The age of consent definition is a legal term that will vary by jurisdiction. However, it typically refers to the age that an individual is considered to be old enough to consent to sexual activity. It is not the same definition as the age of majority, where an individual is old enough to vote, make major life decisions, or consume alcohol.
When an adult engages in sexual activity with someone that is not of the age of consent, they may be suspected of or accused of statutory rape, even if the individual did consent to the act at the time.
That is because under the law, where an age of consent definition occurs and would be applied, those that are not of the age of consent are unable to consent to this act due to their age. A child that is abused sexually for example would not be able to withdraw consent or say no due to their age.
Literally speaking, there are not always age of consent laws that provide for an age of consent consequence. What the law does provide for is the age where an individual is deemed to be old enough to make the decision to engage in sexual activity. This age where someone is old enough to make this decision is usually between 16 and 18 years old. In some cases, the age of consent can be as low as 14 years old.
Age of consent can also be viewed as the age where an individual has the competence to consent to marriage. Marriage is still happening at very young ages in the United States and elsewhere. In some cases, this is not legal and may be cause to void the marriage.
Another area of the law where the age of consent may be discussed is when two people that are underage consent to sex. In these instances, some jurisdictions have what are called Romeo and Juliet laws. Those laws would preclude individuals from a legal consequence or punitive damage if they had consensual sex.
In other areas, the age of consent can be defined by the specific sexual activity, and not by the age of the individual. Gender of the individual engaging in sex can also play a role in determining the age of consent in some jurisdictions. If the sexual act involved a person of trust, the age of consent bar may be held higher.
Overall, the age of consent definition is not concrete. This is an area of law where this definition and its cases are typically reviewed on an individual basis.