IndexAmericasSouth America (generalia)



More: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guiana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela


Also: Alkatcho, Amahuaca, Apinayé, Araucanians, Aritama, Aymara, Bahia, Bakairí, Bororó, Canela (Eastern Timbira), Cashinahua; Cayapá, Cubeo, Embera, Guajiro, Guaraní, Guatos, Inka, Jivaro, Kagaba, Kagwahiv, Kaingángs, Kayabí, Kayapó, Kogi, Machiguenga, Mataco, Mehinaku, Mundurucu, Nambikwara, Ndyuka, Ona, Pilagá, Saramakans, Sharanahua, Shavante, Shipibo, Siriono, Tapirapé, Teheulche, Tenetehara, Ramcocramecra Timbira, Trumaí, Tukano, Tupinambá, Vaupé. See Tukano, Wai-Wai, Warao, Wari’, Xokleng, Yahgan. See Ona, Yanomamö, Yaruros, Zorcas




Current Age of Consent in Central and South America

Early Betrothal / Marriage


Ethnographic Particularities




Werner (1986), as cited by Frayser (1994:p206-7)[1] provided some data on the sexual climate of children in South America:


“Xokleng children of southern Brazil often sleep with adults who engage in sexual activities with them; such relations are regarded as amusing and playful […]. Siriono women of Bolivia often had sex with the prepubescent brothers of their husbands, and older Tupinamba women in Brazil who did not have the favor of older men might constantly accompany young boys, to whom they gave presents and instruction in sexual matters […]”.


“As in the Melanesian cultures of the Pacific, initiation, more than marriage, is indispensable in northwest Amazonia to the transition from the asexual world of childhood to the sexual world of adults”[2], a transition that is commonly associated with “playful” transitional male homosexuality (cf. Murray, 1992, 1995)[3]. De Freitas et al. (1997)[4] from Brazil found that “12 percent of Paulistanos and Cariocas and 17 percent of other, non urban respondents reported erotic contact with animals in their childhood or adolescence”. In Paraguay, Mantegazza[5] personally observed that “children of both sexes, stark naked, playing freely together, and I believe that more than once, out of curiosity and for amusement, they try copulation long before the age of puberty, which little by little dilates the genital parts of the girl, and results probably in a gradual loss of the maidenhead, without violence”.

Among the Kulisehu, the praeputium is tucked under a waist string, so as to elongate it. This is customary. “Man hält den Jüngling zu diesem Verfahren an, wenn sie die ersten Erektionen eintreten”, according to Von den Steinen (1897:p188)[6].


An overview of sexarche figures was offered by Wulf and Singh (1991)[7].




Current Age of Consent in Central and South America[8]


For country-specific details, one is to consult ECPAT[9], Interpol[10] and ILGA[11]. Graupner (2000)[12] offers data on the sexual consent of Brazil (14, all categories) and Chile (20, all categories). Some data on sexual consent and sex education in are collected by the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy (CRLP)[13]. ECPAT (Nov., 2002) considers AoC for the following South American countries: Bolivia (14)[14], Brazil, Chile ([12])[15], Colombia (14)[16], Ecuador ([14])[17], Guyana[18] (13), Paraguay (14 [het.])[19], Peru (14), Uruguay (15)[20] and Venezuela[21]; it is unclear about Suriname[22]. For the Caribbean: Barbados (16)[23], Cuba (none)[24], Dominica (16), Dominican Republic (none)[25], Jamaica (16)[26], Saint Kitts & Nevis (16), and Trinidad & Tobago[27].


The age of consent is 16 onCuba; in Guatemala, it is 18; in French Guiana, it is 15; in Honduras, it is 14.Argentina: “Será reprimido con reclusión o prisión de seis a quince años, el que tuviere acceso carnal con persona de uno o otro sexo en los casos siguientes: 1) Cuando la víctima fuere menor de doce (12) años […]” (Artículo 119, Código Penal vigente, 1921). “Se impondrá reclusión o prisión de tres a seis años, cuando la víctima fuere mujer honesta mayor de doce (12) años y menor de quince (15) y no se encontrare en las circunstancias de los números 2 y 3 del articulo anterior” (Art. 120). Bolivia: “La edad de consentimiento para la actividad sexual, previo matrimonio civil, en las mujeres, es de catorce (14) años de edad. Para los varones es de dieciséis (16) años”. Chile: “De las disposiciones mencionadas y en relación con los artículos 361 (violación) ; 363 (estupro) ; y 366 (abusos deshonestos) del Código Penal, se desprende que la libertad para consentir el acto sexual, es a los doce (12) años en las mujeres siempre que no exista violencia, ni intimidación, ni este privada de razón por cualquier causa”. The Law of Marriage, 10 of Januari of 1884, in the article 4°N°2, prohibits prepubertal marriage (12 for girls, 14 for boys). Colombia: “El que realice actos sexuales diversos del acceso carnal con personas menores de 14 años o en su presencia o lo induzca a practicas sexuales, estará sujeto a la pena de 2 a 5 años de prisión” (Art. 305). The age of consent for sexual activity is 12 for woman and 14 years for males. Costa Rica: “Será reprimido con prisión de cinco a diez años, el que tuviere acceso carnal con una persona de uno u otro sexo en los siguientes casos: Cuando la víctima fuere menor de doce años […]” (Art. 156, Penal Code). “Se impondrá prisión de uno a cuatro años, el que tuviere acceso carnal con mujer honesta aun con su consentimiento, mayor de doce años y menor de quince” (Art. 159). In Jamaica, “[w]hosoever shall unlawfully and carnally know and abuse any girl under the age of twelve (12) years shall be guilty of felony, and, being convicted thereof, shall be liable to imprisonment for life (Art. 48). “Whosoever shall unlawfully and carnally know and abuse any girl being above the age of twelve (12) years and under the age of sixteen (16) years shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being convicted thereof, shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years” (Art. 50). Mexico: “Al que tenga cópula con persona mayor de doce años y menor de dieciocho, obteniendo su consentimiento por medio de engaño, se le aplicará de tres meses a cuatro años de prisión” (Art. 262, Penal Code). Panama:?. Peru: “El que practica el acto sexual u otro análogo con menor de catorce (14) años de edad será reprimido con las siguientes penas privativas de libertad: 1.Si la víctima tiene menos de siete años, la pena será de cadena perpetua; 2. Si la víctima tiene de siete años a menos de diez la pena será no menor de veinticinco ni mayor de treinta años.  3.Si la víctima tiene de diez años a menos de catorce la pena será no menor de veinte ni mayor de veinticinco años” (Art. 173, Code Penal). “El que, mediante engaño, practica el acto sexual o otro análogo con una persona de Catorce (14) y menor de dieciocho (18), será reprimido con pena privativa de libertad no mayor de tres años o con prestación de servicio comunitario de treinta a setentiocho jornadas” (Art. 175). Puerto Rico: “Every person who, without intending to consummate sexual intercourse, commits any indecent or lewd act with another person shall be punished by imprisonment as provided hereinafter if any of the following circumstances occur: If the victim is under fourteen (14) years of age […]” (Art. 4067). Uruguay:?. Venzuela: “" El que por medio de violencias o amenazas hay constreñido a alguna persona, del uno o del otro sexo, a un acto carnal, será castigado con presidio de cinco a diez años. La misma pena se le aplicara al individuo que tenga un acto carnal con persona de uno u otro sexo, que en el momento del delito: No tuviere doce (12) años de edad […]” (Art. 375, Penal Code).



Early Betrothal / Marriage


The Spanish forbade prepubertal marriage in 1581[28]. Despite this act, parental selection of marriage partners survived in many indigenous peoples.


Sumner (1906:p382)[29] cited reports that of child marriage where “girls of ten are mothers”[30]. Child betrothal is reported among the Guaraní of the Paraná River. “In some cases little girls were given to grown men, who lived with their child wives, probably in the house of their future parents-in-law” (Métraux, 1948)[31]. Child betrothal is also reported among the Cainguá, but the girls were said to remain with their parents, who receive presents from their prospective sons-in-law (ibid.). Among the Ona, “There was no child betrothal proper” (Cooper, 1946)[32]. For the Samaraka, “[i]n the past, girls were formally betrothed (kiiá) well before puberty, and “betrothal in the womb” was an accepted practice, while today mean age at betrothal is only a year or two below age at marriage and child betrothal is unknown” (Price, 1975)[33]. Among the Warao, “[t]here were boys who were betrothed to little girls who had not yet reached puberty” (Heinen, [1988])[34]. Among the Brazilian Yanomamo, “[p]arents may also betroth their children while they are still infants” (Early & Peters, 1990)[35]. Among the Cuna, the premarital four-day debut ceremony is even sometimes given before puberty in the parents’ zeal to insure their daughter’s having it (Stout, 1947:p34). As for the Asang, “[a] girl at a very early age, between eight and nine, is betrothed to a young man, who at once takes up residence in the house of her parents, whom he assists until […] [she] is old enough to be married, when, without ceremony, they are recognized as man and wife (Pim and Seeman, 1869:p306-7)[36]. Helms (1971:p85)[37] observed that this was no longer customary. The Aikaná practised betrothal in childhood, marriage took place after menarche (Becker-Donner, ?:p280)[38]. The same was formerly so in the Makurap (p290). The Bororo practised rearing marriage (Levak, 1973:p77-8)[39].






A number of psychoanalytic journals provide an insight in Latin American academic integration of Freudian measures of “infantile sexuality” and associated concepts. These include the Revista de Psicoanalisis (Asociacion Psicoanalitica Argentina), Tropicos: Revista de Psicoanalisis (Sociedad Psicoanalitica de Caracas, Venezuela), Revista Chilena de Psicoanalisis (Asociacion Psicoanalitica Chilena, Chile), Revista Uruguaya de Psicoanalisis (Asociacion Psicoanalitica Del Uruguay), etc. [For a more comprehensive list, see]


[Examples: Vaz-Ferreira, C. (1941) Correlaciones entre los aspectos psicologico, fisiologico, endocrinologico y anatomico de la sexualidad infantile, Rev Psiquia Uruguay 6:15-23; Dowling, A. S. (1983) Analisis de una nina en su periodo de latencia, Rev Psicoanal 40,2:437-58; Rascovsky, A. (1993) Consideraciones psicosomaticas sobre la evolucion sexual del nino: Paralelismo entre las expresiones psicologicas, fisiologicas y estructurales, Rev Psicoanal 50,3:637-84; Litvinoff, H. (1997) Reflexiones sobre la sexualidad femenina, Rev Psicoanal 54,1:117-48. See also Nedeff, C. C. (2001) Contribuicoes da sexologia sobre a sexualidade infantil nos dois primeiros anos de vida: uma revisao bibliografica, Psicologia: Teoria & Pratica 3,2:83-91; Soifer, R. (1990) Narcisismo, autoerotismo, simbiosis e incesto. Su conexion con las dos formas de relacion objetal en los primeros anos de vida, Rev Psicoanal 47,2:335-8; Aberastury, A. (1970) [The importance of genital organization in the initiation of the early Oedipus complex], Rev Psicoanal 27,1:5-25]





Ethnographic Particularities 


Featured: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guiana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela









Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. VolumeI. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology

Last revised: Oct. 2004


[1] Frayser, S. G. (1994) Defining normal childhood sexuality: An anthropological approach, Ann Rev Sex Res 5:173­217

[2] Johansson, W. (1990) Amazonia, in Dynes, W. R. (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Homosexuality. New York & London: Garland Publ. Inc.Vol I, p45-6

[3] Murray, S. O. (1992) Sentimental effusions of genital contact in Upper Amazonia, in Dynes, W. R. & Donaldson, S. (Eds.) Ethnographic Studies of Homosexuality. New York [etc.]: Garland, p339-51 / Murray, S. O. (1995) "Sentimental Effusions" of Genital Contact in Amazonia, in Murray, S. O. (Ed.) Latin American Male Homosexualities. Albuquerque: University of  New Mexico Press, p264-73

[4] De Freitas, S. et al. (1997) Brazil, in Francoeur, R. T. (Ed.) The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality. New York: Continuum, Vol. 1. Quoted from the online edition

[5] Quoted by Jacobus X ([1893] 1898) L’Amour aux Colonies. Paris: I. Liseux. 3 vols. 2nd & enl. English ed., Untrodden Fields of Anthropology (etc.). Paris: Librairie de Medecine, Folklore et Anthropologie. Vol. II, p444

[6] Von den Steinen, K. (1897) Unter den Naturvölkern Zentral-Brasiliens. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer

[7] Wulf, D. & Singh, S. (1991) Sexual activity, union, and childbearing among adolescent women in the Americas, Int Fam Plann Perspect 17,4:137-44

[8], Nov. 2001

[9] ECPAT International, Online Database []

[10] (Legislation of Interpol member states on sexual offences against children)


[12] Op.cit.

[13] CRLP (1997) Women of the World: Laws and Policies Affecting Their Reproductive Lives: Latin America and the Caribbean. Also Progress Report, 2000 [Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, and Peru]

[14] A 1999 “law created a uniform age of consent to sexual relations of 14 years, eliminating the previous age of consent differential between boys and girls. Boys are now also included in the provision against statutory rape, which had formerly only prohibited sexual intercourse with a girl under 14 years. The amendments also increased the penalties for all crimes against sexual liberty, and particularly for sexual crimes against children: sexual intercourse with a person of either sex under 14 years is punishable by 15 to 20 years imprisonment. It is legal for children above 12 years to have consensual sexual relations, but only if the age differential between the partners is less than 3 years”.

[15] “Penetrative sexual acts (including sodomy) and non-penetrative sexual acts on a child between 12 and 18 years are illegal [...]. Under the Chilean Civil Code, a minor is anyone under 18 years of age. Throughout the Civil and Penal Codes, there are distinctions between children (under 7 years), immature adults (boys under 14 and girls under 12), and adults (finished puberty). Because of these different definitions, the legal age of consent is unclear; however, for practical purposes, it appears that the age of consent to sexual relations is 12 years”.

[16] “The age of consent in Colombia is 14. Sexual intercourse with a person under 14 years is illegal. Also, it is an offense to commit non-penetrative sexual acts involving a person under 14 years, either against the child or in his or her presence, and to induce a child to sexual practices”.

[17]Ecuador recently amended its Penal Code, increasing penalties for crimes of sexual exploitation, and raising the age of protection from 12 to 14. For practical purposes, the age of consent in Ecuador is 14, although under the Civil Code there are distinctions between infants (up to age 7), boys (up to age 14), girls (up to age 12), adults (finished puberty), and age of majority (18 years old)”.

[18] “[…] the Criminal Law Offences Act, rarely refers specifically to "children", only to "females". This legislation puts the age of consent to sexual relations at 13 years. Sexual intercourse with a person under 12 is statutory rape. If the victim is between 12 and 13, the consent of victim is a triable issue and the accused could mount a defense that he was under the belief that the victim was over 13 years of age”.

[19] “For most sexual acts, it appears that the age of consent in Paraguay is 14, although for homosexual acts it is 16”.

[20] “The age of consent is 15 years. Sexual intercourse with a child under this age is illegal. It is also an offense to have consensual sexual intercourse with an "honest unmarried woman" of any age above 15 years. [...] Additionally, under Uruguayan law, anyone who has sexual relations with a virgin between the ages of 15 and 20 commits statutory rape unless the offender subsequently proposes marriage. [...] There is a presumption that violence has occurred in a sexual assault if the victim is under 15 years old. However, that presumption can be rebutted with evidence if the victim is older than 12 years”.

[21] “There doesn't seem to be one specific age of consent to sexual relations. The age of consent to marriage is 14 for girls and 16 for boys. […] [An] article in the Penal Code criminalises penetrative or non-penetrative sexual acts with a person between 12 and 16 years of age”.

[22] “The legal age of consent is 21, but the Asian Marriage law, which applies to citizens of Asian descent, puts the age of consent to marriage at 13 years for girls and 14 years for boys”.

[23] “The Sexual Offences Act, 1992-93, made sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 14 a criminal offence; but the minimum legal age of consent is 16”.

[24] “There is no minimum age for sexual consent but the Family Code sets the minimum age for marriage at 14 years for girls and 16 years for boys”.

[25] “Dominican law defines children as persons up to the age of 12 and adolescents as persons aged between 13 and 18. Young women may marry from the age of 15 and young men from the age of 16. There is so far no legislation on the age of sexual consent”.

[26] “The age of legal consent for sexual activities is sixteen years and the age of marriage is 18. […] Article 40 of the Penal Code prohibits aggravated assaults on women or children. Under Article 44 carnally knowing, or attempting to carnally know, a girl under twelve is an offence. Article 50 makes it a misdemeanour to have carnal knowledge with a child above 12 but under 16. Article 53 addresses indecent assault on a girl under 16”.

[27] “The age of marriage varies depending on religious background. Under the Hindu Marriage Act, a girl may marry at age 14 and a boy at 18. Under the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act a girl may marry at 12 and a boy at 16 whilst under the common law, the ages of marriage are 12 for a girl and 14 for a boy. Parental consent is required for all marriages of minors except in respect of a Hindu girl who has attained the age of 16. Under section 6 of the Sexual Offences Act (1986), it is an offence for a male to have sexual intercourse with a female under the age of 14 years. This is punishable by life imprisonment”.

[28] Abendanon, J. H. (1923) Het oud Spaansch koloniaal stelsel […], Bijdragen Taal-, Land-, & Volkenk Nederlansch-Indie [Holland] 79:73-197, at p117

[29] Sumner, W. G. (1906) Folkways. Boston [etc.]: Ginn & Co.

[30] Apparently citing Schomburgk, M. R., Travels in British Guiana, 1840-1844. Transl. from the German. I, p122; and also Wickham (1895:p205)

[31] Métraux, A. (1948) The Guarani. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office

[32] Cooper, J. M. (1946) The Ona. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office

[33] Price, P. R. (1975) Saramaka Social Structure: Analysis of a Maroon Society in Surinam. Rio Piedras: Institute of Caribbean Studies, University of Puerto Rico. However, informants indicated that at the time of writing child betrothal was still practised; “[f]urthermore, informants who had lived for years among the Djuka reported that there, where the sex ratio, wage labor patterns, and polygyny frequency are more similar to those of our region a century ago than to those of today, early betrothal (including betrothal in the womb) is still practiced (see R. Price 1970a; Hurault 1961:146, 149)”.

[34] Heinen, H. D. ([1988]) Oko Warao: Marshland People of the Orinoco Delta. Münster: Lit. Kirchhoff, P. (1946-59) The Warrau. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office: “The parents of a girl choose a bridegroom at a very early age and hand her over to him at a later period without any further ceremony. From the day of the betrothal, the boy must work for her parents until he reaches manhood, when he takes the girl to the hut he has built. A man may ask a father for his daughter and, if he is accepted, he removes his property to his father-in-law’s hut and hunts, fishes, and clears a field for him. The second and third wives are obtained by purchase. When his wife becomes old (20 years), a man takes a little girl of 7 or 8, and his wife instructs her in household duties until she is old enough to marry him”.

[35] Cit. infra

[36] Pim, B. & Seeman, B. (1869) Dotting on the Roadside, Panama, Nicaragua  and Mosquito. London, p306-7. See also Esquemeling, J. (1893) The Buccaneers of America. Edited by H. Powell. London, p253; Conzemius (1932) Ethnographical Surveu of the Miskito and Sumu Indians of Honduras and Nicaragua. Washington: Governmental Printing Office, p145, 147; Moravian Church (1898) Rules and Regulations of the Moskito Mission Province […]. Hernhut, p22

[37] Helms, M. W. (1971) Asang. Gainesville: University of Florida Press

[38] Becker-Donner, E. (?) Notizen über einige Stämme an den rechten Zuflüssen des Rio Guaporé, Archiv Völkerk, 275-343

[39] Levak, Z. D. (1973) Kinship System and Social Structure of the Bororo of Pobojari. Dissertation, Yale University