Age of Consent Laws in Global Perspective

  • Matthew Waites


This chapter examines age of consent laws in international and comparative perspective. I begin by suggesting that ‘globalization’ is impacting upon worldwide debates over age of consent laws, including the ways in which comparisons between states are made, and the global utilisation of the concept ‘age of consent’ itself. I then proceed to examine evidence from states worldwide, surveying existing comparative research and noting patterns among states. Specific states are considered in detail to illustrate how different histories and cultural attitudes have led to contrasting forms of legal regulation. Comparisons within Europe are given particular attention, and states such as the Netherlands where the legal age for some sexual behaviour has been distinctively low are discussed. I then move on to examine the extension of national sexual offences legislation from states in the ‘developed’ world to apply to the behaviour of citizens travelling or living abroad (including ‘sex tourists’), and the increasing role of human rights and international governmental organisations, at both regional and global levels, in defining age of consent laws.


Sexual Behaviour Sexual Intercourse Criminal Code International Governmental Organisation Western European State 
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© Matthew Waites 2005

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  • Matthew Waites

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