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Jurist Sir Matthew Hale argued that the age of consent applied to 10- and 11-year-old girls, but most of England's North American colonies adopted the younger age.

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By 1920, Anglo-American legislators had responded by increasing the age of consent to 16 years, and even as high as 18 years.

While those ages were well beyond the normal age of menstruation, proponents justified them on scientific grounds that psychological maturity came later than physiological maturity.

An underage girl did not have to physically struggle and resist to the limit of her capacity in order to convince a court of her lack of consent to a sexual act, as older females did; in other words, the age of consent made it easier to prosecute a man who sexually assaulted an underage girl.

However, since the age of consent applied in all circumstances, not just in physical assaults, the law also made it impossible for an underage female to consent to sexual activity.

Revelations of child prostitution were central to those campaigns, a situation that resulted, reformers argued, from men taking advantage of the innocence of girls just over the age of consent. The outcry it provoked pushed British legislators to raise the age of consent to 16 years, and stirred reformers in the U.

S, such as the Women's Christian Temperance Union, the British Empire, and Europe to push for similar legislation.

An age of consent statute first appeared in secular law in 1275 in England as part of the rape law.

The statute, Westminster 1, made it a misdemeanor to "ravish" a "maiden within age," whether with or without her consent.

The 1860 Indian Penal Code set the age at 10 years; in 1891 the age of consent but not the age of marriage was raised to 12 years.

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