Being familiar with the law is an important part of keeping young people safe sexually.
Parents and their teenagers should know how the law applies to them.
Victoria’s age of consent to sexual interactions is 16. The age of consent for same-sex relationships is the same as it is for heterosexual relationships.
There are some legal defences if the person having consensual sex is younger than 16 and their partner is less than two years older than them and does not have a caring or supervising role with them.
If an adult has a sexual relationship with someone in their care who is 16 or 17, it’s also a crime, unless the adult reasonably believed the younger person was 18 or older.
People aged 18 and over can consent to sex with anyone aged 16 or over, unless they are supervising or caring for the younger person.
In Victoria, criminal laws apply to non-consensual sexual penetration, which includes anything that involves putting a penis into a vagina, anus or mouth (to any extent). It includes putting an object or a part of the body into a vagina or anus.
The law also applies to touching a person in a sexual way, like touching another person’s vagina, penis, anus or breasts. Rape occurs when someone sexually penetrates another person who has not consented, including where the person cannot consent because they are asleep, unconscious or so affected by alcohol or drugs that they cannot consent. Sexual assault occurs when someone touches another person sexually without their consent.
In late 2014, Victoria introduced Australia’s first “sexting” laws. These laws created offences targeting the distribution, or threats to distribute, intimate images of another person, and introduced exceptions to child pornography offences where young people engaging in non-exploitative “sexting” with their peers.
The Crimes Amendment (Sexual Offences and Other Matters) Act 2014 created two summary offences of “distribution of an intimate image” and “threat to distribute an intimate image” in circumstances contrary to community standards of acceptable conduct. These offences apply to young people and adults.
The distribution offence carries a penalty of up to two years in prison, and the new offence of threatening to distribute carries a penalty of up to one year
New exceptions to child pornography offences will ensure that those aged under 18 are not inappropriately prosecuted or added to the sex offenders’ register for consensual, non-exploitative sexting with their peers. These exceptions do not apply in relation to images depicting a criminal offence such as a sexual assault.
Teenagers aged 16 or 17 can marry only if their parents or guardian agree, their partner is at least 18 and a court agrees the situation is special enough to allow the marriage – pregnancy may not be enough.
The court considers things like how long the couple has been together, their maturity, financial situation and how independent they are from their parents. If the court agrees, they must marry within three months.
Those under 18 may be able to get contraception, like the pill, from a doctor. The doctor must decide if the young person is mature enough to understand what they’re doing and use the contraception properly. Anyone can buy condoms at any age; most chemists and supermarkets sell them.
Girls need to know they have options and people they can talk to, such as a counsellor, nurse or doctor. They can choose to keep the baby, adopt it out or have an abortion. There is no legal minimum age for keeping a baby or having an abortion. If the mother is under 16, a loved one concerned about their welfare or the baby can call the Department of Human Services. Abortion is legal in Victoria up to 24 weeks and after 24 weeks in some rare circumstances.
Family Planning Victoria provides advice and support //www.fpv.org.au
YOUNG FATHERS ??
A father is legally responsible for financially supporting their child. If they are at school and don’t earn any money, they may have to pay later when they can afford to. If proven to be the father, they must pay child support until the child is 18.
* Source Victoria Legal Aid. www.legalaid.vic.gov.au
Useful websites with legal information for young people:
Go to // www.lawstuff.org.au
www.youthcentral.vic.gov.au – follow the link to “Know Your Rights”
Get the free phone app // Below-the-belt sex, selfies, cyber-bullying at www.legalaid.vic.gov.au/below-the-belt