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Published: 18 April 2019
From: Department of Justice and Equality


Sexual consent is defined within Irish law but for a real feel for what sexual consent is, have a look at this video (copyright 2015 Emmeline May and Blue Seat Studios)

Sexual consent in defined in Irish law and to summarise, a person consents to a sexual act if he or she freely and voluntarily agrees to engage in that act.

A person does not consent to a sexual act if he or she:

  • is forced, or threatened with force, or is genuinely afraid of force being used against him or herself or against another person
  • is asleep or unconscious
  • is incapable of consenting because of the effect of alcohol or some other drug
  • is suffering from a physical disability which prevents him or her from communicating whether he or she agrees to the act
  • is mistaken as to the identity of any other person involved in the act
  • is being prevented from leaving at the time at which the act takes place
  • consents for that person
  • is mistaken as to the nature and purpose of the act

There may be other circumstances where a person does not consent.

For example:

  • a person can change their mind and can retract consent at any time before or during a sexual act
  • a person who does not actively resist is not automatically consenting

The issue of consent is fundamental to understanding sexual violence. Although it is indisputable that sex without consent is rape, the concept of consent is often contested, both in courtrooms and in the discourse about sexual violence.

Recent research for this campaign shows there is some confusion about what constitutes consent in particular situations.

Much has been written about how we understand, or should understand consent and a list of such resources can be found below.

Consent Resources

Consent campaigns and information on consent

Rainn.org: Understanding Consent

ReachOut.com: Consent and Sex

DRCC Ask Consent

ESHTE: Ending Sexual Harassment and Violence in Third Level Education

USI 'What is Consent'

NUIG: Smart Consent

Framework for Consent in Higher Education Institutions

B4U Decide

‘What is Consent?’ part of ‘Love is Respect’ campaign

Articles on consent

RTE website: A question of consent

Irish Times: Everything you want to know about consent but were too afraid to ask

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