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The Law And Consenting To Sex: Just The Facts

The age of consent for sex in England is 16. This applies to young men and young women having sex together and also young people of the same sex.

A child under 13 is not legally capable of consenting to sexual activity. Any offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 involving a child under 13 is very serious and should be taken to indicate a risk of significant harm to the child.

Consent is about giving permission for something to happen or an agreement to do something. Nobody has the right to make you go further than you want to. You also have every right to say no, at any point, whoever you’re with. If you want to have sex but your boyfriend or girlfriend or friend doesn't, you must absolutely respect their feelings.

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1. Consensual sex means
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No pressure, you both decide to do it, you both feel happy and safe while doing it.

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2. Certain circumstances make it impossible for a person to legally give consent
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Often this is when a person is not mentally or physically capable of choosing whether or not to engage in sexual behaviour. For instance,if someone is drunk or high on drugs then that person cannot give consent (link to alcohol and sex and drugs). This means that even if someone seems eager to engage in sexual behaviour, doing so can legally be considered sexual assault or rape (link to sexual assault and rape). The only way to know for sure whether someone has consented to sex is if they tell you.

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3. Treatment & advice for under 16’s
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Although the law states it is an offence to have sex under 16 it is not an offence for health professionals to provide contraception advice and treatment to people under 16. Health professionals follow guidelines to ensure that the young person is mature enough to make the decision to have sex and use contraception and understand the treatment. The guidance also encourages young people to involve their parents or a trusted adult if they feel able to.

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4. Health professionals offering Sexual Health advice and treatment must keep everything you talk to them about private, even if you are under 16.
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Confidentiality means they won’t tell anybody about your visit, including your parents, teachers or friends. If they think you are at risk or in danger they may have to break confidentiality. They should talk to you about what they were going to do to make sure you are safe.

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how to get help

If you have any more questions on this area or would like to speak to somebody about this topic, have a look at the links or search for your local services in the blue box below. Alternatively you can always contact your public health nurse.

 

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Watch this short video on 6 simple ways to understand consent!

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Find out what services are available to you in your area. Remember your school nurse is always there to give you confidential help and support.