SexandtheLaw

Here are some frequently asked questions about sex and the law. The following information relates to the current law in Tasmania. This is general information only; please see a lawyer for personal legal advice.

    How old do I have to be to have sex?

    • The age of consent in Tasmania is 17. This means that if you are under the age of 17, noone is allowed to have sex with you.
    • If you are over 17, you can have sex with another person who is over 17, just as long as you both consent (agree) to have sex. It doesn’t matter if the other person is the same sex or opposite sex.
    • Consent is a defence if the younger person was between 15 and 17 years old and the difference in age was no more than 5 years; or the younger person was between 12 and 15 yeas old and the difference in age was not more than 3 years.

    Who can give consent to have sex?

    To be able to give consent (agree) you or your partner should:

    • Be of the legal age (17 in Tasmania).
    • Understand exactly what they are saying yes to.
    • Be sober – if a person’s ability to make rational decisions is affected by drugs or alcohol nobody is allowed to have sex with them.
    • Be conscious and awake.

    Can I see a doctor or nurse without my parents' permission?

    Yes.

    The doctor or nurse will usually encourage you to talk to a parent, carer or trusted adult. If you require medication or a medical procedure, they will need to make sure you care capable of giving informed consent.

    Can the doctor or nurse tell my parents the reason for my appointment?

    Not without your permission. By law, doctors and nurses are required to keep most of the information about you confidential. If they are concerned someone is going to be seriously harmed or killed, or if they suspect or know a child is being abused or harmed, then they have a duty to report this to a relevant authority (i.e Police, Child Protection, Gateway Services).

    When and how can I get a Medicare card?

    To bulk bill your appointment, we will need your Medicare card number. If you are 15 you can apply to have your own Medicare card. You need to fill out a form which can be found here: Medicare Card.

    If you are under 15 years old you will be on your family’s Medicare card. If you do not have a copy of this when you go to an appointment a medical receptionist can look up your number for you.

    Can I get access to contraception without my parents' permission?

    Yes, in most cases. If you are less than 16 years the doctor or nurse will need to spend more time talking with you to see if you have the ability to consent without your parents’ permission. They will make sure you understand all the information including possible side effects and complications. They will also encourage you to tell a parent or supportive adult as this can be helpful when making decisions about sexual health. If they decide it is in your best interests and your physical and/or mental health would suffer if you didn’t have access to contraception then they can prescribe the agreed contraceptive.

    There is no age limit to accessing condoms.

    Do I need my parents' permission to have a termination (abortion)?

    In Tasmania, there is no minimum age of consent for medical treatment. The ability to consent is based on whether you are capable of making an informed decision. It is your doctor’s responsibility to determine if you have the ability to consent for a medical procedure, or if they need to seek consent from your parent or guardian.

    To do this, they will talk to you to make sure you understand the nature of the medication or procedure used to terminate the pregnancy and the risks.

    Many women find it helpful to have a supportive person when making a decision about termination. Your doctor or nurse will probably talk to you about whether a parent could be this support person.

    Is it legal to send a naked selfie or video?

    This depends on what is being sent, who is sending it, who they are sending it to, the content and the intention of the person sending it.

    Sexting can be considered a crime under child pornography laws if it involves a person under the age of 18.  Child pornography laws can apply to asking for a nude photo, taking one, sending one or keeping a copy of one.

    In Tasmania, young people are not likely to be charged with a crime for consensual texting (where the young people involved have agreed and shared the media). This is because:

    • National pornography law cannot be used against people under 18 without the permission of the Attorney General.
    • Tasmanian child pornography and indecency laws do not apply to pictures of lawful sexual acts (such as consensual acts between young people who are close in age) and
    • Tasmanian Police have a policy against laying charges against young people for consensual sexting.

    When there is a big difference between two people who are sexting, it’s more likely to be a crime.

    If you send an uninvited or unwanted naked selfie or naked video to someone, this could be a form of sexual harassment.

    If you send material with the intention to menace, harass or cause harm, this could a be crime.

    For further information see Law Stuff (Tasmania).

    Is it legal to be a sex worker in Tasmania?

    Yes, it is legal to be a sex worker in Tasmania if you are over 18 and act within the laws around sex work. Here are some of the most important things to know:

    • You must be over 18 years and consent (agree) to the work you are undertaking
    • You can work alone or with one other sex worker legally
    • You are permitted to work from a residence or a hotel (however brothels, escort agencies or businesses of more than two sex workers are illegal)
    • Working as a street based sex worker or offering sex work or services in public is illegal. (Police may arrest people whom they ‘reasonably consider’ to be illegally operating a commercial sexual service business).

    Is it legal to visit a sex worker?

    Yes it is legal to visit a sex worker if you are over the age of 18 and consent (agree). However there are some important laws in place that you need to be aware of:

    • It is illegal for either a sex worker or a client to not use a condom or dam during sexual activity.
    • It is illegal for a sex worker or client to allow a person under the age of 18 years to be on any premises while sexual services are being provided.
    • In Tasmania it is an offence to intimidate, assault, or threaten to assault a sex worker or to administer a drug to a sex worker with the intent to overpower the sex worker.
    • In Tasmania it is against the law to treat a sex worker less favourably than a person who is not employed as a sex worker.

    Is it against the law to pass on an STI?

    In Tasmania, if you are aware that you have a sexually transmissible infection you must take steps to protect other people from becoming infected. If you knowingly transmit an STI and harm another person’s health, it could result in criminal charges and/or civil litigation (being sued).

    Under public health law, you must take all reasonable measures and precautions to prevent the transmission of notifiable infections and must not knowingly or recklessly place another person at risk of contracting the disease. Some STIs that are covered under this law include chlamydia, gonorrhoea, HIV and Syphilis. This law also includes transmission of Hepatitis A, B and C. it is a defence if it can be proven that the other person knew you had the STI and voluntarily accepted the risk of getting the disease.

    Transmitting HIV to another person could also fall under the criminal law charge of grievous bodily harm.

    This means that you must let any potential sexual partner if you have an infection so they can make an informed decision and use condoms or dams to reduce the risk of infecting them.

    I think I have been raped or sexually assaulted. Where can I get help?

    Sexual assault is any sexual act or attention that you do not ask for or do not want. Rape is sexual intercourse without consent. If you have been sexually assaulted or raped, it is never your fault.

    If you are in immediate danger or worried about your safety, call the Police on 000. Try to get to a safe place.

    Talk to someone you trust about what has happened – parent, a friend, a counsellor or social worker.

    Contact a sexual assault service – counselling services are available 24/7. Talking to a counsellor can help you understand your options and provide ongoing support.

    SASS – Sexual Assault Support Service (Hobart)
    Emergency line phone (03) 6231 1817
    SASS’s webite

    Laurel House (North and North West)
    North (business hours): (03) 6334 2740
    North 24 hour Crisis Line: 0409 800 394
    North West 24 hour Crisis Line: (03) 6431 9711
    Laurel House’s website

    National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service
    Free call: 1800 737 732
    website

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