Age of consent for sexual relations; legal implications for a Canadian male in Cuba who engages in sexual relations with a 14 or 15-year-old Cuban female (1997-present) [CUB40135.E]

According to the Consul of the Embassy of Cuba in Ottawa, there is no established age of sexual consent in Cuba (25 Oct. 2002). For the time period covering 1997-2002, the Consul stated that a legal minor is considered to be someone under the age of 18 (ibid.).

In her reply to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Ms. De Puzo, a representative of Cuba, explained that

... Cuba's Criminal Code presumed the absence of consent in any instance of sexual abuse committed against a minor, and established that the age of the victim was both a factor, and an aggravating circumstance in a number of sexual offences (inter alia, pederasty, sexual abuse of a minor between the ages of 12 and 16, and corruption of a minor). The chief concern was not the establishment of an age of sexual consent but the protection of minors in accordance with their age. Thus, for example, a minor emancipated by marriage continued to enjoy those guarantees established by law for other minors (UN 11 June 1997 para. 37).

A 1998 report by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Cuba recommended that Cuba review the minimum age for sexual consent with the intention of raising it (UN 1998).

As of 1997, Canadian law applies to individuals who commit certain sexual offences abroad (Canada 29 Jan. 2002). The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) Website includes a Fact Sheet on child sex tourism that explains the 1997 amendment to Canada's Criminal Code:

... Bill C-27, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (child prostitution, child sex tourism, criminal harassment and female genital mutilation) ... came into force May 26, 1997. With these criminal law reforms, Canada has joined more than 20 other states in enacting extraterritorial legislation that will allow for the Canadian prosecution of Canadians who sexually exploit children while abroad.
The 1997 Criminal Code amendments make it possible for the Canadian prosecution of Canadian citizens or permanent residents who sexually abuse children, including engaging in child prostitution, while outside Canada. It is important to note that the amendments allow not only for the prosecution of offences related to child sex tourism, such as child prostitution, but also of child sexual exploitation offences, such as sexual exploitation, indecent acts, child pornography and incest ...
Since 1997, if a Canadian citizen or permanent resident engages in any of the sexual exploitation offences enumerated in s.7(4.1)*, whether for consideration or not, that offence is deemed to have been committed in Canada, thereby enabling a Canadian prosecution.
*The offences listed in subsection 7(4.1) are: s.151 sexual interference; s.152 invitation to sexual touching; s.153 sexual exploitation; s.155 incest; s.159 anal intercourse; s.160(2) compelling the commission of bestiality; s.160(3) bestiality in the presence of a child under 14 / inciting child under 14 to commit; s.163.1 making, distributing, selling or possessing child pornography; s.170 parent or guardian procuring sexual activity; s.171 householder permitting sexual activity; s.173 indecent acts / exposure; s.212(4) (NEW) (as amended by Bill C-51) prostitution of a person under 18 (ibid.).

Although advocates of the 1997 amendment believed it would ensure that offenders were brought to justice in accordance with Canadian legal standards, Marina Jimenez, in an August 2000 National Post article reported that the amendment failed to protect a 17-year-old Canadian girl who was molested by her teacher on a school trip to Costa Rica due to the fact that the foreign government did not make a formal request for Canada to prosecute the teacher (National Post 10 Aug. 2000). Under Bill C-27, a formal request to prosecute criminals in Canada must be made by the foreign country to the federal Minister of Justice:

s. 7(4.2) Request to the Minister of Justice: Criminal proceedings in relation to child sex tourism will be instituted in Canada only upon request by a foreign country. The request must be made to the federal Minister of Justice. The request can occur in one of two ways. In Canada, a foreign consular officer or diplomatic agent accredited to Canada may make the request. Abroad, a foreign minister may make the request to the Minister of Justice through a diplomatic representative of Canada (Canada 29 Jan. 2002).

An exemption to the formal request exists for "Canadians accused of having sex with underage prostitutes overseas" (National Post 10 Aug. 2000). Section 212(4) of Bill C-27 states that:

... [I]t [is] an offence for a person to obtain for consideration, or communicate with anyone for the purpose of obtaining for consideration, the sexual services of someone under the age of 18. This is an indictable offence and carries a maximum sentence of five years' imprisonment. [This section is excluded from the requirements set out in s.7(4.2) and s.7(4.3).] (Canada 29 Jan. 2002)

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Canada. Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT). 29 January 2002. Child Sex Tourism Fact Sheet. [Accessed 21 Oct. 2002]

Cuba. The Embassy of Cuba, Ottawa. 25 October 2002. Telephone interview with Consul.

National Post [Toronto]. 10 August 2000. Marina Jimenez. "Child Sex Tourism Law Fails First Test: Teacher Accused of Molesting Student in Costa Rica Can't Be Charged." [Accessed 21 Oct. 2002]

United Nations. 1998. Commission on Human Rights. (E/CN.4/1998/69) "Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Cuba." [Accessed 22 Oct. 2002]

______. 11 June 1997. Committee on the Rights of the Child. Fifteenth Session. (CRC/C/SR.375) "Summary Record of the 375th Meeting: Cuba." [Accessed 22 Oct. 2002]

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB Databases

Internet sites, including:

Cuba. 23 December 1987.

Codigo Penal: Ley No. 62.


Government and Politics of Cuba (in Spanish)


Latin American Network Information Center (LANIC)



World Health Organization (WHO)