Person A does Act B to Person C. The law says this is a crime.

If Person C is a minor, Act B is no longer a crime.

What are the arguments for and against this kind of legal / social arrangement?

I instinctively feel the law should be giving more protection, not less, to children than adults, but we find this not so in practice.


OK, so people want examples:


If Adult A strikes Adult B with the open hand, this is the crime of assault. Adult A can be arrested.

If Adult A strikes Child C with the open hand, this is not assault. Adult A would not be arrested.


If Adult A ties down Adult B by the arms and legs, naked and spread-eagled, and uses sharp implements to cut off a part of his penis, that is sexual assault and battery causing grievous bodily harm.

Id Adult A ties down Child B by the arms and legs, naked and spread-eagled, and uses sharp implements to cut off a part of his penis, with no medical benefit, this is considered OK.

  • I am not familiar with the legal system. What examples are you referring to? This is just to help put this in context. Welcome to this SE! Nov 24, 2018 at 11:53
  • Hello, I can't think of a case where Act B done by Adult A to Adult C is not a crime (all else equal) if done by Adult A to Child C. If I kill someone intentionally, this is a crime : and it is a crime regardless of whether the human being I kill is an adult or a child. I may have missed your point. I echo Frank Hubeny : an example would help.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Nov 24, 2018 at 12:14
  • This question should be put on hold until the author can provide an example of what country/legal system they are talking about. This type of situation is not present in western legal systems and (regardless about whether it is correct for this to be the case or an example of imperalism) most countries in the world have modeled their legal systems off of a western template. After googling this topic I could not find examples of countries that do this. In fact, most of the time when dealing with, for example, sexual or violent crimes, the exact opposite is true.
    – Not_Here
    Nov 24, 2018 at 13:53
  • @Stewart. Under UK law both examples in A would count as assault. In B the same action could fall under different descriptions. In the adult to adult case there is sexual assault and battery causing grievous bodily harm and that is the end of the matter. No other description is relevant. ...
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Nov 24, 2018 at 17:31
  • 1
    There are many examples where the criminal law responds differently when the victim, or the object of some action, is a child instead of an adult. The response can also vary with the age of the child. Did you have a specific example in mind? Nov 25, 2018 at 5:46

1 Answer 1



As much we as humans hate to admit it, we could not agree on basic universal laws. Even most simple of them all, "Thou shalt not kill", is suspended during the war. Militaries, even most advanced ones, often kill civilians including children as "collateral damage" and this is not considered as a war crime.

In reality, laws are set of rules created by ruling group in certain society to suit their needs and interests. Power to create laws often does not correspond with popular sentiment (for example homosexual marriage laws in US) and power to enforce laws is usually physical (no police - no laws) .

Decision to give children equal or better protection under the law depends on those who rule in that society. Usually, in a countries with low birth rate and higher standards of living, children are cherished and pampered, sometimes even spoiled. Therefore, harm done to child is usually punished harder then harm done to adult. But in countries with high birth rate and low living standards children are viewed as junior members of society with least respect. Therefore, harming a child is sometimes socially accepted, and that same child would continue the practice when it grows up.

Philosophically (and mathematically perhaps) we could argue which strategy (child pampering, child abusing or something in the middle) is ultimately better, but that goes out of the scope of this question.

  • What I understand from your answer, is that it is 100% cultural, and nothing to do with philosophy of law or philosophy of morality.
    – Stewart
    Nov 24, 2018 at 9:27
  • 1
    @Stewart Laws are not based on ethics, and moral philosophy is rather ambiguous discipline - it does not give straight answers like this is right and this is wrong. It could only debate consequences of certain actions.
    – rs.29
    Nov 24, 2018 at 14:07

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .