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Age of Consent
While the phrase age of consent typically does not appear in legal statutes, when used with reference to criminal law the age of consent is the minimum age at which a person is considered to be capable of legally giving informed consent to any contract or behaviour regulated by law with another person. This article refers specifically to those laws regulating sexual acts. This should not be confused with the age of majority, age of criminal responsibility, or the marriageable age.
The age of consent varies widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The median seems to range from 16 to 18 years, but laws stating ages ranging from 12 to 21 do exist. In many jurisdictions, age of consent is interpreted to mean mental or functional age. As a result, victims can be of any chronological age if their mental age is below the age of consent. Some jurisdictions forbid sexual activity outside of legal marriage completely. The relevant age may also vary by the type of sexual act, the sex of the actors, or other restrictions such as abuse of a position of trust. Some jurisdictions may also make allowances for minors engaged in sexual acts with each other, rather than a hard and fast single age. Charges resulting from a breach of these laws may range from a relatively low-level misdemeanor such as "corruption of a minor," to "statutory rape" (which is considered equivalent to rape, both in severity and sentencing).
There are many grey areas in this area of law, some regarding unspecific and untried legislation, others brought about by debates regarding changing societal attitudes, and others due to conflicts between federal and state laws. These factors all make age of consent an often confusing subject, and a topic of highly charged debates.Age of consent laws for heterosexual sex Worldwide