Thank you for starting a thread on this topic Tim. Gnu Ordure directed a question at me yesterday on another thread, challenging me by citing younger ages of consent in a variety of European countries, and suggesting that I am subjected to a cultural bias. I don’t think he will mind if I address his questions here, because I agree that this topic is worthy of its own thread.
As I stated in a previous thread, my concerns about the sexual exploitation of children have to do with power imbalances. There is often a huge disconnect between laws and practices, and the realities are often much to complicated to be addressed via legislation or executive dictate. Sexual exploitation of children is certainly a problem worldwide, and it exists in all nations, regardless of legal age of consent. However, because I believe that the sexual abuse of children is much more prevalent in societies that have intrinsic power imbalances.
@ Gnu Ordure - I don’t pretend to know a lot about Scandinavia, other than the countries are extraordinarily egalitarian, with strong social structures, exceptional education, exceptional access to health care, and low degrees of disparity between the wealthiest and lowest income residents. My understanding is that there are very healthy sexual attitudes, with laws that offer both exceptional freedom coupled with strong protections.
Spain? I don’t know for sure, but I would suspect that many of the current laws are leftover from the Franco years.
There are some countries that I know a little bit more about. Guatemala, for example. In Guatemala, anywhere between 21% and 29% of children between that ages of 7-14 are in the workforce. For those of you not familiar with Guatemala, there continues to exist a semi-apartheid system, with a huge Mayan subclass, and a small ruling class of European ancestry. About 8% of Mayan girls are lucky enough to land a job as a domestic worker, freeing them from the toils of following the crop harvests or exposure to dangerous conditions in factories. They get to live in houses with running water, solid roofs, and sometimes even get to sleep in a bed as opposed to the traditional hammock or mat. They get rice and beans and those thick, Guatemalan tortillas, sometimes several times a day, as well as kitchen scraps and leftovers from their patron’s table.
There are no statistics about sexual abuse of domestic workers in Guatemala, (that I know of) but I can say with absolute certainty that the majority of 9 or 10 year old girls who put in the normal 3-4 years in a household will not leave as virgins. The typical scenario would be the male head of the household. But it could be the teenage son. Or a dinner guest. Or even a male domestic worker who is higher in the pecking order. It is about power.
Afghanistan has a really different social system, and very different sexual standards and practices. Although the legal age of consent (marriageable age) is 16 for girls, between 60%-70% of girls are married before 16. The numbers are higher in the tribal regions. Because virgins are commodities, girls rarely marry the farmer boy next door. The typical marriage is arranged, and young virgins are given in marriage to pay off debts or solidify alliances between extended families, usually to much older, established men. Wealthy Afghan men have other socially acceptable sexual options available to them during those times that their wives are pregnant or menstruating or once they get too old to be interesting. Bachi bazi http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacha_bazi
are prepubescent boys who are bought and sold and traded to friends for entertainment and sexual purposes. It is about power.