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Thread: Why is it so special to turn 18 in Belgium ?

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    Post Why is it so special to turn 18 in Belgium ?



    18 years old is the age of majority in most Western countries (apart from some Canadian or US states where it is 19 or 21). In Asian countries it is usually 20 (Japan, Thailand) or 21 (Malaysia, Singapore). This makes it special in itself, because it means that someone has reached the official threshold of adulthood, which means that they are free to act without their parents' consent, sign contracts (e.g. job) by themselves, vote at elections...

    But in Belgium, turning 18 means much more than that.

    Like in the rest of Europe (except UK and Ireland), but contrarily to the USA, 18 is also the legal age to obtain a driving licence.

    Belgium being one of the rare countries with compulsory voting at elections, 18 does not only become the age when one can vote, but when one must vote (if elections are held that year, but chances are quite high with all the levels of government in Belgium).

    Belgium is also one of the few countries to have compulsory education until the age of 18. So not only do 18-year-olds become "free" from the the tutoring of their parents, but also free to quit school if they want.

    One major difference with other countries is that criminal responsibility (different from the legal responsibility conferred by majority) in Belgium is also set at 18 years old, contrarily to the vast majority of countries around the world where it is almost always lower (as young as 6 years old in some US states). This means that if a 17-year old Belgian kills someone, commit a arson or robbery, etc., he or she is not considered responsible of their acts, and thus cannot be sentenced by a criminal court, and will usually be purely and simply acquitted. I personally think that this is abusive and the age should be set around 14 or 15, if not lower.

    18 used to be the age for compulsory military service for men, but this was abolished in the early 1990's.

    There are a few legal rights which do not coincide with the age of 18 thanks to Belgium's permissive laws, such as the right to buy or drink alcohol (no legal age), buy tobacco (16 years old, although there is no legal age for smoking), or have a bank card (12 years old). The legal age of sexual consent and marriage is 16 both for boys and girls.


    In brief, the age of 18 in Belgium is synonymous with :

    - legal adulthood/majority
    - legal responsibility
    - criminal responsibility
    - right and obligation to vote
    - right to be elected (except for Senate)
    - legal age for driving
    - minimum age to stop school

    The bold indicate what makes 18 very special in Belgium compared to the rest of the world, and especially the rest of Europe.
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    Quite interesting that compulsory voting. What happens if you don't vote?

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    Quote Originally Posted by breez View Post
    Quite interesting that compulsory voting. What happens if you don't vote?
    You get a fine, except if you had a good reason (illness, travel abroad...) with a proof.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    criminal responsibility
    I believe that's quite common in most Continental European countries. In Germany and Austria there is some sort of juvenile criminal law (comparable to Belgium) for minors under 18 years of age. So Belgium is not special in that regard at all.

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    Quote Originally Posted by thomas View Post
    I believe that's quite common in most Continental European countries. In Germany and Austria there is some sort of juvenile criminal law (comparable to Belgium) for minors under 18 years of age. So Belgium is not special in that regard at all.
    I have searched a bit the web. According to the UNICEF and the Australian government (PDF), it is :

    7 years old in the USA (higher in some states)
    8 in Scotland
    10 in England, Wales and most Australian states
    12 in the Netherlands, Canada and Greece
    13 in France, Israel and New Zealand
    14 in Italy, Germany, Russia, and many Eastern European countries
    15 in Nordic countries
    16 in Spain, Portugal and Japan
    18 in Belgium and Luxembourg

    Maybe you meant that people under 18 are treated as children by the court (i.e. cannot go to jail, but to juvenile rehabilitation centres), which is the case in all Western countries, afaik. But actual criminal responsibility means that if the person is "underage", not even serial killing can be charged against them as a crime, because it is considered that they are not yet mature enough to understand the consequences of their acts. If you remember the cases in Japan in which some children under 16 killed their classmates or siblings, they walked free and continued to live normally because they had were under the age of criminal responsibility.

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    Wouldn't it be nice to just have a standard age of recognition in all the countries?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brad VanGuard View Post
    Wouldn't it be nice to just have a standard age of recognition in all the countries?
    Every culture has different sensibilities, so that may not always be possible. For example teenagers tend to become sexually/emotionally mature at an earlier age in southern Europe than northern Europe, which is why the age of consent is lower in southern Europe.

    It amuses me to compare the film ratings of various countries when I watch a DVD. Many films that are rated 18 in the UK and Ireland will only be rated 15 or 16 in Germany and the Netherlands, 12 in France and not rated at all in Belgium. There are clearly cultural differences.

    For driving all EU countries have the same minimum age (18) except the UK and Ireland (17).

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    Indeed, it would be impossible to have the same minimum ages in all countries. Every country has different traditions, norms, legal systems etc...

    Having said that, I think that the United States is the country that is MOST out of sync with the rest of the developed world. In some states you can drive a car when you are 14, but you can't buy a beer before you are 21.

    And as Maciamo said, the film ratings show a HUGE cultural gap. For instance, the French movie Amélie was rated R (adults only) in the US, while it's suitable for everyone in France...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    .....

    It amuses me to compare the film ratings of various countries when I watch a DVD. Many films that are rated 18 in the UK and Ireland will only be rated 15 or 16 in Germany and the Netherlands, 12 in France and not rated at all in Belgium. There are clearly cultural differences.
    ...
    Amusing indeed. Not so long ago we (Sweden) "clipped" the violence out of American films whereas the Americans "clipped out" the sex scenes in European films!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Miss Marple's nephew View Post
    Amusing indeed. Not so long ago we (Sweden) "clipped" the violence out of American films whereas the Americans "clipped out" the sex scenes in European films!
    Thats really interesting. I know that in India, some foreign movies are not being released. The reason is censorship of sexual content, because if scenes are clipped, the remaining length of the movie will be few minutes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wecaz View Post
    Thats really interesting. I know that in India, some foreign movies are not being released. The reason is censorship of sexual content, because if scenes are clipped, the remaining length of the movie will be few minutes.
    Does sexual content include conversation about sex and kissing, or actual sex ? Unless you are talking about porn, I cannot think of any film that has more than a few minutes of sex in it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    18 used to be the age for compulsory military service for men, but this was abolished in the early 1990's.
    It still is in Greece for men (it never was compulsory for women). They have to go to the army for 12 months when they are over 18 (if they study they can postpone it until they get their degree). If they belong to a family with 3 or more kids they have to attend the army for 9 months and if they have kids on their own or the father of the family is dead, they are considered "protectors" of the family so they only attend for 6 months. Of course they are not getting payed while being in the army. Also many private companies won't hire men who haven't completed their military service.

    When a man joins the army they spend the first months with basic training and then they have to spend the remaining time in a military base at the borders of the country.
    Some men are randomly selected to serve in Cyprus instead of the Greek borders but in that case they are getting payed.

    For people with health problems, depending on how serious the problem is, they can skip the army completely or they can serve skipping hardcore training, being in a office or helping at the kitchen of the military base etc. Also men whose religion forbids them to carry guns are able to avoid using them.

    Two weeks ago or so, it was decided that military service will be gradually reduced and at some point it won't be compulsory anymore. Men who join the army now will attend for 9 months instead of 12 and within a few years, only those seeking a permanent job in the army will be able to join.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Miss Marple's nephew View Post
    Amusing indeed. Not so long ago we (Sweden) "clipped" the violence out of American films whereas the Americans "clipped out" the sex scenes in European films!
    Pardon me. Actually, I was writing that from the American’s point ot view. What I meant to say was, ”The Americans were censoring out the ”nude” scenes”. Sex wasn’t even in those films!

    We always interpreted it that the Americans consider killing (as long as it’s the ”good guy” doing the killing) as natural and heroic whereas nudity is nasty, shameful - and hence criminal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    Does sexual content include conversation about sex and kissing, or actual sex ? Unless you are talking about porn, I cannot think of any film that has more than a few minutes of sex in it.
    I was referring to the mainstream movies, not porn. Kissing and sex is allowed unless nude bodies are on show. For example you can take 'Eyes Wide Shut'. There are movies, if you take out some scenes which may last for few minutes, but the movie may lost its appeal.

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    Americans are anal retentive when it comes to matters of sex...

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    What does "retentive" mean?

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    Retentive = to hold on to, not to release.

    Anal retentive = full of shit

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    Quote Originally Posted by Starship View Post
    Retentive = to hold on to, not to release.



    Anal retentive = full of




    Not exactly the same as "having your shit together", eh!
    Last edited by Maciamo; 09-07-09 at 19:13. Reason: spelling

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    Age restrictions are SO wrong on SO many levels. Just as compulsory voting or anything else compulsory is - a blatant violation of basic human rights.

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    Well, I read this thread only now, and I have some comment on the difference between Belgium and The Netherlands. I live close to the Belgian border, so I can compare a bit.

    For instance.. Education.
    Belgium: In schools the teacher is the boss. Discipline is important.
    The Netherlands: Schools are more free. Children study in small groups.

    The effect is, Belgian children learn their stuff faster, but lack the social abilities.
    For the Dutch it's the other way around.
    Belgians win on a language contest in writing, but the Dutch win any debate with Belgians.

    So, in Belgium youth is hold their hand in anything they do until they are 18, and then they really jump in deep water.
    Dutch children learn the consequences of bad behavior much earlier, and so 18 doesn't change much for them.

    The effect of this is, Belgium has a big problem with adolescents dieing in traffic accidents, caused by drugs and alcohol.
    18 Year old kids go totally berserk.

    Dutch kids already had some wild experiences before that, and have learned to live with it better.

    In The Netherlands, people are considered grown up at the age of 21.
    And even after that, if a child is still living in the home of his parents, those parents are still held responsible, even if he would be 23 or so.

    I don't know what is best.
    I admire the Belgian education system. It's cheap and very efficient.
    But parents have little influence.

    If I would have been put on a Belgian school, 50 years ago, I would have had a problem.
    They would pick on me, because I am Dutch.
    I would have become some kind of Rambo. "They drew first blood!"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Reinaert View Post
    Well, I read this thread only now, and I have some comment on the difference between Belgium and The Netherlands. I live close to the Belgian border, so I can compare a bit.

    For instance.. Education.
    Belgium: In schools the teacher is the boss. Discipline is important.
    The Netherlands: Schools are more free. Children study in small groups.

    The effect is, Belgian children learn their stuff faster, but lack the social abilities.
    For the Dutch it's the other way around.
    Belgians win on a language contest in writing, but the Dutch win any debate with Belgians.

    So, in Belgium youth is hold their hand in anything they do until they are 18, and then they really jump in deep water.
    Dutch children learn the consequences of bad behavior much earlier, and so 18 doesn't change much for them.

    The effect of this is, Belgium has a big problem with adolescents dieing in traffic accidents, caused by drugs and alcohol.
    18 Year old kids go totally berserk.

    Dutch kids already had some wild experiences before that, and have learned to live with it better.

    In The Netherlands, people are considered grown up at the age of 21.
    And even after that, if a child is still living in the home of his parents, those parents are still held responsible, even if he would be 23 or so.

    I don't know what is best.
    I admire the Belgian education system. It's cheap and very efficient.
    But parents have little influence.

    If I would have been put on a Belgian school, 50 years ago, I would have had a problem.
    They would pick on me, because I am Dutch.
    I would have become some kind of Rambo. "They drew first blood!"
    I think person should be considered "grown up" when he or she is ready to live on it's own and I think state shall not put any age restrictions on it. When moving to live on your own, you gain all civil and political rights and criminal responsibility, as well. That is my vision of the World.

    Regarding education my view on it is somewhat more complex. Beginning a process of switching to virtual education would be a hard thing to do, since my idea is that Government has to regard internet access not as a privilege, but rather as a human right and make internet available to all (for free). However, first it has to make sure there are no or a very small number of homeless people. Issue with small wages shall not be resolved with anti-immigrant policies, but rather with making minimum wage much higher (by the law). Then, education could be done via webcam or something. You can "google" stuff at the same moment as you learn for "further reading." However, my idea of school is more like a debating club, exchange of opinions through learning. Someone may consider it utopian, but utopia is not something that cannot be done, but what was not done before.

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    I agree with this. It isn't Utopian to chose a path between capitalism and communism.
    In fact it is very European to get the best of both worlds.
    It isn't power where Europeans are interested in, it's culture.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Reinaert View Post
    I agree with this. It isn't Utopian to chose a path between capitalism and communism.
    In fact it is very European to get the best of both worlds.
    It isn't power where Europeans are interested in, it's culture.
    You must spread some Reputation around before giving it to Reinaert again.
    Last edited by Rastko Pocesta; 12-03-11 at 16:43.

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