Learn more about your rights to sex, sexual health and consent in Ireland
Written by Children's Rights Alliance
This factsheet is an extract from the publication Know Your Rights: The Rights of Children and Young People published by the Children’s Rights Alliance. It is reproduced here with their kind permission. Know Your Rights is a public information project designed to inform everyone, in plain language, of the rights and entitlements children have in Ireland and where to go when they are not respected.
Deciding to have sex is a very personal decision and should be decided first by your own beliefs around relationships and sex and also how comfortable you feel around the other person. When you are making the decision about whether you are ready to have sex think about it seriously. You should feel ready to have sex and not feel pressured by friends or a partner. You should always feel confident and comfortable about your choices and never allow someone to pressure or bully you into an uncomfortable situation. Trust your instinct and gut feeling and if you are not sure what to do talk to a friend or someone you trust.
Consent is when people agree together that they definitely want to have sex, or do any sexual act. This includes kissing and sexual touching. The rules around consent apply no matter your sexual orientation or what gender your sexual partner or partners are.
You can say no at any time. It is only consent if you give it freely and you are not pressured into saying yes. It is really important to know that even if you initially consent to having sex or engaging in a sexual act, you are absolutely free to change your mind before you start or at any time before it ends. If someone hasn’t said ‘no’ or hasn’t resisted a sexual act, it does not mean that they have given consent.
A person cannot give consent if they:
Legally, you can consent to sex at 17. This is the same no matter your sexual orientation or what gender your sexual partner or partners are.
The law also recognises that younger people may engage in sexual activity with each other. There is a ‘proximity of age’ defence. This means that if a person has been charged with an offence of engaging in a sexual act with a person between the ages of 15 and 17 years, they can offer the defence ‘proximity of age’. However, all the following conditions must apply:
We are here to answer your questions and talk through your options. Our online chat service is for 16 to 25 year olds and is available Monday to Friday, 4pm to 8pm. Chat to us now about your situation.
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