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Age of Sexual Consent

What is 'age of consent'?

Unprotected, cross-generational sex can increase the risk of HIV infection

There are some important laws regarding sex and young people, and these are usually known as the age of consent laws. The age of consent is the age at which a young person is legally able to understand and agree to consensual sex. In most countries, until you reach this age it is illegal for somebody to have sex with you, however old they may be. Sometimes the law is slightly different when the partners are of a similar age, but there is usually still a minimum age below which sex is always illegal.

What is the legal age to have sex?

 

There is no international age of consent and the age when a person is legally able to consent to sex depends on a country's age of consent laws. Age of consent laws are usually complex and, in many countries, the legal age to consent to sex is different depending on certain conditions. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Male or female
  • Anal sex
  • Vaginal sex
  • Partner age difference
  • A partner that represents a position of authority
  • Existing state, territory and federal laws
  • If partners are married or unmarried

Being aware of global variations in the age of consent is important to avoid breaking the law in countries that have laws different to your country of residence.

Follow the individual links below for information on the age of consent by country and any specific conditions that modify the age of consent.

Illegal sex

Although some young people may feel that they are mature enough to engage in a sexual relationship, others may lack the emotional development to deal with this or to feel confident enough to say 'no'. Age of consent laws are there to protect young people from being sexually exploited by adults. Sex before the age of 15 years and among partners where there is a large age difference may increase the risk of HIV transmission.1 2 Governments can, to some extent, reduce the risk of HIV infection among young people by ensuring the age of consent for sex, and also marriage, is not too low.

If you're a young person, and you want to find out more, read our page on teens, sex and the law. You might also like to have a look at our "Am I ready for sex?" page.

What are 'sugar daddies' and 'sugar mummies'?

Girls and young women who have relationships with men much older than themselves are said to have a 'sugar daddy', also called a 'silver daddy'. Boys and young men also have relationships with older women - known as a 'sugar mummy' or 'suga mamas'.

Sugar daddies and sugar mummies are much older than their partners, providing them with money and gifts in exchange for company and sexual favours. Young men and women often leave education early, with the belief that their needs will be met by their older partner. This is common phenomenon in many countries, and where HIV prevalence is high, sex with a sugar daddy or sugar mummy contributes to new HIV infections amongst young people.

You should always use a condom when having sex. Although it can be difficult to insist on using a condom, especially if your partner gives you money and gifts, you risk becoming infected with HIV and other STIs if condoms are not used all the time.

What counts as 'sex'?

This, too, is different, depending on the laws in the place where you live. Some places count things like kissing as sexual contact, and other places only count sexual intercourse. You should check out the laws in your state or country.

What is statutory rape?

Statutory rape is the crime that someone can be charged with if they have sex with a person who has not reached the age of consent, but who agrees to have sex. Some countries have different names for this. Some states in the US for example call it 'unlawful sexual penetration' or just 'rape'.

What is sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse is the term for an adult using their age or authority over a young person to have any type of sexual contact. There is a difference between this and two young people who are in a consenting relationship. If you are a young person involved in an abusive relationship it is important to talk to someone about this.

If you are worried because you know of a young person who you think is in an abusive sexual relationship, you must think carefully about what would be the right thing to do. Telephone helplines and sources of help in your country will be able to advise you.

Age of consent by country

Americas Europe Asia Oceania Africa Middle East
 Antigua and Barbuda  Albania  Bangladesh  American Samoa  Algeria  Afghanistan
 Argentina  Andorra  Bhutan  Australia  Angola  Bahrain
 Aruba  Armenia  Burma/Myanmar  Brunei  Benin  Iran
 Bahamas  Austria  Cambodia  Cook Islands  Botswana  Iraq  
 Barbados  Azerbaijan  China - Hong Kong  Fiji  Burkina Faso  Israel
 Belize  Belarus  India  French Polynesia (Tahiti)  Burundi  Jordan
 Bermuda  Belgium  Indonesia  Guam  Cameroon  Lebanon
 Bolivia  Bosnia and Herzegovina  Japan  Marshall Islands  Cape Verde  Oman
 Brazil  Bulgaria  Laos  Mongolia  Central African Republic  Qatar
 Canada  Croatia  Malaysia  New Zealand  Chad  Saudi Arabia
 Cayman Islands  Cyprus  Mongolia  Papua New Guinea  Cote d'Ivoire  United Arab Emirates
 Chile  Czech Republic  Nepal  Tonga  Democratic Republic of the Congo  Yemen
 Colombia  Denmark  North Korea  Tuvalu  Dijibouti  
 Costa Rica  Estonia  Pakistan  Vanuatu  Egypt  
 Cuba  Faroe Islands  Philippines    Equatorial Guinea  
 Dominica  Finland  Singapore    Eritrea  
 Dominican Republic  Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia  South Korea    Ethiopia  
 Dutch Antilles  France  Sri Lanka    Gabon  
 Ecuador  Georgia  Taiwan    Gambia  
 El Salvador  Germany  Thailand    Ghana  
 Falkland Islands (Malvinas)  Gibraltar  Vietnam    Guinea  
 French Guiana  Greece  Western Samoa    Kenya  
 Greenland  Guernsey      Lesotho  
 Grenada  Hungary      Liberia  
 Guadelope  Iceland      Madagascar  
 Guatemala  Ireland      Mali  
 Guyana  Isle of Man      Mauritania  
 Haiti  Italy      Mauritius  
 Honduras  Jersey      Morocco  
 Jamaica  Kazakhstan      Mozambique  
 Martinique  Kuwait      Namibia  
 Mexico  Kyrgyzstan      Niger  
 Nicaragua  Latvia      Nigeria  
 Panama  Liechtenstein      Reunion  
 Paraguay  Lithuania      Rwanda  
 Peru  Luxembourg      Senegal  
 Puerto Rico  Malta      Seychelles  
 St. Kitts and Nevis    Moldova      Somalia  
 St. Lucia  Monaco      South Africa  
 St. Martin  Montenegro      Sudan  
 Suriname  Netherlands      Swaziland  
 Trinidad & Tobago  Norway      Syria  
 United States of America  Poland      Tanzania  
 Uruguay  Portugal      Togo  
 Venezuela  Romania      Tunisia  
   Russia      Uganda  
   San Marino      Zambia  
   Serbia      Zimbabwe  
   Slovakia        
   Slovenia        
   Spain        
   Sweden        
   Switzerland        
   Tajikistan        
   Turkey (Northern Cyprus)        
   Turkmenistan        
   Ukraine        
   United Kingdom        
   Uzbekistan        
   Vatican State        

 

References

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