Age Of Consent By Country 2019
What is age of consent? Age of consent is the minimum age which a person is considered legally competent to consent to sexual acts. As a result, if someone older engages in sexual acts with a minor under the age of consent, then this activity may be considered statutory rape. This is because the person younger than the age of consent cannot legally say this act was consensual.
Age of consent laws vary considerably around the world, although a majority of countries require young people to be over the age of 14 before having sex. Of the countries with lower age of consent laws, Nigeria has the lowest at just 11. This is followed by Angola and the Philippines at 12, and several other countries, including South Korea and Japan at 13 (although Japan has notoriously consent laws that vary in different parts of the country).
Additionally, a number of countries in Asia and Africa require individuals to be married before they can legally have sex. These include Libya, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, all of which are known to be highly conservative on issues around gender and sexuality. Perhaps surprisingly, the country with the oldest age of consent, at 21, is Portugal in Western Europe (Bahrain's age of consent is also 21). And while most European countries have 16-17 as the age of consent, several other European countries, including Malta and Vatican City, also have higher than average consent laws, requiring young people to be at least 18 before legally having sex. Austria has Europe's lowest age of consent at 14 years old.
In North America, Aruba has the lowest age of consent at 15 years old, while in South America, Paraguay, Peru, Brazil, Bolivia and Ecuador all have 14 as the age of consent. In the United States, the age of consent is 16 years old – this is shared by Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. At 18, Chile, Argentina, and a number of other countries have the highest age of consents in the Americas.
Age of Consent in Japan
Japan has complex laws around the age of consent that vary significantly across the country. There are three primary laws that define the age of consent: the Penal Code of Japan, the Juvenile Obscene Acts and the Civil Codes. Each of these set out different definitions of when sexual activity is acceptable, with some applying to the whole of Japan and others to specific prefectures (Japan is divided into 47 administrative jurisdictions).
The Penal Code of Japan was established in 1907 and sets the age of consent at 13. Any sexual activity with a person under this age is always considered to be statutory rape and can result in a prison sentence of up to 20 years. However, chapter 34 of the Children Welfare Act also forbids any act of 'fornication' with children (defined as anyone under 18 years of age).
The Juvenile Obscene Acts, which take precedence over the Penal Code, set out laws relating to the age of consent for specific prefectures. In some, sexual activity with anyone below the age of 15 is illegal, but in others the age of consent is as high as 18. In these prefectures, engaging in sexual activity with a person under the age of consent can lead to a prison sentence of up to five years, depending on the prefecture. Although rare, in some prefectures, even hugging or holding hands with someone underage can be illegal.
The Civil Codes again approach the age of consent at the prefecture level (and sometimes municipalities within a prefecture). In Japan, anyone under the age of 20 is not considered to be an adult, so parental consent plays a significant role in legal issues affecting young people under this age (for example, no one under 20 can sign a legal contract without parental consent). In relation to the age of consent, this means that, in some prefectures, it is illegal to date a person under the age of 20 without written consent from their parents. This applies regardless of the age of the partner as Japan does not have a 'close-in-age exemption' in relation to the age of consent (i.e. even if one person is 20 and the other is 19).
Additionally, some prefectures have specific laws beyond those outlined above that apply only to that prefecture. For example, Tokyo has a Youth Protection Law that makes it illegal for an adult to engage in sexual activity with anyone below the age of 17, but this only applies in Tokyo. Although the various laws regarding the age of consent in Japan can be somewhat confusing, on the whole, the regulations mean that, despite the national law putting the age of consent at 13, Japan actually has among the highest age of consent laws in the world, as the de facto age of consent is widely considered to be 18, and in some cases higher.