Jul 302011

Now that the David Norris case has hit the front pages, the Interwebs are alive with all manner of speculation and allegation, and the most common accusation is that he defended a paedophile.

Now, that would be fine if we all had a common definition of a paedophile, but after a quick scan of European laws, I’ve discovered that we have no such agreement.  Ezra Nawi would not be considered a paedophile in France, Germany, Italy or the Czech Republic.  On the other hand, a man legally married to a 17-year-old wife here in Ireland could be convicted of child abuse in Malta.  More to the point, a man with a 16-year-old girlfriend would be acting legally in Israel, but a criminal in this country.

Furthermore,  when Ezra Nawi was convicted in 1992, Israel operated two different ages of consent : 16 for heterosexuals and 18 for homosexuals.

Even within Europe, there’s no agreed age of consent, which means that, in theory, a person could simultaneously be a paedophile and not a paedophile simply by standing with a foot on each side of a national border — in other words, Schrödinger’s Pervert, somebody both depraved and virtuous at the same time.

Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens when we project the social mores of one society onto another.  Here in Ireland, for instance, we have set the age of consent at 17, which seems rather high by comparison with other jurisdictions, but not as high as Malta where the limit is 18.  And while there might have been a time when our teenagers were a little coy and sexually repressed, I suspect those days have long fled.

Of course, the issue isn’t really about sex between teenagers, but instead about situations when a great age difference exists — except in Ireland where we prosecute 17-year-old boys for having sex with 16-year-old girlfriends because, as you know, we have more morals than anyone else.  We have so many morals, we’ve even exported them. A morals mountain.

Within one jurisdiction, the paedophile definition is consistent, enabling us to define what we consider acceptable or not in our society.  That’s why, for instance, we can say with certainty that some convicted priests are paedos, but we must always remember that they would not be criminals in other countries.  In Spain, for instance, the age of consent is 13, which seems a bit pervy by any standards, but it’s a fact all the same.

I find it creepy to think that a man of 40 would want anything to do with a prattling teenager of either sex, but that’s just me, that’s my own prejudice, and my personal hang-ups don’t make the law.

However, it’s a different matter when people use the word Paedophile, not least because it has a reassuringly scientific sound to it, even though it was invented by perverts to justify what they do.

The problem is this.  If Nawi had sex with a 15-year-old in Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Holland, Malta, Norway or Russia, he’d be a paedophile.  If he had sex with a 15-year-old in France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Denmark, Poland or Austria, he’d be a healthy, sexually-active adult.  Therefore, without a commonly-agreed age of consent, calling somebody in another society a paedophile simply has no meaning, other than as an expression of our personal revulsion.

How can this be resolved?  I don’t know.  Maybe you do.




Here’s a table of countries grouped by age of consent.  It could contain some errors, so feel free to correct any you notice.


Age of Consent Country
13 Spain
14 Albania
15 Czech Republic
16 Belgium
United Kingdon
17 Cyprus
18 Turkey




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  7 Responses to “Schrödinger’s Pervert – no agreed age of consent in Europe”

Comments (6) Pingbacks (1)

    I think it’s even more complex than this, because not all countries apply the same standards for heterosexual and homosexual ages of consent. In this sense, it’s useless to use terms like ‘paedophile’. That’s a medical or psychiatric term, and it relates to people who are sexually attracted to children who haven’t reached puberty. Hebephilia is the term for those who are attracted to pubescent children. Ephebophilia is the term for those attracted to adolescent teenagers, and that’s where the debate is. Ephebophile relationships that are legal in one country are illegal in another, ephebophile acts that might be legal in one country when conducted with a teenager of the opposite sex can be illegal in the same country when conducted with a teenager of the same sex.

    These terms tend not to be legal ones; laws generally don’t say ‘paedophilia is illegal, and paedophilia is x’, not least because you can’t really make a sexuality or an illness illegal; you can only rule on acts; they usually say ‘sexual relationships or activities with persons under the age of x are illegal’.

    But you’re right. It’s not simple, and I don’t know what the answer is. I think there probably are answers, but I don’t think for anyone to crow about stuff is any good on this one. And for what it’s worth, I feel sorry for David Norris. He’s always annoyed me — I can’t take his constant interruptions of people on the telly — but in this case it seems to me that he’s just been foolish, and has been a victim of his own naive sense of kindness.


    on a light note, I think that if the “creepiness rule” was adopted as a universal law, it might solve a lot of these quandaries:


    it says that people should only ever date (or whatever) people that are over (your age)/2+7, which makes the lower limit of the age of consent 14, but only if both parties are 14. if one person is 18, then the other must be 16 or older. etc.


    You appear to have missed one highly significant European state. Apparently, in Vatican City, the age of consent for male/female sex is 12, according to this website http://www.avert.org/age-of-consent.htm . I can’t vouch for its accuracy, and at a glance, there are some differences to your own compilation, but the information is strinking nonetheless.


    My understanding is that the Vatican age limits are the same as Italy’s, but I could be wrong. It’s also possible that some of my figures are in error, but since they’re included for illustration only, no harm is done.


    Its comical the verbal gymnastics the liberals are utileizing to defend Norris.The Catholic church as Enda Kenny said “the rape and torture of children were downplayed” He was correct.
    norris has also downplayed the rape of a child whatever type of spin you put on it
    what a shower of hypocrits


    At the beginning of the 20th cent. both Italy and the Vatican had set the age of consent at 12. Italy upped the age to 16 but the Vatican didn’t follow suit for many years. They both now have the same laws.

    More disturbingly, I hear Yemen allows sex with 9 year olds, but only if you marry them first…


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