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Moreover, they argued, by late adolescence girls possessed sufficient understanding about how to use the law to blackmail unwary men.
Historians have argued that increasing the age of consent also gave the law a more pronounced regulatory dimension.
A small group of Italian and German states that introduced an age of consent in the 16th century also employed 12 years.
There was one exception: a man's acts with his wife, to which rape law, and hence the age of consent, did not apply.
In trials, juries were often unwilling to simply enforce the law.
They also argued that the age of consent should be aligned with other benchmarks of development, such as the age at which girls could enter into contracts and hold property rights, typically 21 years.
Opponents remained focused on physiological maturity, however, and argued that girls in their teens were sufficiently developed not to need legal protection.
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.