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.
Giving medical consent, which includes consent to sexual health treatment, means giving permission for surgical or medical treatment. If you are under 16 years of age then your parents or guardian must consent to any surgical or medical treatment you receive. However, you should still be told about the treatment and your views or concerns should be taken into consideration.
If you are over 16, but under 18 years of age, you can consent to surgical and medical treatment. However, some doctors and hospitals may still want to involve your parents or guardians in these decisions, and they will need your consent to do so.
At what age can I consent to sexual health treatment?
consent to medical treatment if you are over 16, this includes any tests or treatments that you may need for your sexual health. If you are engaged in sexual activity under the age of 16 you can still access any test or treatments that you may need for your sexual health in STI or GUM clinics.
At what age can I buy condoms?
Any age. There is no age restriction on buying condoms.
At what age can I get other forms of contraception?
If you are under 17, the law is unclear as to your right to be prescribed
contraception. Some doctors will prescribe contraceptives to young people under 17, but others will refuse.
You can access all forms of contraception at 17, which is the legal age of consent to have sex. For some forms of contraception, like the contraceptive pill, you will need a prescription from a doctor and you will have to pay for it.
If you are over the age of 16, you can get
emergency contraception (known as the ‘morning-after pill’) from a pharmacist without the consent of your parent or guardian. If you are under 16, the pharmacist will usually look for the consent of your parent or guardian.
Where can I get information about sexual health and STIs?
There are a number of
sexual health clinics around Ireland. They are also known as STI (sexually transmitted infections) clinics or Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinics. They will give you support whatever your age, gender or sexual orientation.
You can find impartial and factual information on relationships and sex at:
Foróige run a programme called REAL U for young people aged 12- 18 years old. REAL U can help you to express and explore our own, and others, views on issues that affect us all around Relationships and Sexuality.
Does the doctor have to tell my parent or guardian if I ask for contraception?
If you are 16 or over, you can discuss contraception with your doctor without your parent’s or guardian’s consent or knowledge. If you are under 16, while your doctor may or may not contact or inform your parent or guardian, they have a right to know if you have been given medical treatment, including a prescription for the pill or any other form of contraception.
If you are concerned about giving information to the doctor, you should clarify this with the doctor at the beginning of the consultation.
Will I be reported to social services or the Gardaí if I am sexually active or pregnant under 17?
The law states that 17 years is the age of consent to sex whatever your gender or sexual orientation. Generally, it is an offence to have sex with anyone under the age of 17 years. See the section on consent above for more information.
Where can I go if I have been the victim of a sexual assault?
Dublin Rape Crisis centre operates a national 24-hour helpline on 1800 77 8888. This helpline provides confidential listening and support to women and men who have been raped, sexually abused or sexually assaulted. The Rape Crisis Centres across the country will see anyone over age 14, and one centre (Rape Crisis North East) will see anyone over 12.
CARI (Children At Risk in Ireland) provides specialist support services that include:
going with you to the Gardaí or court
general support for children under 18 who are victims of sexual violence
We offer information, advice and guidance about the issues that matter to you. Our online Youth Information Chat service is for 16 to 25 year olds and is available Monday to Friday, 4pm to 8pm (excluding Bank Holidays).