Did Mexico lower the legal age of sexual consent? No.
A report claims that the legal age of sexual consent in Mexico was reduced to 12 years old and that a man can seduce an underage minor “while acting entirely within the law.” This is false: no law regarding sex with minors was recently voted on, nor does Mexico have a defined age for sexual consent at the federal level.
An article published on June 30 and was shared more than 13,700 times claims that Mexico updated its legal regulations in order to allow for the age of consent -- the age past which a minor can fully understand a sexual act and take part in it -- to be reduced to 12.
There is no law establishing a specific age of sexual consent in Mexico. However, certain legal provisions do indicate circumstances in which having sexual relations with a minor -- the age of majority in the country is 18 -- is considered a crime.
Article 261 of the Mexican Federal Penal Code considers that a person forcing a minor of 15 years or less to see or engage in sexual acts, or to exhibit their body, is committing an abuse. Additionally, article 262 holds that those using trickery to engage in sex with a person older than 15 but younger than 18 will be sentenced to three months to four years in jail.
At the federal level, article 262 of the code established that, until 2012, those engaging in sex with a person older than 12 (not older than 15 as it is now) and younger than 18 could be charged with sexual abuse.
However, the Federal Penal Code “only applies if the facts occur, for example, within a Mexican embassy or in a ship flying the Mexican flag; meaning that its application is rather restricted and can only exert itself in cases in which the [Mexican] nation has precedence over local laws,” Mexican jurist and adviser to the Undersecretary of Basic Education Adolfo Gómez Vives told AFP.
At a local level, each Mexican state has its own penal code to prosecute sexual abuses, but none mentions an age of consent, nor explicitly prohibits intimate relationships between adults and minors under 18 years of age. Each state legislation is specific in how it prosecutes those guilty of engaging in sexual relations with minors under 12 who are considered unable to fully understand the meaning of the act.
According to Juan Martín Pérez, executive secretary of the Latin American and Caribbean Network for the Protection of Children and Adolescent rights, “the biggest challenge that Mexico is facing on this issue is breaking with the male chauvinist culture, the male domination over women, minors and teenagers’ bodies”.
“Underage minors have to be empowered so that they can be the ones who, at the right age, have agency over their body, their sexuality and procreation,” Martín Pérez assured AFP.
According to UNICEF in 2016, Mexico was the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) country with the highest teenage pregnancy rate, with 64 cases per 1,000 girls.
According to the article published on the website YourNewsWire, the European Parliament in Brussels “is also considering a motion which could lower the legal age of sexual consent from 16 to 13 years of age across the European Union.”
The excerpt in the report is nearly identical to one used in articles on the websites BBN and World News Daily Report discussing a vote in the Belgian Federal Parliament in 2014. The latter was flagged by Lead Stories media website for citing nonexistent sources.
The YourNewsWire article quotes the “cultural anthropologist, Thomas Black, from the University of Michigan,” as a source arguing that support for changing the age of consent in Europe exists in the United States.
A search of the Univeristy of Michigan staff directory does not find any Thomas Black, although he is also cited on bbncommunity.com as a cultural anthropologist.
Neither Mexico, nor the European Union have voted recently on laws that would change the age of sexual consent.