Sex and the Law – What you need to know:
Below are some of the key Scottish laws relating to sex. The law can be extremely complicated, so do not rely on this for legal advice - seek professional guidance if necessary.
Children under-13 cannot consent to sex – anyone who has sex with an under-13 - even if they are 13 and 1 month - has committed the offence of rape.
Children aged between 13 and 15 are both committing an offence if they have consensual sexual activity – this includes not just the sex act, but oral sex and anything that includes any form of penetration – anal or the vagina.
A child of under-16 is not committing an offence if they have sexual activity with an over-16, but the over-16 is. There is a possible defence if they are aged within 2 years of each other.
A person giving advice to a child, whether it is medical treatment, sexual health advice, contraception is NOT committing an offence.
If the child is under-13 it is automatically a child protection matter.
If the child is over 13-years-old and less than 16-years-old it is up the professional to assess. It may not be a child protection matter. Use professional judgement. If the professional is consulted by the child they will NOT advise the parent and the child is entitled to access advice/treatment without the parent knowing. It will be for the professional to judge whether the child has capacity and to make a child protection referral if needed.
Children should be protected from access to pornography and it is wise for parents to monitor the use of the internet and to warn their children of the dangers – and the dangers of sexting.
Children should know that sexting can be a criminal offence.
Consent to one sexual act is NOT consent to it all.
Under Scots Law a person can be prosecuted for recklessly passing on an infection. A person can also be prosecuted for recklessly putting someone at risk of an infection such as HIV.
Access the following websites for further information and advice: