But do these dangers warrant laws that put young people in prison? Romeo and Juliet Make a Comeback Statutory rape is defined by the FBI as non-forcible sexual intercourse with a person who is younger than the statutory age of consent. The statutory rape laws vary greatly from state to state, with more than half of the states setting the legal age of consent at 16 other states range from 14 to For the most part, there is no single age at which a person can consent to sexual activity.
Only 12 states set a specific age ranging from 16 to 18 , while in the majority of states, the age of consent depends on multiple factors, including the ages of each partner and the number of years between them. The purpose behind most statutory rape laws is to punish grown adults who take sexual advantage of a minor. The following are just a few examples of Romeo and Juliet laws currently in place in the United States:. Exceptions and Other Considerations In addition to Romeo and Juliet laws, some states have specific exemptions when both parties to the sexual act are minors, or the person to be charged is legally married to the minor.
However, there are still restrictions in some states about the type of sexual activity that is permissible, such as oral sex and sodomy, as well as restrictions on relationships involving a minor and a person of authority, including teachers, coaches, or tutors. All states have special provisions if any physical force was used or serious physical injury resulted.
Until recently, statutory rape laws applied only to females, ignoring situations involving sex between an adult female and underage male. Today, most laws are gender neutral, and a number of women in authority positions such as Mary Kay Letourneau, Debra Lafave, Pamela Rogers Turner, and Pamela Smart have been prosecuted for engaging in sexual relationships with younger males.
Does the Punishment Fit the Crime? While many states have strict statutory rape laws on the books, prosecutors have been inconsistent in enforcing them, says Mark Chaffin, a researcher with the National Center on the Sexual Behavior of Youth. One particularly shocking case drew international attention when year-old Georgia resident, Genarlow Wilson, was charged with aggravated child molestation and sentenced to 10 years in prison for having consensual oral sex with a year-old girl.
Ages of consent in the United States
Georgia law, which has since been changed to classify this act as a misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of one year in prison, also required Wilson to register as a sex offender when he was released. Are Statutory Rape Laws Outdated? Statutory rape laws are based on the premise that although young girls may want to have sex, they may not have enough experience or discernment to make a mature, informed decision. The laws are designed to protect young people who have less information and power than their and-over counterparts. For example, minors may be less likely than adults to understand sexually transmitted diseases, have access to contraception, and have the resources to raise a child if they become pregnant.
Most people believe there is a clear line between young people wanting to date and have sex, and adults molesting or assaulting a child. And most would agree that the difference between intimacy and abuse should be reflected in the laws of each state. But not all parties agree on how strict the laws should be.
Critics of strict statutory rape laws argue that while sexual relationships between teens relatively close in age may be morally questionable, prosecuting every case would unnecessarily clog up the justice system. By the midth century there was increased concern over child sexual abuse. A general shift in social and legal attitudes toward issues of sex occurred during the modern era.
Attitudes on the appropriate age of permission for females to engage in sexual activity drifted toward adulthood. While ages from ten to thirteen years were typically regarded as acceptable ages for sexual consent in Western countries during the midth century,  by the end of the 19th century changing attitudes towards sexuality and childhood resulted in the raising of the age of consent.
English common law had traditionally set the age of consent within the range of ten to twelve years old, but the Offences Against the Person Act raised this to thirteen in Great Britain and Ireland. Early feminists of the Social Purity movement , such as Josephine Butler and others, instrumental in securing the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts , began to turn towards the problem of child prostitution by the end of the s.
Sensational media revelations about the scourge of child prostitution in London in the s then caused outrage among the respectable middle-classes, leading to pressure for the age of consent to be raised again. The investigative journalist William Thomas Stead of the Pall Mall Gazette was pivotal in exposing the problem of child prostitution in the London underworld through a publicity stunt. In he "purchased" one victim, Eliza Armstrong , the thirteen-year-old daughter of a chimney sweep , for five pounds and took her to a brothel where she was drugged.
The "Maiden Tribute" was an instant sensation with the reading public, and Victorian society was thrown into an uproar about prostitution. Fearing riots on a national scale, the Home Secretary , Sir William Harcourt , pleaded in vain with Stead to cease publication of the articles.
What Is Statutory Rape?
A wide variety of reform groups held protest meetings and marched together to Hyde Park demanding that the age of consent be raised. The government was forced to propose the Criminal Law Amendment Act , which raised the age of consent from thirteen to sixteen and clamped down on prostitution. In the United States, as late as the s most states set the minimum age at ten to twelve in Delaware, it was seven in The campaign was successful, with almost all states raising the minimum age to sixteen to eighteen years by In France , Portugal, Denmark, the Swiss cantons and other countries, the minimum age was raised to between thirteen and sixteen years in the following decades.
In France, under the Napoleonic Code , the age of consent was set in at eleven,  and was raised to thirteen in In Spain , it was set in at "puberty age", and changed to twelve in ,  which was kept until , when it became 13;   and in it was raised to In the 21st century, concerns about child sex tourism and commercial sexual exploitation of children gained international prominence, and have resulted in legislative changes in several jurisdictions, as well as in the adoption of several international instruments.
The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children , which came into force in , prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children. The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings which came into force in also deals with commercial sexual exploitation of children. Several Western countries have raised their ages of consent recently.
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These include Canada in —from 14 to 16 ; and in Europe, Iceland in —from 14 to 15 , Lithuania in —from 14 to 16 , Croatia in —from 14 to 15 , and Spain in —from 13 to Sexual relations with a person under the age of consent is a crime in most countries, exceptions to this include, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia.
Jurisdictions use a variety of terms for the offense, including child sexual abuse , statutory rape , illegal carnal knowledge , corruption of a minor ,  besides others.
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The enforcement practices of age-of-consent laws vary depending on the social sensibilities of the particular culture see above. Often, enforcement is not exercised to the letter of the law, with legal action being taken only when a sufficiently socially-unacceptable age gap exists between the two individuals, or if the perpetrator is in a position of power over the minor e. The sex of each participant can also influence perceptions of an individual's guilt and therefore enforcement.
Ages of consent in North America - Wikipedia
The threshold age for engaging in sexual activity varies between jurisdictions see above. Most jurisdictions have set a fixed age of consent. Ages can also vary based on the type of calendar used, such as the Lunar calendar ,  how birth dates in leap years are handled, or even the method by which birth date is calculated. The age of consent is a legal barrier to the minor's ability to consent and therefore obtaining consent is not in general a defense to having sexual relations with a person under the prescribed age, for example:.
A growing number of countries have specific extraterritorial legislation that prosecutes their citizens in their homeland should they engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with children. This applies in cases where any of the partners travels into or out of the United States, or from one state into another, for the purpose of an illegal sexual encounter.
There is debate as to whether the gender of those involved should lead to different treatment of the sexual encounter, in law or in practice. Traditionally, age of consent laws regarding vaginal intercourse were often meant to protect the chastity of unmarried girls. This has led to gender-neutral laws in many jurisdictions.
In the US, in Michael M. Traditionally, many age of consent laws dealt primarily with men engaging in sexual acts with underage girls and boys the latter acts often falling under sodomy and buggery laws. This means that in some legal systems, issues of women having sexual contact with underage partners were rarely acknowledged.
For example, until , in the UK, before the Sexual Offences Amendment Act , there was no statutory age of consent for lesbian sex. The age at which a person can be legally married can differ from the age of consent. In jurisdictions where the marriageable age is lower than the age of consent, those laws usually override the age of consent laws in the case of a married couple where one or both partners are below the age of consent.
Some jurisdictions prohibit all sex outside of marriage irrespective of age, as in the case of Yemen. In many countries, there are specific laws dealing with child prostitution. In some countries, states, or other jurisdictions, the age of consent may be lower than the age at which a person can appear in pornographic images and films.
In many jurisdictions, the minimum age for participation and even viewing such material is As such, in some jurisdictions, films and images showing individuals under the age of 18, but above the age of consent, that meet the legal definition of child pornography are prohibited despite the fact that the sexual acts depicted are legal to engage in otherwise under that jurisdiction's age of consent laws.
In those cases, it is only the filming of the sex act that is the crime as the act itself would not be considered a sex crime. For example, in the United States under federal law it is a crime to film minors below 18 in sexual acts, even in states where the age of consent is below Jailbait images can be differentiated from child pornography , as they do not feature minors before the onset of puberty, nor do they contain nudity. When questioned regarding their legality legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin stated he thought it was not illegal, though legal expert Sunny Hostin was more skeptical, describing jailbait images as "borderline" child pornography which may be illegal.
The human immune system continues to develop after puberty. For example, a risk factor for HPV strains causing genital warts is sexual debut at a young age;  if this extends to the cancer causing strains, then sexual debut at a young age would potentially also increase risk of persistence of HPV infections that cause the very HPV induced cancers that are being diagnosed in spiking numbers of relatively young people. Age-of-consent reform refers to the efforts of some individuals or groups, for different reasons, to alter or abolish age-of-consent laws.
These efforts advocate five main positions:. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
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For other uses, see Age of consent disambiguation. Dagenhart History of youth rights in the United States Morse v. Adam Fletcher activist David J. Males Neil Postman Sonia Yaco. Marriageable age and Child marriage. Child pornography and Jailbait images. Age of consent reform. Sexuality portal Law portal.
The Age of Consent: Young People, Sexuality and Citizenship. Archived from the original on 28 September Retrieved 25 August Archived from the original on 17 January If one over the age of seven takes a prepubescent wife of less than seven and transfers her to his house, such a contract gives rise to the impediment of public propriety. Archived from the original on 27 June Retrieved 30 June By birth or consent: University of North Carolina Press.
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