Sex

Deciding to have sex with someone is a big decision. If you think that you are ready to have sex, it is important that you are aware of the different laws about how old you have to be to have sex, and to understand what ‘sex’ actually means in the law. Before you have sex, you should talk to a health professional about how to practice safe sex and to make sure you are fully aware of the risks of practising unsafe sex.

Remember, it is NEVER okay for someone to force you to have sex without your permission – you have the right to say NO at any time.

Navigate this page

What you need to know – summary

The age of consent is the age at which the laws says you can agree to have sex. In Tasmania, the age of consent is 17. Once you turn 17, you can legally have sex with another person who is also aged 17 years or older as long as you both agree to it.

However, there are some legal defences that apply which would not make it a crime for a person to have sex with a person under 17 in specific situations:

  • If you are aged 12-14 you can legally agree to have sex with someone who is less than 3 years older than you (as long as you both agree to it).
  • If you are aged 15-16, you can legally agree to have sex with someone who is less than 5 years older than you (as long as you both agree to it).

It is never okay for a person to have sex with another person who is under 12 years old.

What does age of consent mean?

The age of consent is how old the laws says you have to be to agree (consent) to have sex.

If you are under the age of consent, the law says that you cannot legally agree to have sex, and any person that tries to have sex with you has broken the law.

In Tasmania, the age of consent is 17. If you are 17 years old and above, you can have sex with someone if you freely agree (consent) to it.

If you are under 17 years old

Generally you cannot have sex with a person who is under 17 years old unless you meet one of the exceptions listed below.

If you are aged 15 or 16 years old

When you are 15 or 16 years old, you can have sex with another person who is less than 5 years older than you if you both agree to it.

If you are aged 12 to 14 years old

When you are 12-14 years old, you can have sex with another person who is less than 3 years older than you if you both agree to it.

If you are under 12 years old

It is NEVER ok to have sex with a person under 12 years old.

What does consent mean?

“Consent” means you are freely agreeing to having sex. It is never okay for someone to assume you have given consent or to force you to keep going even if you want to stop. A person can also withdraw their consent at any time during sex.

A person does not give their consent if they:

  • do not say, or do anything to communicate consent;
  • are forced, threatened or afraid;
  • are restrained against their wishes;
  • are forced into it due to the position of authority of the other person;
  • because they are tricked or mistaken about the nature of the act or unable to understand the act; or
  • are asleep, unconscious or seriously affected by drugs or alcohol.

What do we mean by sex?

In Tasmania, sex means there is partial or full penetration inside another person’s vagina, anus, genitalia or mouth.

Sex here does not involve kissing, or touching if there is no penetration. However, please be aware that other sexual activity that doesn’t necessarily involve penetration may be considered indecent assault.

Also, there are also special laws applying to sex that is filmed, photographed or distributed online or by phone. For more information about these laws please see our Tasmania page on Sexting.

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

What happens if someone breaks these laws?

If someone is found guilty of breaking the laws around age of consent, they can be charged with a serious criminal offence and sent to jail. They are also put on the public sex offender registry.

Registered sex offenders are required to keep the police informed about their personal details and whereabouts on a regular basis. They are also required to report their internet details, affiliation with any organisation, living arrangements and the names and ages of children with whom they live or have regular contact.

Talking about safe sex

Deciding to have sex with someone is a big step. Remember that the decision is up to you. If you feel pressured to have sex, or if you’re not sure if you want to, you can say NO. The other person must respect your choice. If they try to have sex with you without your agreement, they are committing a crime.

If you are thinking about having sex, please be aware of the risks that are involved with unsafe or unprotected sex. These risks include:

  • getting a sexually transmissible infection (STI) like chlamydia;
  • getting a blood borne virus like HIV; or
  • unplanned pregnancy.

For information about how you can protect yourself against the risks of unsafe sex, you can see your GP or contact Family Planning Tasmania on (03) 6273 9117 or visit their website at: http://www.fpt.asn.au

Important contacts

You can contact the services listed below to talk about anything relating to sex including safe sex, if you’re not sure what is considered normal in a relationship, or if you are worried you might be pregnant.

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

  • Kids Helpline provides free and private counselling to young people up to age 25. You can talk to them about anything that’s affecting you at any time, day or night on 1800 55 1800.
  • 1800Respect is a national helpline, providing counselling, information and support. You can call them on 1800 737 732, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • 1800MYLINE is a national helpline for sexual assault, family & domestic violence, available 24/7. They provide counselling, advice, or referrals to helpful services. You can call them on 1800 695 463, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Family Planning Tasmania runs a hotline to provide information, advice and options for issues including contraception, pregnancy, sexual health and health relationships. You can call them on (03) 6273 9117, Monday – Friday, 9am-5pm.  

If you have a legal question, and you are aged 24 or under, you can contact us here.

Got a question you
 can’t get answered?

If you have a problem or a question, you can send it to us today and we can provide you with free advice, information and referrals to help solve your problem. Just click on the button below.

Get help now

Select Your State or Territory

The law is different in each state and territory. Please select your state or territory to view legal information that applies to you.