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Sexual consent

What does sexual consent mean?

Consent is where there is free and voluntary agreement to engage in a sexual act with someone else. It is a crime to engage in a sexual act with someone who has not given consent. This law is set out in the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, 2017

A “sexual act” is described by law as:

  • sexual intercourse (vaginal or anal)
  • penetration of the anus or mouth by the penis
  • penetration of the vagina by an object, or
  • aggravated sexual assault

It is important to know that even if you consent to a sexual act, you are absolutely free to change your mind before the act begins or at any time before it ends.

The law protects people in certain situations who are not considered able to give consent, even if they have said “Yes”. For example, a person is not able to give free and voluntary consent if they are:

  • forced, threatened with force or have a well-founded fear that force will be applied
  • asleep or unconscious
  • affected by alcohol or some other drug
  • mistaken as to the nature and purpose of the act
  • mistaken as to the identity of any other person involved in the act
  • unlawfully detained at the time at which the act takes place
  • a person with a physical disability which prevents them from communicating consent
  • or if someone else consented on their behalf

There may be other situations where free and voluntary consent cannot be given but these are some of the most common.

To read the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, 2017 on consent and a range of other sexual offences, click here.