Scotland's laws on sex and sexual behaviour are designed to protect vulnerable people, including children, from harm as a result of inappropriate or unwanted sexual activity.
- Age of consent
- Persons in a position of trust
- Date rape
- Public indecency
- Domestic abuse
- Indecent Images of Children and Child pornography
This means the age at which people are legally allowed to decide to have sex.
In Scotland, the age of consent is 16, whether the person is straight, gay, male or female. If either person is under 16, then the person over 16 is breaking the law.
If both persons are between 13 and 15 it is considered an offence in law even if they agree to have intercourse (vaginal or anal) or oral sex.
Having sex with someone under the age of 16 is breaking the law. To have any sexual activity with someone under 13 can be punishable by life imprisonment.
The law is meant to protect children and young people. Sexual health services can still provide advice and services for 13 to 15 year olds and will talk to you to make sure you feel ok.
If one partner is or has been in a position of trust over the other, the rules are different.
To help protect young people, there are special rules about sexual activity with people who work with or look after young people or are in a position of trust or authority over them.
If a person in a family setting has sex with a child under 16, they can be punished by up to life imprisonment.
The age of consent rises to 18 if one of the partners is or has been the young person's carer, teacher, youthworker or in any position of trust over them.
Anyone who engages in sexual activity with a young person under the age of 18 over whom they have a position of trust can be punished by imprisonment.
Rape is when someone puts their penis in another person’s mouth, vagina or anus without consent (permission). If they use something other than their penis (such as their fingers or an object) this is called sexual assault by penetration. Both men and women can be raped.
Rape can still happen between people who know each other, are in a relationship together or are married to each other.
Rape is punishable by life imprisonment.
Date rape means a rape that takes place between two people who know each other or who meet willingly at first.
Sometimes alcohol or other drugs are involved.
If a person is unable to give their consent to sex because they are drunk or drugged and they later feel they didn't want to have sex at that time, the law says a rape has taken place.
The penalties are the same as for any other kind of rape - up to life imprisonment.
It is an offence to engage in “indecent conduct” in a public place or so as to be seen from a public place.
Engaging in sexual intercourse in public view, or intentional exposure of the genitals in a public place, are examples of the kind of conduct that might be covered by this offence.
A person can be imprisoned or fined for acts of public indecency.
Domestic abuse, whether physical or verbal, is assault. No one deserves it or should have to put up with it.
Domestic abuse can come from partners or ex-partners and can include physical, sexual or mental and emotional abuse.
Sexual abuse includes acts that degrade and humiliate and that take place against a person's will, including rape.
Mental and emotional abuse can include threats, verbal abuse, racial abuse, withholding money and other types of controlling behaviour (for example, not being allowed to go out or to contact friends or family).
For further help and advice, visit www.domesticabuse.co.uk
It is illegal to make, possess or distribute indecent images of children under the age of 18, no matter how old the person who took the images was at the time or whether or not the person in the images took part willingly.
The offence is punishable by imprisonment.