Age of consent

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Age of consent is a legal and moral principle. It presupposes that children and adolescents are not morally capable of making free choices (see also free will).

Not being able to make free choices absolves minors from adult guilt if they commit certain crimes. Either their parents will be held responsible, as in case of theft or vandalism, or the child will simply be considered "too young to know better".

Children cannot enter into binding contracts, are not permitted to drive cars on public roads, join the armed forces or get married. In the U.S., a parent may permit their 17-year-old child to join the armed forces. Various states differ as to what age a minor must be before their parents can permit them to marry.

When an adult seduces a minor, this is considered a crime because the child is not old enough to make such a weighty decision as to enter into a sexual relationship. The age of consent for this decision varies (see statutory rape). A parent who takes advantage of their child's innocence and inability to choose responsibility commits the crime of incest if they seduce their own offspring (it is also forbidden in the Bible).

Age of consent in law

In law the age of consent is the age at which a person is deemed to be competent to give consent to an activity, such as sexual intercourse or medical treatment, which would be otherwise be unlawful without informed consent.

The age of consent is one of several legal principles that govern the rights and responsibilities of minors in common law systems, such as:

  • The age of licence is the minimum age that a person must obtain to be permitted to undertake an activity, such as driving a motor vehicle on public roads.
  • The age of criminal responsibility is the age at which a person is deemed to be fully responsible for their criminal actions.
  • The age of majority is the age at which a person is deemed to have the rights and responsibilities of an adult and the the age at which parental rights and responsibilities cease.