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Under such terms, if the adult is, for instance, less than three years older than the minor, no crime has been committed or the penalty is far less severe. Statutory rape laws are based on the premise that an individual is legally incapable of consenting to sexual intercourse until that person reaches a certain age.
The law mandates that even if he or she willingly engages in sexual intercourse, the sex is not consensual.
Critics argue that an age limit cannot be used to determine the ability to consent to sex, since a young teenager might possess enough social sense to make informed and mature decisions about sex, while some adults might never develop the ability to make mature choices about sex, as even many mentally healthy individuals remain naive and easily manipulated throughout their lives.
Another rationale comes from the fact that minors are generally economically, socially, and legally unequal to adults.
By making it illegal for an adult to have sex with a minor, statutory rape laws aim to give the minor some protection against adults in a position of power over the youth.