some 12 year-olds are mature enough to consent, but some 20 year-olds aren’t. So we need to introduce flexibility. Let the court hear the testimony and decide. The problem with age of consent laws is that it is the ‘state’ that prosecutes, not the alleged victim. In several cases the alleged victim did not want to case to proceed. The law should only prosecute with the consent of the victim. As for pregnancy – heard of contraception and non-penetrative sex? The age of consent laws also include digital, oral and anal sex, which can’t cause pregnancy! Doh!

  16. Ray permalink
    May 11, 2007 10:10 am

    Btw, historically India tolerated child marriage and puberty was the time to begin having sex. Indian law was changed at the behest of the British. The current puritanism of India is not indigenous and is entirely borrowed from outside sources. It amazes me to hear Indians argue it is traditional. It’s like the modesty of modern India. Prior to Islam most Indians went semi-naked and women topless, even royalty. This is well documented. The current moral conservatism of India is a post-colonial artefact and has nothing to do with Indian tradition (except conservative orthodox Arya).

  17. May 11, 2007 10:11 am

    True Ray, I feel it strongly, that 13 is too young. And you are right that children having sex from a young age is an ancient practice…but don’t you think we need to change? It may not be ‘natural’ but I think its practical.
    Its also a very subjective decision – as to who is mature. Who is going to decide it? So its best to have an age limit.

  18. Ray permalink
    May 12, 2007 12:57 pm

    Hi Nita,

    It isn’t subjective. Psychologists can administer tests to determine the ‘maturity’ of the individual. A psychologist called Kohlberg established a well known test for moral reasoning, but there are a range of other tests. The age of consent is purely a subjective moral imposition that has nothing to do with actual maturity.

    Incidentally, being Indian you will be well aware of the story of Krishna and the Gopis. According to the vaishna tradition the principal Gopis were all married and all 14 years of age. The age of consent is 14 in Canada and 16 in Australia, but Canada and Australia are very similar. Are Canadian teens more mature than Australian teens?

    The fact is that most teens choose to start having sex in Western countries around 16 or 17 anyway, but some choose earlier. I just don’t think those who choose to begin earlier should be punished for it.

    As for India, child marriage still occurs and you have a huge problem with child prostitution, particularly in Mumbai. It also has a problem with arranged marriages, regardless of age. Do these women consent?

    My view is that children should be given comprehensive sex education free of moral bias. Parents should advise their children that there is no rush to have sex, but they should not condemn them if they start early or start late. It is their decision in the end and the parent’s duty is to ensure it is a well informed decision.

  19. May 12, 2007 2:10 pm

    Ofcourse child marraige is an ancient practice which is still prevalent in certain parts of India. I am against it totally. Its harmful for the development of the child.
    Btw, arranged marraiges are by consent. The odd ones that are not are blown out of proportion by the media. If you have seen The Namesake you will understand. The majority of Indians like to marry the arranged way, and that is a fact. By arranged it does not mean that you never meet your partner before, in fact you can meet several times before, and then once engaged go out. Some broadminded parents allow dates so that you can decide. In my family its always been so but ofcourse more conservative families do not allow it until the two are engaged.
    I myself married for love, but almost everyone I know had an arranged marraige. Voluntarily. Its like you are 25 and have never found anyone, so what do you do? Parents and relatives arrange for you to meet someone, something like a blind date. From then on, you decide.
    There are social pressures ofcourse to marry, specially in rich families, you know how Prince Charles was pressured to marry a virgin from a royal background…
    And I don’t see how prostitution is connected with this issue? Child prostitution is a crime anyway. And I don’t believe that minors should be punished for having sex, its the adult who should be for having sex with a minor.
    Also, it is not practical to conduct tests to find out a person’s maturity. Even tests are subjective in my opinion. Why, there are those who even feel that IQ tests are subjective.
    Harsh punishment or comdemnation is anyway a wrong way to handle this problem. Counseling and as you said sex education is important. See, I am not moralising here. I don’t think its immoral to have sex early, its just that its harmful for a child’s development. And I do not believe that we should do what our ancestors did.

  20. Ray permalink
    May 13, 2007 9:29 am

    It is definitely harmful for a young adolescent to give birth. It is a cruel fact of nature that the young adolescent body can carry a child whilst not being fully grown herself. The result is a higher risk of complications and death at birth.

    Context is everything. Incidental experimentation with sex is not harmful to a child, but a child cannot be expected to handle all the obligations of an adult relationship.

    Having said that – if early sex is harmful to an adolescent or child then all of our ancestors must have been harmed. If not, why weren’t they harmed back then, but are harmed now?

    I don’t think it is necessarily ‘harmful’ to a child at all and research shows that some children enjoy the experience. Of course some don’t enjoy it and some find it harmful – but not all. I just don’t like generalizing.

    I would advise a child to have sex when they feel ready and to make sure their first time is positive. I would urge them not to be pressured into having sex and above all, I’d teach them the difference between good and bad sex. Rush into sex through being pressured by a boy who doesn’t really care for them is bad sex. There is no rush.

    But there is also no harm if they have good sex before the socially accepted age. It’s not about age but about quality.

    A survey in England revealed that a third of the population had sex before the legal age. India would be quite different of course. It is now much more conservative. But things will change as the young adopt Western ways. Age of Consent laws are often disobeyed.

  21. May 13, 2007 1:11 pm

    Life then was different…people died early for one thing. Also there was no industrialisation, and no requirement for a high level of education. Also people lived together in large families, an odd person who was say destitute would be looked after. today women are increasingly being expected to look after themselves…in these circumstances they need the skill to do so in an effective way.
    I am not sure that in India people have sex later than in the west. That is what we would like to believe, but a lot of things that go on here do so behind closed doors as being a conservative society we do not accept anyone openly having sex before they should.
    Basically all human beings are the same and so are their sex urges. In fact what I like about the western approach to sex is that its open. here, people are mostly in denial. women here abort their babies in secret, often go to quacks and sometimes abandon their babies. All because of a society that does not accept unwed mothers.

  22. Ray permalink
    May 14, 2007 4:01 am

    India wasn’t always conservative. One of the contradictions of India is that the pre-colonial era produced a highly sophisticated erotic culture. I’m not talking about the Kama Sutra alone, but also about erotic art and the tradition of the devadasi and tawaif. An Indian academic I’m in an email exchange with has done extensive work on the history of clothing in India. Up until the 18th century Indian women predominantly went topless. Indians did not have tailoring – the art of sewing was introduced by Muslims. The choli did not exist before the Muslim invasion and took some centuries to permeate the entire country. In fact in one southern area it was forbidden for lower caste women to cover their breasts. This near nudity was the norm in Hindu Bali up until the mid 20th century when Western tourism forced women to cover themselves.

    So why did India become so moralistic and sexually conservative? The problem lies squarely at the feet of the ultra-orthodox caste infected Indian male. The British adopted the manu smrti as the basis of Indian custom and worked with the Brahmin and Kshatriya castes. This gave these castes greater power than they had ever had before and it their values that are imposed on India. Their vision of ancient India is crude historical revisionism. The recent scandal over Richard Gere kissing Shilpa is their dirty work. The ridiculous moral conservatism of Bollywood is again, their work. Bollywood portrays pre-colonial India in completely sanitized ways and Indians are not being taught about their own culture. Today Hindu women are treated almost as badly as Muslim women by these high caste patriarchs.

    I agree that girls today have greater opportunities and are better educated. This improved education ought to mean they are better informed and therefore better able to consent. The fact is that many modern girls choose freely to delay having sex for all the reasons you cite. In Australia modern teens are very well informed and many make wise choices. In places like Sweden and Holland, both known for their liberal attitude to sex, teens do not start having sex any earlier.

    My point was to correct some common misconceptions about pedophilia and the age of consent. I don’t think the state should be involved and I don’t think there should be a law. I believe that with the right education and support from parents children will make the right decision. However, a child must always be protected from coercion of any kind – to have sex or to marry early. Child marriage and child prostitution in India continues because the legal system and police are corrupt.

  23. Ray permalink
    May 14, 2007 9:15 am

    I should also mention that in the pre-colonial era the Tantric and Shakta sects had greater influence and they were sexually permissive. Tantra and Shakta sects have always opposed the caste system and the Tantric groups openly opposed the orthodox Arya, often deliberately flouting their absurd laws. After the Muslim and British these groups lost influence. Sadly many people think that Hinduism is orthodox Aryanism. It’s about time the Aryan hegemony was opposed.

  24. May 14, 2007 9:22 am

    One of the reasons for the sexual conservatism in India is as you said the British rule, and this is because of the strong sexual conservatism of the rulers – at that time.It wasn’t just Islam which was conservative, it was Christianity as well. Today the west has moved on, we haven’t.

  25. Ray permalink
    May 14, 2007 11:50 am

    Yes, I agree the British played a large part. Modern Indian sexual morality is more like Victorian England. However, Islam had an effect, particularly on dress standards.

  26. Ray permalink
    May 15, 2007 7:05 am

    To end this thread can I summarise our differences as a difference between ‘can’ and ‘should’. I believe children ‘can’ consent as young as even nine or ten, that by that age they generally have the cognitive capacity to understand the consequences provided they are told what they are. It is an entirely different question as to whether or not they ‘should’ consent. I would certainly counsel any child not to rush and that there are good reasons to wait.

    It’s just that those who argue a moral case for waiting often confuse ‘can’ with ‘should’ and end up arguing that a child ‘can’t’ consent rather than ‘shouldn’t’.

  27. Ray permalink
    May 15, 2007 7:13 am

    Ooops, should have added that I personally know girls of nine, ten who know about sex and pregnancy and who understood that they were not ready. They had the cognitive capacity to understand why they should wait and enough self-understanding to know that they weren’t particularly interested either. They demonstrated the necessary wisdom and self-awareness. If they decided against sex they can decide for sex.

    I belive that if told a group of ten year old girls they were free to have sex, the overwhelming majority would decide not to. – most would likely say, ‘yuck’. We have to give kids more credit than we do.

  28. Ajmed permalink
    July 3, 2007 11:30 pm

    The problem is that womens bodies develop at different rates, so a child that is 13 may look 18 in another country and vice a versa. Many 3rd world nations still have a large proportion of their young populations having children of their own. Through either abuse or ignorant cultural biases, its still very much the accepted norm for instance that latin american girls are able to have consentual sex at 15 and are pretty much fair game to any man, despite some latin countries raising it to 16.

    At the end of the day some young girls will inevitably have sex with a much older man, we keep forgetting that young girls are not immune to falling in love either. And as much as we think its all logical and sensible for age of consent to be raised, we are all human and prone to mistakes, I think harsh penalties for consentual sex where minors are concerned should not be so rigid. Men fall in love with young girls sometimes, this is not such a far fetched notion. I think each case should be looked at by its own merits and folleys, otherwise we just become a nation of automatons and not a people where compassion and understanding rules first and foremost.

    I dont think it is impossible for a 12 year old girl to be completely clueless and incapacitated to the point of not knowing how to love or consent if she wants to. What is more probable is the information and choice to enter a sexual relationship is taken away from them on the basis they are too young. If we better educated our kids instead of babying them, we would surely find alot of young people can be sexually mature and sensible at the age of puberty, of course ignoring them and these issues is what governments and society usually does, eventually only assisting in the perpetuation of fearmongering when an incident arises where we will call the man a pedofile and the girl a rape victim. I choose not to be so shortsighted when hearing about such news.

  29. Andy permalink
    August 8, 2007 9:53 pm

    I cannot agree with your comment that modern life is somehow intrisically different to tribal times. This is a complete fantasy, in my view. We are exactly the same creatures today as we were a few million years ago, when life expectancy was about 18 years.
    Trying to stop teenagers having sex is lost cause; only a puritanical American would fail to understand this simple fact of life.

  30. August 8, 2007 10:12 pm

    Andy, at one level I agree with you. Our sexual nature is not different from what it was thousands of years ago. Sexuality does tend to peak in the teen years. And ofcourse, it is not possible to stop teenagers from having sex..
    But what defines a teenager when it comes to sexual and emotional maturity? That is the question.
    I would say that 13 does not. 16 does. Maybe a boy or a girl is ready to have sex at 14 too…but hey, why not give some concessions to modern life? Our life expectancy has increased, we have far more years when we can have sex. Why, it is possible to have sex from the age of 16-18 to at least 60! In those times it was not so, as you yourself have said.

  31. September 16, 2007 9:12 pm

    //After the comment on this post I looked for the age of consent for boys. I found that in most countries it is the same as for girls. However, homosexuality is illegal in many countries (including India) so the question of boys legally suffering at tender ages does not arise.//

    I’m not sure I understood – how is homosexuality a precursor for boys legally suffering at tender ages? What happens when mature women seduce younger boys?

  32. September 16, 2007 9:55 pm

    Mahendra, well my statement is based on the premise that women do not ‘rape’ men. Sure, they can seduce, but I have not taken that into consideration…sorry! but yes, that would be illegal if the boy is underage.
    what I meant by the other statement is: If homosexuality itself is illegal, then a man’s act of having sex with a boy who is under age will automatically become illegal. I am only talking of the legal aspect. But your point of the woman seducing is one that I did not take into account.

  33. September 16, 2007 10:15 pm

    Nita: thanks. Yes, not surprising that you took a feminine-centric view! :-)

    The recent spate of news from the US regarding school teachers ‘seducing’ young male students is a case in point.

    It is interesting to note how the word “rape” is usually applied only in the case of males forcing non-consensual sex with females. It actually holds true the other way around too.

    We prefer the term ‘seduction’ when a female forces sex with a male, but that is a euphemism. It is actually rape too.

  34. September 16, 2007 10:31 pm

    Well, generally when one thinks of rape one associates it with some sort of force, or even violence. that is why I prefer the term seduction.
    ofcourse it is possible for force to be used too, but it is less common.

  35. Nagesh Pillai permalink
    December 9, 2007 6:04 pm

    I am 26 year old person and have a girlfriend, her age is 20 years we love each other and got married before few months, we are thinking of doing a sex however we are not sure that is the right age for both of or not. will you tell me is it the right agee, rest all sides are perfect for us like figical growth and we are well setteled.

  36. Glinda permalink
    December 25, 2007 6:58 pm

    I think that the girls today are far more mature than we give them credit for. Just go to the mall on Friday and Saturday nights. Why do we let the schools and system give them birth control pills and condoms to go ahead and play, but I say BUt. when they start a girls crushes on older men, uncles, friends of the famiiy, neightbors, can causes a very decent man to be ruined for life. I say 13 1/2 and 14 is not too young. I dated when I was 14 I knew to say no my friends said yes with their dates. Reason …they were more mature than myself –guess who has the happier lives. They do. I have a niece 13 she looks and acts with the maturity of a girl you would think was 18 or 19. she is built and in no way does she have the mentality of what our society would call or lable as a child. She is as much of a woman now as she will ever be. I feel sorry for the men out there who has this flaunted in front of them day in and day out , let them be human and make the mistake and and they are paying for life for what should be consentual sex. I kow my son has his wifes’ daught at the age of 13 yrs 10mo living in his home his wife was not home her mother did not care and she actually wrote in her diary how she was going to lure my son and get him to bed – it took 3 months for him to break.. he is now listed as a rapist. you tell me what is fair. This is a decent man , no smoking , no cursing, his life was his three sons and his job and because of a human error he has lost everything. Alot of these girls know exactly what they are doing!!

  37. June 1, 2008 4:27 am

    Andy, your not wholly correct, we have been around in our current form a couple hundred thousand years. A couple million years ago we were different, genectically similar but physically and mentally worlds apart. How many years have we worried about child explotation, and how many years have called ourselves civilized. 6000 and 80 max. Agree with the other posts its age difference that makes it abuse, or should i say knowing better, as a idiot whatever age cant be judged. Some girl that walks into a bar at 18 and gets served when 13, can also turn on most males. But if your 30, 40 ,18 is also wrong. Whats a year or two, charlie chaplin at 80 married a twenty year old, legal, but surely disgusting.

  38. Thank God permalink
    June 29, 2008 9:26 am

    finaly some rational ppl decent smart ppl in this place it doesnt matter what age a girl is if she looks like she is your type or somebody you would like Go out with back when you were the same age or so it would be nice to have somthing that good atleast temporaly instead of being label sex Offender or some sick crap when its normal a natural thing of life ever heard of Animals? what are we? being forced to not like something naturaly? and all these brain washed fruits it doesnt even matter even she realy young and u mess around 1 time is that a pedofile f* no especialy if she is the one grabbing u n stuff n she’s atleast 12 or Older yea u hear about the age thats all not the maturity this would actualy cut down on aid’s and Sexualy Transmitted diseases if it was allowed most likely ateast in my case if an Older Guy was allowed to be with a younger girl that young it would be for years n prolly be married later on n most likely would not end in a Divorce Just like everyoen else out there ina Adult + Adult Relationship but propagander spreaders love to make ppl fear this brain washing crap calling everyone pedofiels because they like or get with a younger girl needs to stop thanks media butt Pirate chris Hanson. they like babys n little thing’s sicko not Developed girls or Developing do i sound like a bad scary person lol

  39. Richard permalink
    August 17, 2008 8:16 am

    There is a lot of intellectual and moral bankruptcy displayed in this debate. If the man is much older, then “of course” it’s wrong. “Of course” is no kind of argument. If a girl is able to decide whether to have sex with a fifteen-year-old, then she is just as able to decide whether to have sex with a fifty-year-old. In fact, the risks attendant on the latter are less, not more, because the fifty-year old is more likely to be aware of the risks and to take the necessary precautions. If the girl does get pregnant (less likely with an older man anyway), he is can be required to contribute to the child’s upkeep, which is hardly the case for a fifteen-year-old.

    I am not saying that relationships between people of vastly disparate ages are necessarily a good idea (but that needs an argument), but since when does everything that may not be a good idea have to be banned? I am not aware of any law that stops me from eating 10 pizzas a day, although that is hardly a healthy practice.

    Lastly, sexual attraction is largely determined by evolution and is therefore linked to reproductive capacity. A female human is at her most fertile and least likely to have complications in childbirth at an age (15-16) when she can’t legally have sex in a lot of places. The legal situation doesn’t make perverse or immoral for men to be sexually attracted to them, regardless of the man’s age.

  40. Arthur permalink
    December 1, 2008 2:54 pm

    “little girls as young as 14″ Ok then, you have to go in prison if you let your “little girl” girl of 14 wander around alone, go buy things alone, get the bus alone etc etc, if it is a “little girl” is a “little girl”. If you use “little girl” to make your point (a clear emotional manipulation, as for little girl you think more of a girl between 3-8 at most) then you aren’t helping much if you want to avoid sexual problems on early adolescents by banning sex. Try to call “little girl” on serious matters to your 14 year old daughter.

  41. Nisha permalink
    January 9, 2009 9:24 pm

    Most of those who commented here seems to have overlooked the fact that the age at which girls (or boys for that matter) reach puberty differs from place to place. Social standing, nutrition, all can play a role. Asians do tend to reach puberty later than Caucasians. I am not surprised that Nita called a 14 year old a “little girl” and why many found it strange. Many 14 year olds are indeed little girls in India. (You may remember the reaction of the world to the the Chinese gymnasts!) I wonder if you have any information on this Nita?

    You are right Nisha. In fact that is why I didn’t react to the commentators because I knew they wouldn’t understand. It is absolutely true that one reaches puberty earlier if one has good nutrition. And there is also the emotional aspect to consider. In India talk of sex is taboo, even now. I know girls who do not know the facts of life till their late teens and leave alone anything about pregnancy prevention! Also, our society with the premium placed on virginity, if a girl loses her virginity it can have a far greater psychological impact on her than in a girl in a western society. – Nita.

  42. AverageIndian permalink
    March 26, 2009 1:53 pm

    I think age of consent law and every law policing people’s sexuality should be abolished. Courts should stay out of our bedrooms. (Rape can be dealt as a case of violence) Anyways most of the problems average indians face are either tolerated or settled out of court. Very few people take their problems to courts and only a fraction of them manage to get justice done. I have seen it firsthand. So these laws are there only as decorations… nothing more.

    • vasudev permalink
      June 14, 2009 9:45 pm

      w/o a legal age of consent every green apple would be sold as ripe!

  43. Abdullah K. permalink
    June 14, 2009 5:43 pm

    Nita – “Whether the boy is 17 or 27, a girl as young as 14 is not mentally mature enough to decide whether she should have sex or not.”

    Maturity is not a function of age but of experience. If we delay the age of consent to 26, then 26 will be the new age before which one would not be considered ‘mentally mature enough to decide whether to have sex or not’. While a bare minimum age must be instated for sexual consent, along with proper safeguards for preventing exploitation, I don’t think raising the age of consent is going to sort out any social ills or going to make girls/boy more mature about sex. People in Northeast (tribal societies) have sexual initiation at a much earlier age than mainstream Indians and yet they do not face as much sexual and gender based crimes as mainstream India (where the de-facto age of consent is around 20 years of age, at which the average Indian male/female gets married).

    Look at it this way – at the age of 15, the average teenage guy in a sexually liberated country views girls mainly as sexual objects. As he grows up and experiments with sex more, his outlook matures enough to handle sex and relationships responsibly into adulthood. In India, the attitude doesn’t change whether the guy is 15 or 25. In fact, it grows a lot worse. The culprit here is our cultural mores against premarital sex which coupled a late marriage age, make a gap of 10 or more years between puberty and sexual initiation. This creates a large sexually frustrated population which vents their urge is socially undesirable ways (eve teasing, moral policing, etc.).

    P.S: I used the guy’s point of view in my example, since as a guy,I can’t really give an accurate example from a girl’s perspective.

    • vasudev permalink
      June 14, 2009 9:44 pm

      abdullah…one point which you missed to consider (wrt india) was the affordability vs expectations (or dreams) vs competition vs dependability vs population vs geographical density.

  44. Abdullah K. permalink
    June 14, 2009 6:25 pm

    @ Nita – “12-14 is an age where sex can distract a person from doing what is most needed in our society today – get an education.”

    If a society opens up enough to admit sex as a part of life, 14 year olds having sex wouldn’t really create problems in getting education any more than playing sports, watching TV or having friends would. The more you restrict teenagers from having sex, the more ‘big deal’ would sex be for them and the more time they’d waste in thinking about sex or in sexual anxieties.
     

    Ray – “The age of 16 has no rational basis and is simply the age at which people think young girls should start having sex.”

    I agree. We could raise the age of consent to 20 and it wouldn’t make for more maturity in regards to sexual choices.
     

    Nita – “It may not be ‘natural’ but I think its practical.”

    How are we to decide an arbitary age as being more ‘practical’ than giving people options?
     

    Nita – “Btw, arranged marraiges are by consent. The odd ones that are not are blown out of proportion by the media. “

    Not really. Most arranged marriages in India are not consensual. When the option of force doesn’t exist, such arranged marriages are pushed by threats of disinheritance or ‘stories’ about how NNNN suffered in life because he/she refused their parents’ choice. (I have personally encountered the latter and by my parents, who are otherwise ‘broadminded’). The kind of ‘arranged choice’ marriages that you mention, would constitute less than 5% of the arranged marriages in India.
     

    @ Ray – “I belive that if told a group of ten year old girls they were free to have sex, the overwhelming majority would decide not to. – most would likely say, ‘yuck’. We have to give kids more credit than we do.”

    Ditto. Modern life might have changed superficial aspects of our lifestyle, but it didn’t change our biological natures one little bit.
     

    Nita – “Our life expectancy has increased, we have far more years when we can have sex. Why, it is possible to have sex from the age of 16-18 to at least 60!”

    Try explaining that to the hormones that drive the sex urge. Our life expectancy has increased but our biological clock didn’t reset accordingly to accomodate a later period for ageing. Both our sexual drives and our ability to perform starts of taper off once we hit our forties, the same as it would be 500 years ago. Moreover, subliming our sex urges too strongly for a very long time can create a lot of physical and psychological issues when one finally gets round to having sex.

  45. Ray permalink
    July 12, 2009 11:33 am

    All,

    I was surprised to see this thread still going when I came by it again by accident.

    A bit more information. Under both Jewish and Roman law the age of marriage was set at 12. It remained this way in the West until the late 19th century.

    Throughout this whole time it was perfectly acceptable for a much older man to marry an adolescent of 12. It is only in recent times that this has been ‘abnormalised’ and called pedophilia.

    Interestingly the gradual rise in the age of consent only arose ‘after’ the notion of rights for women were established. Previously women didn’t have the right to consent. Marriages were arranged. In the West, under patriarchal Judeo-Christian values, post-pubertal women were married off to avoid a period where they were at risk of committing the ‘sin’ of extra-marital sex. But now that the age of marriage has been raised to eighteen in most countries the age of consent laws have been raised to try and fill the gap.

    In the West women were given only two ‘passive’ choices, virginal purity or being the good wife.

    This completely ignores the reality of women’s complex sexuality.

    In the end it is up to the individual to choose and not surprising this is what happens anyway. The age of consent laws are usually only ever used in conjunction with a complaint of sexual assault. Otherwise many young adolescent women (I refuse to call them children or girls because this infantalises them) have sex with older males and keep it secret. In other words it happens anyway.

  46. My name is Ben permalink
    July 25, 2009 12:20 pm

    All I can say is that the first thing I seen that shows ignorance on your part is the “(they take into account the physical maturity of the girl, not emotional.)” which shows me the author is automatically biased about the subject based on girls and not boys.
    And ugh.. where do I start? Okay, the fact that in non-individualistic societies people tend to be more emotionally developed especially young women and men at these said ages. This because people are simply more social.

    Okay, the idea that pedophiles exist.. Do they? Perhaps they are simply undeveloped adults who never had a chance as a young teen to explore with others of their age. Why must we create the law of minimum age consent instead of creating and analysis of children about the age of 17 to see if they need emotional support. Makes more sense.. it’s not backwards.

    And ah… the idea that Teenagers exist. Modern society emphasizes financial independence.. but what is the purpose of money? It does nothing but keep us limited, dumb, and immature. Mature children at the age of 15 are in fact adults after puberty. But American teenagers are not as matured and therefore the teenager exists.. in this country.

    Understand that age of consent laws take into account the average emotional maturity of each nation and society. Meaning America NEEDS 16-18 age of consent laws whereas France or Sweden can have 15 years of age because their children are more emotionally intelligent. An American 16 year old is like a Swedish 12 year old in emotional intelligence.

    Thanks for reading

  47. Kaiya permalink
    March 31, 2010 5:46 pm

    Look… I am not here to judge. But I am curious about all of this. Some people may be ready at 13, others may be ready at 25. I believe that emotional maturity varies from the person. I do believe that having a sexual relationship early can be extremely dangerous. Let’s say we have little Katie. She’s 13 and very attractive. Now here comes Billy. He’s 19 and super hot. Billy asks young Katie out on a date. Billy obviously wants Katie because 1) she’s a virgin. 2) She’s attractive. 3) He can easily “get in and get out”. Katie however, doesn’t realize this because she is infatuated and amazed by the fact that the hottest boy around asked her out. Now, Billy wants Katie to have sex. Katie, being madly “in love” with Billy agrees. Now, Billy has what he wants. He leaves Katie and Katie is all alone. Four weeks later, she finds out she’s pregnant.

    Sadly enough, what I have just described is a very common situation. This is exactly why i don’t feel that young women should be having sex. Do I believe that it is morally wrong? Well, first of all, morals were developed by humans to make a point that we are not animals. Do I think it’s okay? Absolutely not. Do I think that people should be punished for it? That depends. First of all, while there may be older men/women that fall in love with younger people, there are a great deal that simply pray on them because they are easy game. There are a great deal more that pray on them because of their virginity.

    I think that people should wait, because generally, people are not going to be emotionally ready. Sex is an act, yes. But usually in females, there is an emotional attachment behind it. For males, it is simply something you do and move on. Females tend to have a much greater emotional attachment. We bond to the male we are doing it with, we attach to them in a way(most, not all). What happens when we bond to an older male because we “loved” or thought we loved him, and he gets up and leaves? The male moves on, whereas we are left behind to suffer. How do I know this? Because I have seen it happen time and time again. My best friend was with a guy for two years. He played her like an instrument(literally). He played the sweet talking game, fooled her into thinking he was madly in love with her. Finally on their second anniversary she gave it to him. He left two days later. Now, my friend is in counseling everyday. She is an emotional wreck, and her life has been ruined. All because of a stupid guy.

    So what do we do? We can’t stop making young people have sex. But I do think, that every precaution should be taken to educate them and hope that they wait. After all, how will a 13 or 14 year old girl truly know if she’s ready? How can she comprehend whether she is truly in love or if its just a crush? Even more importantly how can she be certain that the man actually loves her and isn’t simply trying to “get some”. The same applies for young boys and older women. They may say they are emotionally ready and/or think they are but how can they be sure when they are just that, kids? Sorry, didn’t mean to ramble. Sex, and premarital sex, etc is a topic that I am very passionate about. I have seen so many of my friends get used, abused, and suffer because of these types of things (both male and female). I can honestly say from a personal view (as a victim of rape and abuse from an older male) it is better to wait. It really can fuck people up, Pardon my language.

  48. Kaiya permalink
    March 31, 2010 5:53 pm

    One more thing, I don’t believe that underage sex is necessarily pedophelia. I do believe however, that there needs to be a limit. Personally, I look at it this way. Age 14: I think its too young and the person should wait, but then again, that’s my opinion. Age 12-13: Okay… pushing it, but still, people married at that age so… Just please don’t get pregnant. Age 10-11: Okay REALLY pushing it. I would consider seeking help if your after someone at that age first of all. As for the child. There is no way. They just can’t possibly be ready. 9 and under: Okay seriously, you have a problem. I am sorry but there is no reason (mentally, emotionally, physically whatever you want to call it) that a person should be after a child of this age. They can’t even comprehend what sex is let alone engage in sexual acts. It’s creepy its wrong and its just plain disgusting. If you have a fetish for it, you like it, fine. But keep it in your head and don’t even think about acting on it. Seriously, they’re just kids!

  49. My name is Ben permalink
    April 1, 2010 12:45 am

    @Kaiya You have very good points, and for the most part I agree with you, however…
    There are a lot of “social orders” that we tend to follow, specifically “premarital sex”.. Which is simply something we are told we should do.. It is true the emotional intelligence of each individual varies (and is likely to not vary nearly as much in “underdeveloped” countries) but what is MOST important is the sexual education (as you said) that is given to the population during the primary education years. It is not just important for females to have this knowledge but even more-so that males get this knowledge, and at a very young age because they have the ability and the sex drive AT the age of 11 or 12…
    I believe that with knowledge like this (considerable sexual and emotional intelligence) that men will understand the negatives in what they do to certain women and that women will understand the negatives in the way the “believe” how things are supposed to work..
    Sociology is an excellent way of understand how we are all interconnected and especially how the necessity of sexual relationships build upon our trust and social networks.. In an individualistic society, it is said that these types of relationships are negative.. but it is just a belief..

  50. comment permalink
    September 3, 2010 5:43 am

    All the so called dangers in lowering the age of consent is due to the existance of the modern relationship called “dating”. Such a concept nvr existed back then. Prolonging the age has also resulted in people turning towards the same sex relationship.

  51. shyam permalink
    September 5, 2010 2:28 pm

    There is hardly any relation between age of consent and child marriage.Marriages are governed by various Indian marriage acts which does ALLOW CHILD MARRIAGE( one only has to reach puberty,if she is Muslim)and the Child Marriage Restraint Act which conflicts with the former.

    Marriage involves much more than just sex, therefore it is only natural that the age of consent is lower than marriageable age .Most of the developed countries with low ages of consent also have a close in age exemption, which you chose to ignore..In India people’s naturally strong instincts toward sexuality are being repressed by the society to meet the constraints imposed on them by a civilized life.
    ( Human sex drive is said to peak at around 17 to 18 )

  52. January 18, 2012 10:38 am

    Who are you to contradict science? If one can biologically reproduce, how can it be “wrong” for them to have sex? There are many cultures in the world, and you cannot apply your opinions, and the misguided culture that we have here in the United States of Communism to the rest of the world. Raise your kids right, and they will make the appropriate decisions when faced with them. If your daughter at age 13 does not know that having sex with that 40 year old creep down the street is a bad idea, then YOU failed as a parent. It is not the government, nor everyone else in society’s job to raise your kids. There are many 15 and 16 year old “girls” out there that look like they are 25, and many of them are emotionally ready for sex – largely because they were raised properly, and have the intelligence and self awareness to make decisions. Ever hear of personal responsibility? You should read about it some time.

    • Anon permalink
      September 10, 2012 9:44 pm

      Just what i’ve always thought, who are we to apply our standards to other cultures? Especially when our society is by no means perfect either . . .

  53. Hayley permalink
    August 21, 2012 5:21 am

    Hey! I know it’s been a while since someone last commented on here but I just came across this blog and found all your comments very intresting. Recently there have been rumours around Britain that the legal age of consent has been lowered to 14. Now I’m a 14 year old girl and I beleive that if I chose to have sex at this age I would be physically and mentally ready. However I dont think many other girls(or boys for that matter) are ready.
    Now this new law that’s being proposed is that the person (14+) should be allowed to have sex as long as their partner is within a 2 year age gap (16 or under). Which means ‘pedophelia’ would still be illegal. That I agree this is fair. However i still believe that both teens should be ready, physically, mentally, emotionally etc.

  54. Jay permalink
    June 17, 2013 7:15 am

    How about asking the minor what they think to establish mental maturity? If we have the capacity to say whether or not we like something, why don’t we have the capacity to say whether or not we want it? If we have control over what happens, do you really think it is going to be detrimental? Or is it more that society reacts with such horror and vigour that we are compelled to accept its interpretation of what has happened to us?

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