Source AP ©

Legal age of sexual consent lowered to 16 in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland will lower legal age of sexual consent to 16 in line with the rest of the United Kingdom.

Paul Goggins, Britain's criminal justice minister in Northern Ireland, said there was no logical reason why the minimum age for sexual relations was 17 in this British territory, its status in law since the 1880s.

He said a bill modernizing the crimes and punishments for sexual offenses would be passed in spring 2008 following a two-month period of consultation in Northern Ireland. The bill also creates a criminal offense for "curb-crawling," the act of seeking a prostitute.

The reform will end a contradiction in Northern Ireland, where you can legally marry at age 16.

For decades, Northern Ireland's laws on sexual matters have changed more slowly than in Britain. Northern Ireland was last to decriminalize acts of homosexuality in 1982, while abortion - legalized in England in 1967 - remains illegal here except in life-threatening cases.

Ages of consent internationally range from 12 to 18. Many eastern European nations, Germany and Canada set the the minimum age for consenting sexual relations at 14, France at 15, and most U.S. states at 16.