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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Österreichische Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaften (ÖZG)
Volume (Issue) 28(3)
Page(s) 133 - 156
Title of proceedings Österreichische Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaften (ÖZG)


The Austrian criminal law (1852) set the age of consent at 14 years and stated that sexual acts with boys and girls younger than this age were a felony. Concurrently, this criminal law, which remained in power until 1974, was deeply shaped by patriarchal and compulsory heterosexual norms and by distinct notions about sexual morality – both of which proved to be, at least partially, in contraction with claims of child protection. Even though the law attempted to draw boundaries between childhood and adulthood, in the courtrooms, these lines became blurry, as is illustrated by the legal practice of the court of St. Pölten (Lower Austria). By examining three case studies (rape of minor, adolescent girls, sexual abuse of minor boys by adult men and sexual abuse of so called “corrupt” children) the article illustrates how courts of first instance fundamentally contradicted notions of children’s rights to be protected from sexual violence.