Sex and the law

What’s the legal age for sex?

According to the Sexual Offences Act 2003, it is illegal for any kind of sexual activity to take place between two people where one or both participants is under 16.

The law applies to men, women, gay, lesbian or straight in England, Wales and Scotland. In Northern Ireland, the same law applies except the age of consent is 17.

The laws on sex are there to protect young people from abuse or from having sex before they are ready. Think carefully before you have sex for the first time and whether it is really right for you as many people do regret having sex too young.

If you do decide you are ready for sex then always use a condom to protect against chlamydia, other STIs and unplanned pregnancy. You can get free and confidential advice about sex, contraception and abortion at anytime. Visit your local doctor or young person’s clinic to find out more.

Can a doctor or health professional show my records to my parents?

The professional codes of practice of doctors, nurses and other health professional’s states that they cannot disclose private information about you without your consent even if you are under 16. Only if a professional believes that your health, safety or wellbeing is at serious risk can they disclose your confidential information to anyone else.

What’s the law on abortion?

You must be less than 24 weeks pregnant for an abortion to be legal and you need the consent of two doctors.

The only exception is where two doctors agree that your health or life is gravely threatened by continuing with the pregnancy or that the foetus is likely to be born with severe physical or mental abnormalities.

Providing that two doctors confirm that your need for an abortion fits the legal criteria, you do not need the consent of your own doctor, partner or family to have an abortion.

If you’re under 16 you can have an abortion, without parental consent in some circumstances. However you will be strongly advised to talk to your parents or an adult you can trust.

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