The recent news story of the English 15 year old girl travelling to France with her 31 year old Maths teacher has shone a light on the differing laws surrounding sexual activities within the EU member states. The story also indicates how easy it is for EU citizens to engage with each other and travel within the member states for the purposes of sex; so is it time to standardise sex laws within the EU?
Across the 27 nations in the EU, laws concerning sexual activity vary greatly; it’s not just the age of consent, which ranges from 13 in Spain to 18 in Malta, with the majority of countries having the age set at 15 (see table below). The greater diversity comes in the mitigating and aggravating factors recognised by each member state. For example:
‘People in Authority’
The UK, Denmark and Finland raise the age of consent to 18 if one of parties has a role of responsibility to the other – such as his/her teacher. In France under such circumstances, the age of consent stands at 17; in Italy, under such circumstances, its 16. These countries, except the UK, include step-family members as ‘people in authority’, which suggests that when both parties have reached the appropriate legal age, they are allowed to have sex – even if they are a step-family member. In Greece, the ‘people in authority’ distinction only offers protection to younger males, not fmale! Technically, illegal on the grounds of gender discrimination under EU laws.
Italy, like Spain, has an age of consent set at 13, but unlike Spain, in Italy you can’t have sex with a 13 year-old if you are older than 16. Once they reach 14, they can consent to sex with a 70 year old!
In Germany the age of consent is 14. However, if the younger is between age of consent and 16, the elder involved should be no older than 21.
Although Scotland, is not a recognised country in the EU under its own right, it does get to set its own laws – separate from the UK. Until 2010, the age of consent was 16 for a female and 14 for a male. Since 2010, the age of consent is 13, where the elder is no older than 16; otherwise the age of consent is 16. Elsewhere in the EU, countries have a simple cut-off year.
Whilst the definition of ‘sex’ seems to have an EU-wide understanding, the punishment for such acts differ from 6 months to 3 years for sexual assault and 2 years to ‘life’ for sexual intercourse; obviously such variances depend on circumstances more than country.
When countries geographically close to the EU are factored in, other differences emerge. In Bosnia, the age is set at 14, but you have to be 18 to indulge in a three-some; no other country in Europe makes such a distinction. Northern Cyprus (not in the EU) still bans homosexual acts.
Whilst such differences amongst the member states, would seem it highly unlikely to reach agreement, there is a precedence in unifying sex laws. Under the European Convention, the EU bans discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, so the age of consent has to be set, regardless of sexuality; forcing the UK, Austria, Cyprus and Croatia and others – to change their laws on same-gender sex.
As interaction between EU citizens becomes easier with the internet and low-cost airlines as well as the right of free movement between member states, we can easily have a middle-age Dutchman living in Malta arranging to have sex with a 14 year old Italian on holiday in Spain. Would that be against the law because he is in Malta where the age of consent is 18? Illegal because, as a Dutchman, he should consider the Dutch age of consent – set at 16 – or is it a perfectly legal act – as the age of consent is 13 in Spain?
Austria, belgium, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal,
CZ, Denmark, France, Greece, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Solvenia, Sweden,
Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, United Kingdom
Cyprus, Ireland (17) Malta (18) Spain (13)