Yes, but is it paedophilia?

4 July 2020
Tags:
law
Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet depicted in this oil on canvas by Ford Madox Brown circa 1869. Juliet is 13 years old in the play.

Even after his death, there continues to be outrage — deserved, in my opinion — around Jeffrey Epstein's 36 recorded counts of sexual abuse. Some of his victims were 14 years old.

But this is 2020, and even well-meaning people commenting on the matter get taken to task, for example, this:

Well, There's a legal difference in most jurisdictions.

"Pædophilia" implies prepubescent (from the Greek pais, paid- ‘child, boy’.). "Underage women" refers to age of consent. 

Having sex with someone postpubescent but under age is considered "statutory rape", not "pædophilia".

Under South African law, it is legal to have sex with a person under the age of consent (16 years old) if the age differential between the participants is two years or less.

That's not pædophilia under our law; it's not even a crime (or we would lock up school kids for having sex).

There's a comprehensive list on Wikipedia of how various jurisdictions handle consent to sex. There's a specific category called "Limited by relationship".

"Limited by relationship" means the younger partner is deemed able to consent to having sex as long as the older is not in a position of trust or authority, or is not recognised to be abusing the inexperience of the younger one.

South Africa law does not recognize this category, however, many jurisdictions do recognize "Limited by relationship" for legal consent: China 14, Japan 13, Germany 14, UK 16, France 15, Italy 14, Canada 16,  S Korea 13... etc. etc.

The United States is particularly complicated as these laws vary from state to state.  For example, "Limited by relationship" is not recognized in New York, but cross the river to New Jersey and it is legal there.

In order to prove "grooming" (there's a f*cking misnomer if there ever was one) is not "consent" in terms of "limited by relationship", one would need to prove power differential or abuse of inexperience of the younger partner.

But the powerful can afford better lawyers...

Executive summary: We will never fix abuse — sexual or otherwise — by policing language.

Maybe try giving money to groups who prosecute offenders on behalf of those who cannot afford to do so?

Creative Commons Licence