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Sexual violence and the law

Although what the law says is important, it is not the most important thing. The most important thing is your experience and how you feel about it. However, it can be helpful to know what the law says about sexual violence.

Scottish Law defines rape and sexual assault in the following way:

Rape: the penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with a penis without consent

Assault by penetration: the penetration of the vagina or anus of another person with a part of their body or anything else without consent

Sexual assault: sexually touching another person without their consent

The age of consent in Scotland is 16. The information below makes clear the specifics about your age, the age of your partners, and the law.

The Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 tell us that consent means ‘free agreement’. The law is clear that you can withdraw your consent at any time. The law says there are some situations where you can’t give free agreement, and these are:

Consent is also only considered legal in Scotland over the age of 16, this is referred to as the ‘age of consent’. This is the case whether they are straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender. We have lots more information consent here.

Laws on Sexual Violence

[links from WISV pages take you to each specific law mentioned]

Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009

This Act says it is an offence to force a person to look at a sexual image, or sexual written or verbal communication without their consent, where this is done for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification, or for the purpose of causing humiliation, alarm or distress to the person at whom it is directed.

Section 9 of the Act makes ‘upskirting’ an offence (upskirting is the act of taking a photograph of underneath a person’s skirt without their consent, typically with the intention of viewing their genitals or buttocks).

In Scotland, sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 13 is rape. A child under the age of 13 is deemed to lack the capacity to consent to sexual activity, therefore any form of sexual activity with a child under the age of 13 is an offence.

The Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 says the age of consent is 16. There are a few specifics to the law relating to age which is displayed in the table below.

Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016

This law states it is illegal to disclose or threaten to disclose an intimate photograph or film.

Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982

It is against the law for anyone to take, have or share an ‘indecent’ image of anyone aged under 18. This means taking, sending and sharing indecent images is illegal under the age of 18.

There is an exception to this where;

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For more information, you can visit the Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis website.