Got a question? Ask Lawmail

Send your questions to Lawmail

Can't find the info you are looking for?Got a problem you can’t solve?

If you're under 25, or an adult asking on behalf of a person under 18, you can send your questions to Lawmail and we will email an answer to you in under 10 days. Urgent matters are dealt with more quickly.

Go to Lawmail. It’s free and confidential.

All donations over $2 are tax deductible.

Sex

Deciding to have sex with someone is a big step. The decision is up to you. If you feel pressured to have sex, or if you’re not sure, you can say no. The other person must respect your choice. If they physically try to have sex with you without your agreement, they will be committing a crime.

When can I have sex? What are the ages of consent in Tasmania? Who cannot have sex with me?

What you need to know – in brief

It is never okay for any person to have sex with another person who is under 12.

If you are 12-14 years old a person can have sex with you if you agree and they are less than 3 years older than you.

If you are 15-16 years old a person can have sex with you if you agree and they are less than 5 years older than you.

Once you turn 17 another person who has also turned 17 can have sex with you if you both agree.

If you feel unsure about someone’s age, it is always good to check.

When the law is broken, the police and courts may get involved.

There are services that can help you with how you’re feeling, safe sex, relationships, sexual abuse and the law.

What you need to know – in full

Case Study

14 year old Tom (not his real name) from Tasmania sent a Lawmail to us asking:

Is it against the law to have sex with my 18 year old boyfriend?

We advised Tom that he is under the general age of consent for sex in Tasmania (there are multiple ages of consent in Tasmania and they apply equally to straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual sex and to people of all genders). He was told that even if he is willing to have sex with his boyfriend, it is still against the law for his boyfriend to have sex with him. His boyfriend (not Tom) could face a serious criminal charge, jail and be placed on the sex offender register. Tom was also told that once he turns 15, he and his boyfriend can have sex legally in Tasmania because his boyfriend is less than five years older than him. Tom was also given referrals to local services he could contact if he wanted to discuss safe sex.

 

Introduction

In Tasmania, there are a few different ages of consent imposing limitations on when and with who you can have sex. They exist to balance your human right to choose when and with who you will have sex and your human right, as a child or young person, to be protected from sexual abuse, particularly by adults. If you have been sexually abused, the experience and impact of that will be different for you than for anyone else, but whatever your reaction, it is a normal response to an extreme situation. You are not to blame. Please also see our pages on Sexual Assault, Indecent Assault and Child Abuse.

What do we mean by sex?

On this page, sex means when a penis is fully or partially inside another person’s vagina, anus or mouth.

So, sex here means sexual penetration – we are not talking here about kissing or touching that does not involve sexual penetration. We are also not talking here about the additional laws applying to sex that is filmed, photographed or distributed online or by phone (for that see our Tasmanian Sexting page).

What does age of consent mean?

The age of consent is the age at which the law says you can agree (consent) to have sex.

If you are under the age of consent, the law says that you cannot legally agree to have sex. So even if you say yes to sex, a person who has sex with you can be charged with a serious criminal offence, jailed and placed on the sex offender register.

In Tasmania, there are a few different ages of consent imposing limitations on when and with who you can have sex, explained below.

When can I have sex? What are the ages of consent in Tasmania? Who cannot have sex with me?

  • When you are under 12 years old, no one is allowed to have sex with you. (A person who had sex with a child under 12 has committed serious crimes, called rape and sexual intercourse with a young person and can be charged, jailed and placed on the sex offender register).
  • When you are 12 to 14 years old, a person can legally have sex with you only if: (1) you agree to it AND they were less than 3 years older than you. (A person who had sex with a 12 to 14 year old outside of these limited situations has committed serious crimes, called rape and sexual intercourse with a young person, and can be charged, jailed and placed on the sex offender register).
  • When you are 15-16 years old, a person can legally have sex with you only if: (1) you agree to it AND they were less than 5 years older than you. (A person who had sex with a 15-16 year old outside of these limited situations has committed serious crimes and can be charged, jailed and placed on the sex offender register).
  • When you are 17 years or older, another person 17 or older can have sex with you if you both agree to it. (A person who had sex with someone who is 17 or older (but who did not agree) has committed a serious crime, called rape, and can be charged and jailed).  
  • No member of your family is allowed to have sex with you. (A person who had sex with a child or young person who is a member of their family has committed a serious crime, called incest and possibly also rape and sexual penetration of a young person, and can be charged, jailed and placed on the sex offender register).

If you are confused about the law (it is confusing so don’t worry), please send us a Lawmail.

Agree (consent) means free agreement to sex. It is more than merely submitting to sex. A person does not freely agree to sex when: (1) submitting because of force or fear; OR (2) they are being restrained against their wishes; OR (3) they are asleep, unconscious or severely affected by alcohol or another drug; OR (4) mistakenly believing that the sex is for medical or hygienic purposes. There are other ways too in which the law says that a person has not freely agreed to sex. Lawmail can advise you if you have any concerns about free agreement (consent) during sex.

Family means your parent, your grandparent, brother, sister, half- brother or half-sister.

Sex offender register:  All adults who have committed a sex crime involving a child are automatically included in a register of sex offenders. Child sex offenders under the age of 18 years may also be included in the register by a court order. Registered sex offenders are required to keep the police informed about their personal details and whereabouts. They are also required to report the names and ages of children with whom they live or have regular contact. Registered sex offenders are also prevented from engaging in child-related employment.

Who can I talk to about having sex?

Deciding to have sex with someone is a big step. The decision is up to you. If you feel pressured to have sex, or if you’re not sure, you can say no. The other person must respect your choice. If they physically try to have sex with you without your agreement, they may be committing a crime.

If you are thinking about having sex, you need to be aware of the risks that are involved which include getting a sexually transmissible infection (STI) like chlamydia and blood borne viruses like HIV. Another risk is unplanned pregnancy.

For information about how you can protect yourself against the risks of unsafe sex, contact Family Planning Tasmania or visit their website (see contacts below).

Important contacts

All the services below are free for young people and the 1800 numbers operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

They are not the police or a government department, and you do not have to give them your name if you don’t want to.

  • To talk to someone about relationship issues that you are experiencing or if you are unclear about where to draw the line between what's ok and what's not, please call 1800 MYLINE (1800 695 4631800 695 463 FREE)
  • If you have been sexually abused or assaulted you could call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 7321800 737 732 FREE) - a National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service. This is a 24 hour counselling, support and referral service for anyone whose life has been impacted by sexual, domestic or family violence, or you can visit them at: www.1800respect.org.au.
  • Family Planning Tasmania provides confidential sexual and reproductive healthcare services, including a full range of safe and effective contraception; clinical sexual and reproductive health support; and expert advice on safe sex, unplanned pregnancy and respectful relationships. Call Family Planning Tasmania on 6273 9117, visit their website at http://www.fpt.asn.au/ and follow them on Facebook.

For any legal questions you have, send us a Lawmail and we can give you confidential, free legal advice, information and referrals to local services. Make sure to include your postcode so we can provide you with the best referrals

Related topics

Child Abuse

Sexual Assault

Sexting

Sexual Harassment

Pregnancy

 

 

This page was last reviewed in December 2013.