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The Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 introduced a series of laws to protect children under 16 from abuse.However, the law is not intended to prosecute mutually agreed teenage sexual activity between two young people of a similar age, unless it involves abuse or exploitation.This particular sexual offence can only be committed by a man.A woman cannot be charged with the offence of rape as this is defined as penile penetration, but she could be charged with another offence such as causing a person to engage in sexual activity without consent, sexual coercion or assault, or assault by penetration.This therefore means that there is no statutory duty under criminal law to report to the police cases of sexual activity involving children under the age of 16 under articles 16 to 19 of the Order, where the other party is aged under 18.

The age of consent to any form of sexual activity is 16 for both men and women.Each specifically states that it is not an offence provide information, advice and/or treatment if it is in order to protect the young person’s sexual health, physical safety or emotional wellbeing.In each UK country, a man would commit rape if he intentionally penetrates with his penis the vagina, mouth or anus of another person, male or female, without that person’s consent or if they are under 13, as young people aged 12 and under are not legally able to give consent to any sexual activity.The Sexual Offences Act 2003 provides specific legal protection for children aged 12 and under who cannot legally give their consent to any form of sexual activity.There is a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for rape, assault by penetration, and causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.Last updated April 2015 This factsheet summarises some of the key points of UK law relating to sexual behaviour. This factsheet is not currently available as a PDF.RELATED FACTSHEET Sex and the Law, Northern Ireland (PDF) The age of consent to any form of sexual activity is 16 for both men and women.These offences may not all apply in each different UK country.This offence was introduced by the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (in England and Wales), The Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008, and the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009.Specific laws protect children under 13, who cannot legally give their consent to any form of sexual activity.There is a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for rape and assault by penetration.

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