The Age of Consent and Catholicism

Tonight I noticed this image go by on Reddit. It accompanies this Wikipedia article on the age of consent.

I noticed something interesting. There seems to be a strong correlation between a young age of consent (12 to 15 years old) and Catholic countries. I created this little graphic to illustrate.

  1. This image shows the age of consent. The blue countries have an age of consent between 12 to 15 (disgustingly, the age of consent in Yemen is nine, but forgo that for this experiment).
  2. Hover your mouse over the image. It should switch to a shrunken version of this image, which shows various flavours of Christianity by colour. The Catholic countries are yellow.

What’s the cause of this correlation?


  1. In Iran, the legal age for marriage for girls is also nine. I think it comes from Mohammed’s wife Aisha, whom he married when she was six and consummated the marriage when the girl reached nine.

  2. Methinks it’s the influence of the civil law of Rome, mixed with the laws that came down via Alfred the Great of England. I think even Alfred had the marriage law at 12 for girls and 14 for boys. In Rome, the tutela for girls ended at 12 and at 14 for boys.

  3. Ok, so neither “a” nor Ewan provide a link so I can’t check their blogs, but from a research design perspective, yeah, the word perhaps shouldn’t have been “correlation”. There is a relationship. However, Darren isn’t trying to prove anything scientifically. He is puzzled by the apparently relationship (age of consent -> Catholic country) where the age of consent is the dependent variable.

    The puzzle is interesting and warrants some scientific consideration, and I’m not about to venture the direction in which the arrows go (dependent or independent variables) but not sure that’s the scope of Darren’s inquiry.

    Just on the fly, I would say that there is a high likelihood that when the majority of a country’s population is catholic, the age of consent tends to be raised. But then again, I’m just making a conjecture.

  4. There are two approaches when it comes to the age of consent:

    – the scientific approach: the age of consent is the age of puberty (+ 1 or 2 years), the average being 14 and it prevails in the EU, Japan, China, South America, parts of Asia

    – the religious/consevative approach – the age of consent is arbitrarily set by religious/moral leaders, politicians woth narrow views, etc – like it happens in the US – the average age of consent being 17

    Take for example the EU: the “most religious” countries have the highest ages of consent: Ireland – 17, Malta – 18, both of them being catholic… they’re also the only ones with such high ages of consent (less than 1.3 % of the EU population)

  5. Hmmm… I wonder how many Maltese actually know that the age of consent is 18. As far as I was aware it was 16. Interestingly neither did my mother (used to be a local counsellor for many a year) know that it was 18!!

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