Age of consent

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While the phrase age of consent typically does not appear in legal statutes,[1] when used in relation to sexual activity, the age of consent is the minimum age at which a person is considered to be legally competent of consenting to sexual acts. The European Union calls it the legal age for sexual activities. It should not be confused with the age of majority, age of criminal responsibility, the marriageable age, the age at which one can purchase and consume alcoholic beverages, or drive a car, or other purposes.

The age of consent varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.[1] 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 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). Many jurisdictions regard any sexual activity by an adult involving a child as child sexual abuse.[citation needed]

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.[1]

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