Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.

We help Victorians with their legal problems and represent those who need it most. Find legal answers, chat with us online, or call us. You can speak to us in English or ask for an interpreter. You can also find more legal information at www.legalaid.vic.gov.au

Sex and the law

There are laws about the age at which young people can have sex, having sex with someone against their will, and taking and sending sexual images of young people.

The basic laws about sex are that people can’t have sex together if:

  • one of them is under the age of consent
  • one person doesn’t want to
  • they are in the same family.

If you have sex with someone underage or against their will, it is a serious crime called a sexual offence.

The law sets clear age limits for having sex. The age limits are designed to protect young people from being taken advantage of by older people.

There are also special rules about people responsible for young people, including teachers and youth workers.

Sexting – sending text messages containing sexual images showing anyone aged under 18 – is an offence. You could be charged with producing or distributing child abuse material.

When one person does not agree to sex

As well as age limits, the law says that two people can’t have sex unless they both freely and voluntarily agree (consent). If you don’t freely and voluntarily agree and someone threatens you to engage in a sexual act or touches you sexually or indecently, they are breaking the law.

Sexual offences include rape, incest and sexual assault against both adults and children.

It may also be a sexual offence if:

  • you agreed to sex but then changed your mind, and the other person did not believe on reasonable grounds that you continued to consent
  • you agree to use a condom but the condom is tampered with or removed without consent
  • someone has sex with you or touches you sexually when you are asleep, unconscious or so affected by alcohol or drugs that you are not able to agree.

Help and other support is available to victims of sexual assault.

Contraception, pregnancy and abortion

If you are a young person thinking about having sex, you need to understand your rights and the law. This includes how to prevent an unplanned pregnancy and what you can do if you get pregnant. Find out more about how the law applies to contraception, pregnancy and abortion.

More information

Age of consent

Sex, young people and the law (education kit)

Sexting and child abuse material

Sexual assault

Other support

Find out how you can get other support for relationships.

Publications and resources