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The Law And Consenting To Sex: Just The Facts

It's important to be aware of the laws surrounding sex and sexual consent in the UK.

The age of consent for sex in England is 16. This applies to everyone.

Anybody under the age of 13 is not legally capable of consenting to sexual activity. This is an offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

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 have every right to say no, at any point, whoever you’re with. If you want to have sex but the other person doesn't, you must absolutely respect their feelings and stop.

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1. Consensual sex means...
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No pressure, you both decide to do it and 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. This means that even if someone seems eager to engage in sexual activity, doing so can legally be considered sexual assault or rape.

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3. Contraceptive advice for under 16’s
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Although the law states it is an offence to have sex if you are under 16, it is not an offence for health professionals to provide contraception and advice.

Health professionals follow guidelines to ensure that the young person is mature enough to make the decision to have sex, use contraception and understand the advice.

Young people are encouraged to involve their parents or a trusted adult in these conversations if they feel able to.

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4. Confidentiality
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Confidentiality means the health professional won’t tell anybody about your visit, including your parents, teachers or friends unless they think you are at risk or in danger.

They should talk to you about what they are going to do to make sure you are safe.

Have a look at Are you ready for sex: Just the facts for more information on sexual consent, the impact of alcohol and drugs on your decision making ability and how you can keep yourself safe.

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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