CONSENT is defined in the Sexual Offences (NI) Order 2008 as someone consents when they agree by choice, and have the freedom and capacity to make that choice. In Northern Ireland the age of consent is 16 for all sexual activity. Consent is described as an internal decision or state of willingness (i.e. we decide in our own minds whether or not we are willing to engage in a particular sexual activity). Consent must be affirmative, clear and not ambiguous. 

Explicit verbal consent is the best way to show consent, so that if someone is unsure about the message, they can check in with the other person to see if they have got it right. Consent is an active communication process which involves the seeking and receiving of permission, by firstly expressing clearly your desires, intentions, and expectations and then hearing clear agreement or desire to engage in a specific, named sexual activity.

Consent can be communicated through both verbal and non-verbal cues (e.g. saying you agree, your body language, your actions, smiling etc.). There is a difference between non-verbal consent and implied consent, silence or impassivity does equal consent. Words and actions are only signals, so checking and asking are good ways to make sure there is mutual understanding. 

Consent reflects your personal choice, without being pressured or coerced (i.e. influenced by alcohol /drugs, living up to expectations of social norms) and must be communicated willingly. People cannot give consent if they are unconscious or incapacitated by drugs or alcohol. Incapacitation can result from a psychological health condition, voluntary or involuntary intoxication, or use of any drug or substance. 

An individual must not engage in sexual activity with another person if the individual knows that the other person is incapacitated. An individual is considered incapable of giving effective consent when they lack the capacity to make a choice. 

Consent is an active, on-going process and can be withdrawn at any time. Consent for one sexual act does not imply consent for another subsequent sexual act. Consent, a lack of consent or a withdrawal of consent can be expressed by words or actions or both. Just because someone consented before, does not mean they consent to future sexual activities. 


  • Consent is required each and every time there is sexual activity.
  • ┬ĚConsent is an active communication process that requires the seeking and receiving of permission to engage in sexual activity. 
  • Consent to some levels of sexual activity does not imply consent to all levels of sexual activity. 
  • At all times when consent is withdrawn or not verbally agreed upon, the sexual activity must stop immediately.
  • The person(s) who initiate(s) a new level of sexual activity is responsible for asking for consent.
  • Consent is always required whether this is a short or long term relationship.
  • Clear communication between partners is essential to understanding and agreeing consent. A current or previous dating or sexual relationship with the initiator does not constitute consent.
  • Silence, passivity, or lack of active resistance is not consent
  • Anyone under the age of 16 cannot give consent.
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