UN Passes Guidelines Suggesting Minors Can Consent to Sex, Prostitution Should Be Legalized

The UN recently published guidelines suggesting nations decriminalize sex between adults and minors and prostitution, claiming it’s part of the application of human rights.

In early March, UNAIDS (a subsection of the UN committed to fighting AIDS,) The International Committee of Jurists (ICJ), and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) officially launched a new set of “expert jurist legal principles to guide the application of international human rights law to criminal law.” This set of principles called the “8 March Principles,” suggested various controversial measures, such as legalizing sex between minors and adults, all forms of drug use, and prostitution.

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The paragraph on minor consent is full of hedging and makes its case based on non-discrimination regarding age.

“Moreover, sexual conduct involving persons below the domestically prescribed minimum age of consent to sex may be consensual in fact, if not in law. In this context, the enforcement of criminal law should reflect the rights and capacity of persons under 18 years of age to make decisions about engaging in consensual sexual conduct and their right to be heard in matters concerning them. Pursuant to their evolving capacities and progressive autonomy, persons under 18 years of age should participate in decisions affecting them, with due regard to their age, maturity and best interests, and with specific attention to non-discrimination guarantees.”

The principle does not say all children can consent to sex. Instead, the guide takes issue with some unspecified age of consent laws as incorrect or too high and that some minors may have the maturity to consent to sex. The principle also recommends those in charge of enforcing the law should do so selectively based on perceived maturity. It argues that any law based on age alone and not factors like maturity is discriminatory based on age. How this “maturity” is defined or measured is not clarified, and the paragraph also remains troublingly cryptic on if there should be any hard cut-off age.

Naturally, some on Twitter have pushed back on the idea.

The principles also advocate for total decriminalizing prostitution and drug use as part of their position that offenses related to “sex, drug use, HIV, sexual and reproductive health, homelessness and poverty” should be broadly decriminalized. “Reproductive health” is likely a euphemism referring to abortion, and offenses related to “poverty” is a vague notion potentially applicable to nearly all crimes.

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Ian Seiderman, ICJ’s Law and Policy Director, said this in the press release.


“Criminal law is among the harshest of tools at the disposal of the State to exert control over individuals… as such, it ought to be a measure of last resort however, globally, there has been a growing trend towards overcriminalization,”  “We must acknowledge that these laws not only violate human rights, but the fundamental principles of criminal law themselves.”

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