Dr Sarah Nelson, a researcher in child sexual abuse at Edinburgh University, said wide variations in the age of consent were too often accepted as the result of cultural and religious differences. She said: "There's a danger in being too respectful of cultural arguments.
"People say 'within our culture we do it this way or that way' but we know so much now about child abuse. These are arguments made by men who want to have sexual access to children."
She said the exact age of consent, whether 15, 16, or 17, would always be arbitrary but was designed to protect children from exploitation by more powerful adults.
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