Stonewall Scotland | Sexual Offences Law
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​Sexual Offences Law

The current law in Scotland

In Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland the age of consent for sex between two men and for sex between two women is 16.

Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009

The Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 means that sexual offences law in Scotland is now far more equal than it has been in the past.

Definition of ‘consent’ to sexual activity and ‘rape’ are now applicable to men and trans women, and the Act introduced a statutory offence of rape with an object (previously, this would be classed as indecent assault, a less severe crime).

The history of criminal convictions against gay men and how to get them removed

Until 1980 sex between men was illegal in Scotland. The Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 decriminalised homosexual acts between men over 21 and in private, in Scotland. Whilst sexual acts between women have never been specifically outlawed in the UK, some prosecutions for indecency were made in the past.

The age of consent for gay men in Scotland was reduced to 18 in 1994, and to 16 in 2001.

The Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act (2009) also deleted the anti-gay terminology of ‘gross indecency’ and ‘sodomy’ from the statutes and a new set of fully gender and sexual orientation neutral offences has been established.

From 1 October 2012 people in England and Wales with convictions and cautions for consensual gay sex, which are no longer unlawful, can apply to the Home Office to have these offences removed from their criminal records. We have begun discussions with the Scottish Government to allow similar procedures to be introduced in Scotland.

For further information please contact Stonewall Scotland on 0131 474 8019 or email