No sex with people outside your household.
That’s a rule now enshrined in law in England as new legislation is brought in prohibiting indoor “gatherings” of two or more people from different households amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
It’s been dubbed a lockdown “sex ban” by the media, but the new legislation makes no explicit mention of the word sex. But, is sex really banned? We took a look at the new rules.
Indoor “gatherings” are banned under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations 2020 bill, which came into effect on June 1, 2020. The new rules define gatherings as “when two or more people are present together in the same place in order to engage in any form of social interaction with each other, or to undertake any other activity with each other.” If you’re single or if you live apart from your partner this new legislation will affect you.
The UK has been under lockdown since March 23 — so 10 weeks — and until now the government restrictions have stipulated that people are only allowed to leave their homes for a limited set of circumstances, including for work, health reasons, to buy food, or to get exercise. Those restrictions have been loosened over the past few weeks.
So, does sexual intercourse fall under the categories “social interaction” or “any other activity”? It would appear so. Unless you live with your sexual partner, you will be breaking the law if you go to another person’s house for sex. It’s also prohibited by law to stay overnight away from home, unless it’s for work, funerals, or avoiding harm. In short, it’s illegal to visit friends, family, or sexual partners inside their homes or to spend any time indoors with someone you don’t live with.
For the people abiding by lockdown restrictions for the past 10 weeks, it likely comes as no surprise that sex with people outside your household remains off limits. So, what difference does this legislation actually make? Until now, the person who entered another person’s home would have been in breach of the lockdown rules. Under this new law, both people can now be prosecuted under the amendment. Previous restrictions made no mention of meeting up in private places, and instead the message to ‘stay at home’ was disseminated by the government. According to police guidance published by the College of Policing, the approach to restrictions has changed as of June 1. “Rather than requiring a reasonable excuse to leave the place where a person is living, there are specific things that members of the public cannot do,” reads the guidance.
There are exceptions to the rules about gatherings and overnight stays. Both are permitted in the following circumstances:
between members of the same household
for people attending a funeral; for an elite athlete and their coach or parent
for work purposes or providing charitable services
to facilitate house moves
to provide care or assistance to a vulnerable person
to provide emergency assistance
for providing registered early years childcare
to avoid injury, illness, or to escape a risk of harm
to facilitate access between parents and children
to fulfill legal obligations or participate in legal proceedings
for the purposes of education
I emailed the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and asked the following question: “Is it now illegal for a person to go to another person’s house to have sex?” In my email I noted that the legislation did not make explicit mention of ‘sex’ but that people have interpreted the law as a sex ban.
In reply, a DHSC spokesperson said: “Changes to Coronavirus Regulations mean people can spend time outdoors, including private gardens and other outdoor spaces, in groups of up to six people from different households. However, everybody should act responsibly and continue to strictly observe social distancing rules.”
Afraid to say this is correct.
I can’t believe I’m about to tweet this.
From tomorrow sex between two (or more) people in a private place who do not live in the same household is a “gathering” between 2 or more people and is therefore illegal. https://t.co/aEiGIoweee pic.twitter.com/b0KZBACSQ4
— Adam Wagner (@AdamWagner1) May 31, 2020
“Individuals who participate in a prohibited gathering will be in breach of the regulations, and the police will use their common sense and discretion in all cases,” the statement continued. The spokesperson added that DHSC had “set out” its plan “to return to life to as near normal as we can, for as many people as we can, as quickly and fairly as possible in order to safeguard livelihoods, but in a way that is safe and continues to protect our NHS.”
For people looking for loopholes to this law, remember that sex outdoors is already punishable under pre-existing including indecent exposure and outraging public decency. Furthermore, under new guidelines, people meeting up in outdoor gatherings of up to six people are required to practice social distancing.
Police can’t burst into your bedroom and fine you for having sex.
You might well be wondering about how the police can enforce something like this. Well, on Monday, 10 Downing Street confirmed that police can’t burst into your bedroom and fine you for having sex. Not sure if any of us quite expected that course of events to be on the cards, but glad to hear No. 10 has ruled it out, nonetheless.
Police can arrest or fine those breaking the law, but they don’t have the power to check inside your home. The default fine stands at £100 in England.
“The police will do as they have done since the beginning of the health regulations being in place. They will be exercising their common sense and engaging with the public and only issuing fixed penalty notices when they believe it’s a last resort,” the prime minister’s spokesperson told the Mirror. The spokesperson added that police in England don’t have powers to enter people’s homes under the regulations. “What they can do is enter homes where they suspect serious criminal activity is taking place under separate and existing laws,” they added.
Looks like that sex hiatus will be going on a little longer then.