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When Can I... In Relationships?

When can I… in relationships?

Under the law, there are certain things you can’t do until a certain age, even if you’re in a long-term relationship.
This section explains the legal age limits in relationship issues.

When can I have sex?

It is legal to have sex with someone when you’re 16 or older. It doesn’t matter if you consent to having sex if you’re younger than 16, legally it is still a crime even if you agree to it.

The other person can get into trouble with the law if the police finds out about it.

If you’re both 16 years and above, make sure the other person consents (agrees) to having sex before going ahead, and make sure you’ve got the right protection if you’re not looking to have a baby or contract STIs.

Is it a crime to have consensual homosexual sex?

No. The law on sexual activity and the age of consent is the same for everyone. The only important factors are whether or not there was consent, and the ages of the people involved.

Is it a crime if I have sex with my boyfriend or girlfriend who is under 16 years old?

If you’re both under 16, the law says that you’re both committing a crime.

If your boyfriend/girlfriend is under 16, then you are committing a crime and you could get in trouble with the law. How the police might deal with the situation depends on a number of things.

If someone (this could be you or the other person’s family, friends or anyone who knows about it) reports it, the police will have a responsibility to investigate it. You can also report it to the police.

Someone complained to the police about my partner and I having underage sex, will I get in trouble?

Once a crime is reported, the police must investigate. The police will look at how old the two of you are, if there was consent or not by both people, and if anyone was or is being harmed.

If you and your partner are both near your 16th birthdays, have been in a stable relationship for some time, and there’s no evidence of emotional or physical abuse, the police may choose to give a warning instead of charging you with a crime. But any action the police take is up to them.

I had sex with my girlfriend or boyfriend who is under 16, I’m a few years older than them, will I get in trouble?

The police take it very seriously if there’s a big age gap between you and your partner and one of you is under 16, or if they think some sort of abuse or harm is taking place in the relationship. The police will more likely charge the older person in this situation than if you were both around the same age.

If one or both of you are very young, or there’s harm taking place, Ministry for Children – Oranga Tamariki could also become involved.

I had sex with someone under 16, but I thought they were 16 or older – what could happen to me?

Generally, the older you are, and the larger the age gap, the more serious the crime is. It’s up to you to make sure that they’re at least 16 years old. You could be charged, even if you thought they were over 16.

If you want more information, contact YouthLaw or your local community law centre.

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