What is the legal age of consent for sexual relationships?

Important events occurring over time relating to sexual relationshipsPARLIAMENT UK, 2012; NCBI, 2012

Heterosexuality

The legal age of sexual consent for heterosexuals in the UK is 16. Consent means agreeing to something, in this case to having sexual intercourse.

Statutory rape is when one or both of the parties engaging in sexual activity are below the age of consent. Statutes are laws. This law means that a 14-year-old girl cannot legally consent to have sex with her 16-year-old boyfriend. This act would be considered unlawful.

Homosexuality

Homosexuality used to be illegal in the UK. The Sexual Offences Act 1967 made changes so that homosexual men over age 21 could have sexual relationships, in private.

In 1994 a further change saw it reduced to those aged over 18.

The Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000 made the ages of legal consent for heterosexuals and homosexuals equal and the legal age of consent for homosexual people was changed to 16. This change came to effect in Northern Ireland when the Sexual Offences Order was passed in 2008.