Age of consent reform

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Age of consent reform is efforts to change age of consent laws. Proposed reforms typically include raising, lowering, or abolishing the age of consent, applying (or not applying) close-in-age exemptions, changing penalties, or changing how cases are examined in court. A related issue is whether or not to apply ages of consent to homosexual relationships that are different from those applied to heterosexual relationships. Organized efforts have ranged from academic discussions to political petitions.

Close-in-age exemptions[edit]

Main article: Romeo and Juliet laws

In the United States, many states[1] have adopted close-in-age exemptions. These laws, known as "Romeo and Juliet laws"[1] provide that a person can legally have consensual sex with a minor provided that he or she is not more than a given number of years older, generally four years,[1] but sometimes some other number of years (such as three years in Connecticut).[2] Some Romeo and Juliet laws (such as the law in Michigan and Florida) do not make it legal for a person below the age of consent to have sex with a slightly older person, but will merely exempt the older partner from sex offender registration.

Romeo and Juliet laws were passed in 2007 in Connecticut and Indiana.[2] In Indiana, a change in the law decriminalizes consensual sex between adolescents if they are found by a court to be in a "dating relationship" with an age difference of four years or less[2] and other states have adopted other reforms. Michigan passed a Romeo and Juliet Law in 2011.[3]

These reforms are not uncontroversial. In Texas, Governor Rick Perry vetoed Romeo and Juliet laws that had been passed by the legislature,[4] but signed one in 2011 to go into effect in September of that year.[4] A 2011 Romeo and Juliet bill failed to pass in the Illinois legislature.[5] In the State v. Limon case, Kansas's Romeo and Juliet law was found to be unconstitutional because it excluded same-sex sexual conduct.

Some countries other than the United States also have Romeo and Juliet laws. Ireland's 2006 law has been contested because it treats girls differently from boys.[6][7]

Initiatives to change the age of consent[edit]

There have been many initiatives to raise the age of consent. Gratian, a canon lawyer, stated that consent could not take place before 7 years of age. The English government eventually decided on age of 12 for women as their limitation.[8] Feminists in the nineteenth century began to focus on raising it to at least 16, but ultimately wanting to raise it to 18.[citation needed] At that time the age was about 12 in most countries. Today it is usually set between 15 and 18.[9]

United Kingdom[edit]

Originally the age of consent in England was set at 12. However, in 1875 the Offense Against the Persons Act raised it to 13 in Great Britain and Ireland. The Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 raised it to 16.[10][11] In 1917 a bill raising the age of consent in Great Britain and Ireland from 16 to 17 was defeated by only one vote.[12] In Northern Ireland in 1950 the legislature of Northern Ireland passed a law called Children and Young Persons Act in 1950 that raised the age of consent from 16 to 17.[13] The male homosexual age of consent in the United Kingdom was set at 21 in the Sexual Offences Act of 1967, lowered to 18 in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, and then finally lowered equally to 16 in England and Scotland in the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act of 2000.[14][15]

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, which he described as based on claims of children's rights, gay liberation, or as a way to avoid unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases.[16]

In May 1974, the Campaign for Homosexual Equality suggested a basic age of consent of 16, but 12 "in cases where a defendant could prove the existence of meaningful consent".[17][18] In September 1974, the Sexual Law Reform Society proposed lowering the age of consent to 14, with the requirement that below the age of 18 the burden of proof that consent for sexual activities between the parties existed would be the responsibility of the older participant.[19]

In 1976, the British political pressure group Liberty published a proposal advocating reducing the age of consent laws to 10 years of age, only when both individuals are younger than 14, with a close-in-age exemption of two years if one of the involved individuals is older than 14 but younger than 16.[20] The report was signed by Harriet Harman, who later went on to become a prominent figure in government and deputy leader of the Labour Party.[21]

The Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee) 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.[22]

Russia[edit]

Russia in 2002 raised the age of consent from 14 to 16.[23][24] Since then penalties have also generally increased. Vladimir Putin said that a party advocating lowering the age of consent cannot be legally registered (hence, be a legal party) in Russia.

India[edit]

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.[25] The age of consent in India was raised from 16 to 18 in 2012.[26]

United States[edit]

In the United States in the 1890s, several states had an age of consent as low as 10. In 1895, the age of consent in Delaware was 7, according to an article in The New York Times.[27] However, social purity activists and other woman-led reform groups began advocating raising the age of consent to 16, wanting to ultimately raise it to 18, and by 1920 almost all states had raised their age of consent to 16 or 18.[28] By 1920, every state except for Georgia and Hawaii (who had age of consent at 14 until 1995 and 2001, respectively) had an age of consent at either 16 or 18.

Alabama[edit]

In Alabama in 2012 State Representative Mac McCutcheon sponsored a bill to raise the age of consent from 16 to 18 in the state legislature. The bill is still being discussed.[29]

Hawaii[edit]

In 2001, the legislature in Hawaii voted to raise the age of consent from 14 to 16.[30]

Georgia[edit]

In June 2005, a bill was proposed before the General Assembly of Georgia (USA) to raise the age of consent from 16 to 18.[31][32] The bill failed, however. The Georgia age of consent was 14 until 1995, when a bill proposed by state Senator Steve Langford to make 16 the age of consent passed.[33] In 2006, following the infamous case of Genarlow Wilson, aggravated child molestation was reduced to a misdemeanor with a maximum of one year in prison (previously aggravated child molestation carried 10–20 years imprisonment regardless of the age difference between the victim and offender) if the offender was under 19, the victim was either 14 or 15 years old, and the offender is no more than 48 months older than the victim. (Georgia penal code, 16-6-4)

Kentucky[edit]

In 2007 in Kentucky Representative JR Gray sponsored legislation in the state legislature that passed making it a felony for a teacher to have sex with a student under the age of 18. He also discussed the possibility of raising the age of consent from 16 to 18 but a bill was not produced for that.[34]

Missouri[edit]

In 2008 a bill was proposed in the Missouri legislature to raise the age of consent from 17 to 18. It was sponsored by Representative Stanley Cox.[35]

South Carolina[edit]

In South Carolina in 2007 a bill was proposed before the legislature to raise the age of consent from 16 to 18.[36] It did not succeed.

Wisconsin[edit]

Prior to 1981 Wisconsin had an exception to the law that allowed adults who were guilty of sex with minors 15 or older to use as a defense that the victim understood the nature of the sexual act, but there was a rebuttable presumption in Wisconsin that minors under the age of 18 were not capable of informed consent to sex, but as stated, this could be argued against by the defendant in the court of law if the minor was 15 years of age or older. In 1981 the age of consent was lowered from 18 to 16 in Wisconsin, but at the same time it was made an automatic felony to have sex with anyone under 16, informed consent for a 15 year old was no longer a defense an adult defendant could use in court. In 1983 the age of consent in Wisconsin was raised from 16 to 18, under the new law sex with a minor 16 or older carried the lesser penalty of a class a misdemeanor. A marital exception was included in the law for an adult who was married to a minor 16 or older, but no close in age exception was.[37]

Canada[edit]

In June 2006, the Canadian government proposed a bill to raise the age of consent from 14 to 16 (in 1890 it was raised from 12 to 14), 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 minors 14 and 15 years old to adults, but forbids new marriages like these in the future.[38] The law took effect 1 May 2008.

Netherlands[edit]

Between 1990 and 2002[39] the Netherlands operated what was in effect an age of consent of 12, subject to qualifications. The relevant law, passed in November, 1990, permitted sexual intercourse for young people between 12 and 16, but allowed a challenge by parents based on erosion of parental authority or child exploitation, which would be heard by a Council for the Protection of Children.[40] In 1979, the Dutch Pacifist Socialist Party supported an unsuccessful petition to lower the age of consent to 12.[41]

Peru[edit]

The age of consent in Peru was increased from 14 to 18 in 2006 as elections approached, but in 2007, Peru's new Congress voted to return the age to 14 regardless of gender and/or sexual orientation.[42] However, after strong public opposition, the law was raised back to 18 on June 27, 2007, by a vote of 74 to zero (22 abstentions).[43] It was returned to 14 in January 2013.[44]

France[edit]

In 1977 while a reform in the French penal code was under discussion in the parliament, a petition to decriminalize all consented relations between adults and minors below the age of fifteen was sent to Parliament but did not succeed in changing the law.[45] 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.

Pedophile advocacy[edit]

Some pedophiles have called to abolish the age of consent to allow adults to have sex freely with children, arguing they can consent.[46][47] Groups advocating pedophilia and the abolishment of age of consent laws include NAMBLA and the now disbanded Paedophile Information Exchange.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "A Guide to the Romeo and Juliet Laws". laws.com. Retrieved August 18, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c John Gramlich (July 16, 2007). "New laws take 'Romeo' into account". Stateline.org. Retrieved August 18, 2011. 
  3. ^ Noël McLaren (April 20, 2011). "Understanding the Romeo & Juliet Law". Upper Michigan's Source. Retrieved August 18, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Andrea Lucia (June 4, 2011). "‘Romeo And Juliet’ Law Changes Statutory Rape Definition". CBS DFW. Retrieved August 18, 2011. 
  5. ^ Hannah Hess (March 3, 2011). ""Romeo and Juliet" law fails in Illinois House". STL Today. Retrieved August 18, 2011. 
  6. ^ "'Romeo and Juliet' laws contested". Irish Times. Retrieved August 18, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Court urged to change 'Romeo and Juliet' laws". RTÉ News. April 14, 2011. Retrieved August 18, 2011. 
  8. ^ "Age of Consent – Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society". Faqs.org. Retrieved 2012-03-19. 
  9. ^ "Worldwide Ages of Consent". Avert.org. 2011-02-04. Retrieved 2012-03-19. 
  10. ^ Delinquent daughters: protecting and policing adolescent female sexuality in ... – Mary E. Odem – Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2012-03-19. 
  11. ^ David Swarbrick. "Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 (-)". swarb.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-03-19. 
  12. ^ Age of Consent a Response to the consultation on the sexual offenses (Northern Ireland) order 2007 Christian 378 Woodstock Road Belfast February 2008
  13. ^ http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200708/ldselect/ldmerit/109/10907.htm
  14. ^ "Gay consent at 16 becomes law". BBC News. November 20, 2000. Retrieved August 25, 2011. 
  15. ^ the age of consent is 17 in Northern Ireland
  16. ^ Waites, Matthew. The Age of Consent – Young People, Sexuality and Citizenship (2005), pp 122, 132–133, 220).
  17. ^ WAITES, Matthew (2005, op.cit., pp. 132 and 243, Note 6.6)
  18. ^ Gay News, no. 46, 9 May 1974, p.3 – 'CHE Report angers reformers'.
  19. ^ WAITES, Matthew (2005, op.cit., p.132).
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ Beckford, Martin (March 9, 2009). "Harriet Harman under attack over bid to water down child pornography law". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  22. ^ "Third programme of the Communist Party of Great Britain". Cpgb.org.uk. 2010-02-11. Retrieved 2012-03-19. 
  23. ^ Peter Graff (June 28–29, 2002). "Russia – Age of Consent". Reuters (via Age of Consent). Retrieved August 25, 2011. 
  24. ^ "Russia". Age of Consent. Retrieved 2012-03-19. 
  25. ^ "Kerala, Raise age-limit for giving consent for sexual intercourse to 18 – South Asia". Asian Sex Gazette. 2004-01-21. Retrieved 2012-03-19. 
  26. ^ "Parliament clears bill against child abuse". The Times Of India. May 23, 2012. 
  27. ^ "PURITY CONGRESS MEETS; A Great Gathering for Moral Work in the City of Baltimore. AIMS AND OBJECTS OF THE MOVEMENT Determined to Prevent State Regulation of Vice and to Rescue Fallen Men and Fallen Women". The New York Times. October 15, 1895. 
  28. ^ "The Campaign to Raise the Age of Consent 1885–1914". Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600–2000. Retrieved August 25, 2011. 
  29. ^ http://whnt.com/2012/04/30/lawmaker-pushes-bill-to-raise-age-of-consent-in-alabama/
  30. ^ Far East and Australasia 2003 – Eur – Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2012-03-19. 
  31. ^ "hb722.html". Legis.state.ga.us. 2005-07-01. Retrieved 2012-03-19. 
  32. ^ "Georgia General Assembly – HB 722". Legis.ga.gov. Retrieved 2012-03-19. 
  33. ^ http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1454&dat=19950207&id=gU5OAAAAIBAJ&sjid=CRUEAAAAIBAJ&pg=2408,2396348
  34. ^ Tanner, Robert (November 2, 2007). "States target sexual misconduct in schools". USA Today. 
  35. ^ http://www.joplinglobe.com/local/x212127249/Missouri-House-bill-would-raise-age-of-consent-to-18
  36. ^ http://www.wrdw.com/home/headlines/5431721.html
  37. ^ Owzsewski, DJ Statutory Rape in Wisconsin 2006
  38. ^ "Age of Consent FAQ". CTV.ca. Retrieved 2012-03-19. 
  39. ^ Regulating sex: the politics of intimacy and identity – Elizabeth Bernstein, Laurie Schaffner – Google Books. Books.google.ro. Retrieved 2012-03-19. 
  40. ^ Evans, David T. (1993). Sexual Citizenship: The Material Construction of Sexualities, p. 208. Routledge, London. ISBN 0-415-05799-X.
  41. ^ 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.
  42. ^ "Peru Lowers Age Of Consent To 14". CBS News. 22 June 2007. Retrieved 28 Jan 2010. 
  43. ^ "Pleno Reconsidero Exoneracion de Sedunda Votacion a Proyecto Sobre Libertad Sexual" [House Reconsidered and Excluded Second Vote for Project on Sexual Freedom] (in Spanish). El Heraldo. 2007-06-27. Retrieved 2010-09-02. 
  44. ^ "Demanda de inconstitucionalidad interpuesta por diez mil seiscientos nueve ciudadanos contra el artículo 1° de la Ley N° 28704 que modifica el artículo 173°, inciso 3° del Código Penal, sobre delito de violación sexual contra víctima entre 14 y 18 años de edad" (in Spanish). 2013-01-07. 
  45. ^ Foucault, Michel. Politics, Philosophy, Culture –Interviews and Other Writings 1977–1984. Edited by Lawrence D. Krizman. New York / London: 1988, Routledge, Pp. 272–273.
  46. ^ Jenkins, Philip (2006). Decade of Nightmares: The End of the Sixties and the Making of Eighties America. Oxford University Press. p. 120. ISBN 0-19-517866-1. 
  47. ^ Spiegel, Josef (2003). Sexual Abuse of Males: The Sam Model of Theory and Practice. Routledge. pp. 5, p9. ISBN 1-56032-403-1.