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No sex please until we're 16, Canada says

CANADA: Seeking to crack down on sexual predators in the era of the Internet, Canada's government brought in legislation would raise the legal age of consent for sex to 16 from an unusually young 14.

Justice Minister Vic Toews said changing the law will bring Canada's standards into line with those in several other countries, and he complained Canada's relatively low age of consent has attracted sexual criminals from more restrictive countries.

But the proposal, first outlined in April, will also allow youngsters to have consensual sex with people up to five years older or younger, even if that means one partner is aged 14 or 15.

"Our goal in this legislation is not to criminalize teenage youth who may be involved in sexual activity with their peers," Toews told reporters in Ottawa.

"It is to make the law more effective in protecting vulnerable young people from adult sexual predators."

Consent standards vary around the world in terms of age, gender and sexual orientation. In most U.S. states, the age of sexual consent is at least 16 and in some cases - Arizona is one example - it is as old as 18.

Toews predicted that the move would find broad support among Canadians, with police forces across the country and with lawmakers from all political stripes.

However, some advocacy groups, including the Canadian Federation for Sexual Health, have already expressed concern about changing the law in this way.

The federation, formerly Planned Parenthood, has said there is no evidence that raising the age of consent will improve protection for young people, and warned it may discourage young people from seeking out birth control options or other assistance.

Toews introduced legislation in the House of Commons on Thursday, the last day of proceedings before Parliament's summer break, so debate will start only after Parliament resumes on Sept. 18. Calgary, Friday, Reuters

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