Sex and the Law

Sexual rights are very complicated and are covered in different pieces of legislation. Canada's laws set out rights to privacy, age of consent for various sexual activities, age of partners, father's and mother's rights and responsibilities, rights to have birth control, laws about child pornography and other laws governing sexual activities and responsibilities. We will summarize some of the laws here.

Too young to have sex?

In Canada someone must be 16 or over to consent to have sex. Sex with a person under 14 is illegal if the other person is 16 or older. Sex with anyone under 12 is illegal.

What is legal sex?
First of all, let's be clear about what we mean here when we say "sex". It means oral sex, sexual intercourse and includes intimate touching. Sexual activities can be everything from touching, for a sexual purpose, to kissing to intercourse. There are some different laws around anal sex and it is discussed under "when you must be over 18".

Sex is only legal when both people agree to it and are legally and mentally able to give mutual consent. If you are passed out or sleeping you cannot legally give consent. If you are drunk or stoned, you may not be able to think clearly enough to legally give consent.

Too young to have sex?
Age matters! Someone must be 16 or older to consent to have sex. It is illegal to have sex with someone who is between the ages of 14 and 16 if you are more than 5 years older than that person or if you are in a position of trust or authority over them (ie teacher, coach, parent, babysitter, older friend). It is illegal to have sex with someone between the age of 12 and 14 if you are more than two years older or in a position of trust over them (ie. babysitter, older friend). It is illegal for anyone to have sex with a person who is under12 years of age.

When you must be over 18
A person who is under 18 cannot give their permission to have sex with a person who is in a position of authority or trust over them (like a teacher, coach, parent, babysitter, older friend). You must be over 18 years old to have anal sex (unless you are married to your sex partner).

What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is a crime. Any unwanted sexual act that is forced on another person is sexual assault and is against the law. This applies whether or not you are in a relationship or are married to that person. It is not okay for a person to have any type of sexual activity with you if you do not or cannot give consent.

Sexting involves taking a sexually revealing picture of yourself, typically from a cell phone, and sending it to someone else. There was a case in Florida a couple of years ago where a teenage boy and girl photographed themselves nude, doing something sexual. One kid sent the picture to the other and somehow the police got involved. They were tried and convicted for production and distribution of child porn. More recently child pornography charges were laid against six teens in Pennsylvania for sharing nude pictures of themselves using their cell phones.
Although there hasn't been a case in Canada yet, it might be a crime for two teenagers, both under the age of 18, to possess consensually produced nude pictures of each other for their own private viewing. If the pictures are sent to others this could also violate Canada's child pornography laws and the person who sent the photo could be charged.
No matter what age you are, sexting could embarrass you now or in the future. Just imagine!! The photo of yourself that you thought was private could be deliberately or accidentally forwarded to others, put up on Facebook, YouTube or somewhere else on the Internet.

For more information:
The "Sexuality and U" website provides more information of sex and the law. Use the link below to go to their website and read the information provided by the Obstetricians and Gynecologists Society of Canada.