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Worldwide Age of Consent

June 30th, 2009

Dr Petra

Ever wondered what the age of consent for sex was in Honduras, Khazakhstan, Sri Lanka, or the Isle of Man?

Well, now you can find out thanks to HIV charity AVERT who have produced a table of global data on the age of consent for straight and gay sex. You can view it here.

It’s useful if you’re a young person and want to know when sex is legal within your country, what your country’s position is on homosexuality and teen marriage, or if you’re a parent or teacher and are worried about exploitation.

What’s worth noting is how some countries legally permit much younger ages of consent for girls than boys, some omit any information on homosexual sex (mostly for countries where this is illegal). Some countries make it clear that you can have sex at a young age (around 14) but only if you are married.

It’s a fascinating read and calls into question a lot of our assumptions about teenage marriage, pregnancy and sexual behaviour. Where one country may see sex as illegal until someone is 17, others permit sexual activity at 12. Perhaps unsurprisingly the countries where sex is only legal within marriage or where sex with 12 year old girls is permissible are most likely to legislate against homosexuality (particularly for men).

Along with the table of global age of consent data, AVERT also have a helpful report which asks ‘Am I ready for sex?’. Something you may want to consult if you’re thinking about having a sexual relationship, or if you’re a sex educator working with young people. I’d also recommend reading a similar checklist from the fantastic Scarleteen Ready or Not?

It’s worth noting that different countries have different approaches to how they manage underage sex. Some have legal limits but enforce them less strongly than other countries. Some may punish underage sex, extra/pre marital sex or homosexuality more stringently than others. So if you are unsure about your legal position you may want to think carefully about the ramifications of having sex. And if you are in a situation where you feel exploited or coerced, regardless of your age, you should seek support and help.

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