Jurisdictions with Discriminatory Age of Consent Laws

There are 15 jurisdictions that maintain discriminatory age of consent laws as between heterosexual and homosexual acts:

Benin: The age of consent for heterosexual acts is 13, but it is a crime to commit an ‘indecent act or act against nature’ with a person of the same sex under 21.

Bahamas: The age of consent is 18 for homosexual acts and 16 for heterosexual acts.

Canada: The general age of consent is 16, but it is 18 for anal intercourse. Canada also criminalises anal intercourse if more than two people are present, unlike other forms of sexual activity where no such restriction applies. Some provinces, but not all, have declared this law discriminatory and unconstitutional - see below.

Chad: The age of consent for heterosexual acts is 13, but it is a crime to commit an ‘indecent act or act against nature’ with a person of the same sex who is under 21 years of age.

Chile: The age of consent is 18 for homosexual acts and 14 for heterosexual acts.

Congo: The age of consent for heterosexual acts is 13, but it is a crime to commit an ‘indecent act or act against nature’ with a person of the same sex who is under 21 years of age.

Côte d’Ivoire: The age of consent is 18 for homosexual acts and 15 for heterosexual acts.

Gabon: The age of consent for heterosexual acts is 15, but it is a crime to commit an ‘indecent act or act against nature’ with a person of the same sex who is under 21 years of age.

Greece: The age of consent for heterosexual acts is 15, but it is a crime for an adult male to ‘seduce’ a male who is under 18 years of age.

Indonesia: The age of consent for heterosexual intercourse in Indonesia is 19 for males and 16 for females but this can be overridden if a female is married at 15 or a male at 18. However, it is a crime for an adult to commit an ‘obscene act’ with a person of the same sex who is under 16 years of age.

Madagascar: The age of consent for heterosexual acts is 14, but it is a crime to commit an ‘indecent act or act against nature’ with a person of the same sex who is under 21 years of age.

Niger: The age of consent for heterosexual acts is 13, but it is a crime to commit an ‘indecent act or act against nature’ with a person of the same sex who is under 21 years of age.

Paraguay: The age of consent for heterosexual acts is 14, but it is a crime for a person over 18 to commit sexual acts with someone of the same sex who under 16 years of age.

Rwanda: The age of consent for heterosexual acts is 16, but it is a crime to commit an ‘indecent act or act against nature’ with a person of the same sex who is under 18 years of age.

Suriname: The age of consent for heterosexual acts is 16, but it is a crime for an adult to ‘commit fornication’ with a person of the same sex who is under 18 years of age.

 

Legal Analysis

In every instance where the courts have considered unequal age of consent laws, these laws have been found to violate international human rights law and national constitutional law.

Unequal age of consent laws have been held to violate the European Convention on Human Rights, in particular, the fundamental right to non-discrimination (Article 14) in conjunction with the right to privacy (Article 8), in the following cases:

  • Sutherland v United Kingdom, Application No. 25186/94, European Commission of Human Rights, 1 July 1997.  
  • S.L. v Austria, Application No. 45330/99, European Court of Human Rights, 9 January 2003.  
  • L and V v Austria, Applications Nos 39392/98 and 39829/98, European Court of Human Rights, 9 April 2003.  

Unequal age of consent laws have also been found to violate the rights to privacy, non-discrimination and equality enshrined in national constitutions. These cases include:

In Canada, unequal age of consent laws have been held to be unconstitutional by five provincial courts. However, these decisions are only binding in those provinces. The Federal Parliament has failed to repeal the relevant statutory provisions despite these decisions.

  • R v C.M. (1995) 41 C.R. (4th) 134 (Ont. C.A.) (Ontario)
  • R v Roy (1998) 125 C.C.C. (4th) 442 (Que. C.A.) (Quebec)
  • R v Blake (2003) 187 B.C.A.C. 255 (British Columbia)
  • R v Roth (2002) A.B.Q.B. 305 (Alberta)
  • R v Farler (2006) 43 N.S.R. (2d) 237 (C.A.) (Nova Scotia)

 

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