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Child sexual abuse is nowadays outlawed in almost all countries,[1][2] generally with severe criminal penalties, including in some jurisdictions, life imprisonment or capital punishment. An adult's sexual intercourse with a minor below the legal age of consent is defined as statutory rape,[3][4] based on the principle that an abusing adult is a criminal deviant who takes advantage of a minor, who is not capable of consent, and that any apparent consent by a minor could not be considered legal consent.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is an international treaty that legally obliges states to protect children's rights. Articles 34 and 35 of the CRC require states to protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. This includes outlawing the coercion of a child to perform sexual activity, the prostitution of children, and the exploitation of children in creating pornography. States are also required to prevent the abduction, sale, or trafficking of children.[5] As of November 2008, 193 countries are bound by the CRC,[6] including every member of the United Nations except the United States and Somalia.[7][8]

In the United StatesEdit

Child sexual abuse has been recognized specifically as a type of child maltreatment in U.S. federal law since the initial Congressional hearings on child abuse in 1973.[9] Child sexual abuse is illegal in every state,[10] as well as under federal law.[11] Among the states, the specifics of child sexual abuse laws vary, but certain features of these laws are common to all states.[12]

In South AfricaEdit

In 1995, South Africa ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and committed to a range of obligations aimed at establishing and protecting the rights of children. The Child Care Act, (74 of 1983) and the Child Care Amendment Act, (86 of 1991; 13 of 1999) make sexual abuse of children a criminal offense.

In the United KingdomEdit

The United Kingdom rewrote its criminal code in the Sexual Offences Act of 2003. This Act includes definitions and penalties for child sexual abuse offences, and (so far as relating to offences) applies to England and Wales and Northern Ireland. The Scottish Law Commission published its review of rape and sexual offences in December 2007, which includes a similar consolidation and codification of child sexual abuse offences in Scotland.

In ZambiaEdit

A recent June 30, 2008 landmark decision by judge, Philip Musonda, of the Zambian High Court gave a minor girl-student $45million Zambian Kwacha in awards after she brought her teacher to court for statutory rape. This is the first case of its kind for a minor to win against a person of authority in the nation of Zambia.[13]

Countries with Islamic lawEdit

Laws regarding sexual relations and marriage vary among nations with Islamic influenced systems of law. By religious doctrine, sex outside of marriage ("zina") is strictly forbidden regardless of any person's age. Therefore, many relevant laws pertain specifically to the age at which a woman may marry.

The marriageable age according to Islamic texts varies in interpretation by different scholars and jurists. Most hold that the girl must be post-pubertal, some jurists even clarifying this as the age of 15.[14]

As a result of these varied interpretations, enumerated laws in such nations likewise vary a great deal. In Bangladesh and Malaysia, the legal age is 18. In Pakistan, it is 16.

Proper enforcement can often be a more pressing issue. In Yemen, the law does not define child abuse[15] and Saudi Arabia does not keep any national statistics on the phenomenon.[16] According to the US Department of State, in Iran, such "abuse was largely regarded as a private, family matter".[17].


  1. Levesque, Roger J. R. (1999). Sexual Abuse of Children: A Human Rights Perspective. Indiana University Press. pp. 1,5–6,176–180. "The world community recently has recognized every child's fundamental human right to protection from sexual maltreatment. This right has been expressed in recent declarations, conventions, and programs of action. Indeed, the right to protection from sexual maltreatment is now entrenched so strongly in international human rights law that no country can relinquish its obligation."
  2. "United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child". Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. 1989. "States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse... States Parties undertake to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. For these purposes, States Parties shall in particular take all appropriate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent: (a) The inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful sexual activity; (b) The exploitative use of children in prostitution or other unlawful sexual practices; (c) The exploitative use of children in pornographic performances and materials."
  3. "Statutory Rape Known to Law Enforcement" (PDF). U.S. Department of Justice - Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Retrieved 2008-03-24.
  4. Black's Law Dictionary 8th Edition. child, "at common law, a person who has not reached the age of 14." See also definition under rape "carnal knowledge of a child is frequently declared to be rape by statute."
  5. United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  6. United Nations Treaty Collection. Convention on the Rights of the Child . Retrieved on 26 November 2008.
  7. Child Rights Information Network (2008). Convention on the Rights of the Child. Retrieved on 26 November 2008.
  8. Amnesty International USA (2007). Convention on the Rights of the Child: Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved on 26 November 2008.
  9. Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1974, (most recently reauthorized by Public Law No.108-36, (2003)).
  10. State Statutes - Child Abuse and Neglect, Children's Bureau, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  11. Index of Child Welfare Laws, Children's Bureau, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  12. Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect, Summary of State Laws, National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  13. [1] Women News Network - WNN, "When a Girl Student Stands Up and Wins"
  14. "".
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