On the age of consent

September 30, 2009

Let’s start with a brief history of the age of consent law in Canada.  Since 1892 the age at which a person was considered capable of consenting to sexual activity has been set at 14. In the spring of 2008, this was raised to 16, with the exemption that “sex between peers under 16 is okay, as long as neither is in a position of authority and they are 12 or older. Likewise, under a “close-in-age” provision, if a person under 16 (and 12 or older) has sex with someone less than five years older, they can be considered to have consented unless the older person is in a position of authority.” (emphasis mine) (source)

The law was changed in response to growing concern over international tourists visiting Canada to take advantage of the low age of consent. In short, Canada was becoming a child sex tourism destination. (source) In particular, take a read about Dale Eric Beckham, a 31-year old American who met a 14-year old Canadian boy on the internet, and flew to Canada to have sex with him. The boy’s parents alerted the police, who arrested Beckham. The boy testified that it was consensual, and so Beckham was released.

Now let’s get topical. Roman Polanski raped a 13 year old girl. She was underage, and didn’t consent. There are some people who seem to think that this shouldn’t be a criminal offense, or that he should be pardoned, etc. If those people are here, may I direct you to Kate Harding’s response at Salon.

I was talking with some roommates yesterday about Canada’s age of consent laws. It started when I brought up a family I know with a 16 year old daughter who moved in with a 25 year old boyfriend. I brought it up as an example of why I think the age of consent should be 18 (with near-age exemptions in place). The roommate disagreed. He thought there shouldn’t be an age of consent at all, because as a libertarian, he is against self-harm laws.

I argued that children don’t have the capacity to make certain decisions.

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