Does the UN Demand the Decriminalization of Sexual Relations with Minors?

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On April 20, 2023, a document prepared by the International Committee of Jurists (ICJ) of the United Nations was discussed in the primetime program of the Georgian pro-Kremlin and “Conservative Movement” affiliated “Alt-Info” TV. According to Shota Martinenko, one of the leaders of the “Conservative Movement” and the host of “Alt-Analytics” program, the UN recommends the decriminalization of sexual relations with a minor if the minor consents, which is a direct prerequisite for the normalization of pedophilia.

Shota Martinenko: “[The ICJ argues that] If a minor gives consent, and has sexual intercourse with someone who is an adult, if you gave them a toy or for some other reason, they consented, and then they claims that they consented – this should not be criminalized, that is, the adult should not be punished. As of now, this is a recommendation, but everything starts with recommendations, everything starts with approaches, it started the same way with homosexuality, with transgenderism, and the next step in establishing a liberal agenda is the normalization and decriminalization of pedophilia. The West will eventually come to that outcome.”

This topic was discussed in the April 22 article by the Russian propaganda outlet Известия, where, among other things, it is also emphasized that the UN recommends the decriminalization of all types of sexual relations to the member states.

Screenshot 4 7 Does the UN Demand the Decriminalization of Sexual Relations with Minors?

The claim that the UN is recommending the decriminalization of sexual intercourse with minors is manipulative. In fact, the International Commission of Jurists report calls for non-discriminatory enforcement of minimum age of consent laws. One factor is the capacity and maturity of the person under 18, although the Commission emphasizes that states have a clear obligation to protect children from sexual abuse, including by criminalizing such conduct.

The basis of Alt-info’s false interpretation was the report of legal principles published by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in March, the purpose of which is to discuss human rights issues and offer guidelines. The ICJ provides legal guidance and introduces new principles no how the international community should respond to human rights issues under criminal law.

The March 8 report outlines principles for how cases involving abortion, drug use and possession, HIV infection and some cases of consensual sex can be criminalized. The report doesn’t call on countries to change their laws but suggests some factors to consider before anyone can be criminally charged for consensual sex with someone under 18.

A report published by the ICJ states that sex with minors, even if it is against the law, may in some cases, be consensual. When determining whether someone should be held criminally responsible for consensual sex with someone under the age of 18, certain factors need to be taken into account. One factor that must be considered is the ability and maturity of a person under 18 to make their own decisions about consensual conduct.

The ICJ emphasizes that states have a clear obligation under international law to protect children from all forms of violence, such as child sexual abuse, including by criminalizing such behavior. The ICJ’s statement on April 20 stated that the March 8 Principles do not require the decriminalization of sex with children nor the abolition of the minimum age of consent for sex. According to the ICJ, the March 8 Principles aim to provide MPs, judges, prosecutors and lawyers with a clear, accessible and operational legal framework to address the harmful effects of the criminalization of certain conduct on health, equality and other human rights.

The Associated Press has also verified the claims around the topic. Apnews contacted Erin Murphy, a law professor at New York University, who said that the document is, in fact, “strong statement in favor of enforcing these laws against sex with minors.” The report states that the minimum age of consent should be set in a non-discriminatory manner, and the law should not be linked to the sex/gender of the participants or the age of consent for marriage. According to Erin Murphy, some US states do not have a minimum age for marriage, which could be a legal loophole in the age of consent law. The document also says that sexual activity (which involves minors) can be consensual, even though it is not allowed by law. In such a context, the law should pay attention to the rights and ability of persons under 18 years of age to make their own decisions regarding consensual sexual relations, and to be heard in matters that concern them.

Similarly, Christine Stegling, UNAIDS deputy executive director for policy, advocacy and knowledge told Apnews that existing law provides inappropriate criminal sanctions for consensual, non-exploitative sex between same-age adults. Chicago-Kent College of Law Professor Alexander A. Boni-Saenz confirms that the document does not advocate the decriminalization of sex between adults and adolescents. “What it does do is suggest that the law should not be enforced in discriminatory way, for instance, by setting different age of consent based on sex of the participants in the sexual activity or the marital status of those involved.” United Nations spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric also responded to the information and called it a malicious misreporting.

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