Primary Source

Age of Consent Laws [Table]

Annotation

Information on the ages used historically in western age of consent laws is not readily available. This table has been compiled from a combination of historical and contemporary sources. By 1880, the first date chosen, many western nations had established an age of consent for the first time, typically of 12 or 13 years. By 1920, when the influence of reform campaigns that established a new link between the age of consent and prostitution had run its course, most had revised their age upward, to 14 or 15 in European nations, and 16 in the Anglo-American world. In the last decades of the 20th century, states and nations with ages below those averages amended their laws to move closer to them. In Europe that growing conformity owed much to moves toward greater European integration. Given that the rationale for the age of consent has remained essentially unchanged in its emphasis on the need to protect 'immature' children, the table highlights the shifting and various definitions of childhood employed across time and cultures.

Source

Date compiled from the following sources: Hirschfeld, Magnus. The Homosexuality of Men and Women. Translated by Michael Lombardi-Nash. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2000; Killias, Martin. "The Emergence of a New Taboo: The Desexualization of Youth in Western Societies Since 1800." European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research 8 (2000): 466; Odem, Mary. Delinquent Daughters: Policing and Protecting Adolescent Female Sexuality in the United States, 1885-1920. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995; "Worldwide Ages of Consent," AVERTing HIV and Aids, www.avert.org/aofconsent.htm (accessed November 29, 2007).

Primary Source Text

Age Limit in Age of Consent Laws in Selected Countries

  1880 1920 2007
Austria 14 14 14
Belgium - 16 16
Bulgaria 13 13 14
Denmark 12 12 15
England & Wales 13 16 16
Finland - 12 16
France 13 13 15
Germany 14 14 14
Greece - 12 15
Italy - 16 14
Luxembourg 15 15 16
Norway - 16 16
Portugal 12 12 14
Romania 15 15 15
Russia 10 14 16
Scotland 12 12 16
Spain 12 12 13
Sweden 15 15 15
Switzerland various 16 16
Turkey 15 15 18
Argentina - 12 13
Brazil - 16 14
Chile 20 20 18
Ecuador - 14 14
Canada 12 14 14
Australia
New South Wales 12 16 16
Queensland 12 17 16
Victoria 12 16 16
Western Australia 12 14 16
United States
Alabama 10 16 16
Alaska - 16 16
Arizona 12 18 18
Arkansas 10 16 16
California 10 18 18
Colorado 10 18 15
Connecticut 10 16 16
District of Columbia 12 16 16
Delaware 7 16 16
Florida 10 18 18
Georgia 10 14 16
Hawaii - - 16
Idaho 10 18 18
Illinois 10 16 17
Indiana 12 16 16
Iowa 10 16 16
Kansas 10 18 16
Kentucky 12 16 16
Louisiana 12 18 17
Maine 10 16 16
Maryland 10 16 16
Massachusetts 10 16 16
Michigan 10 16 16
Minnesota 10 18 16
Mississippi 10 18 16
Missouri 12 18 17
Montana 10 18 16
Nebraska 10 18 17
Nevada 12 18 16
New Hampshire 10 16 16
New Jersey 10 16 16
New Mexico 10 16 17
New York 10 18 17
North Carolina 10 16 16
North Dakota 10 18 18
Ohio 10 16 16
Oklahoma - - 16
Oregon 10 16 18
Pennsylvania 10 16 16
Rhode Island 10 16 16
South Carolina 10 16 16
South Dakota 10 18 16
Tennessee 10 18 18
Texas 10 18 17
Utah 10 18 16
Vermont 10 16 16
Virginia 12 16 18
Washington 12 18 16
West Virginia 12 16 16
Wisconsin 10 16 18
Wyoming 10 16 16

How to Cite This Source

"Age of Consent Laws [Table]," in Children and Youth in History, Item #24, http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/primary-sources/24 (accessed October 2, 2014). Annotated by Stephen Robertson