Sex and the law deals with the regulation by law of human sexual activity. Sex laws vary from one place or jurisdiction to another, and have varied over time, and unlawful sexual acts are also called sex crimes.
Some laws regulating sexual activity are intended to protect one or all participants, while others are intended to proscribe behavior that has been defined as a crime. For example, a law may proscribe unprotected sex if one person knows that he or she has a sexual disease or to protect a minor; or it may proscribe non-consensual sex, or because of a relationship between the participants, etc. In general, laws may proscribe acts which are considered either sexual abuse or behavior that societies consider to be inappropriate and against the social norms. Sexual abuse is unwanted sexual contact between two or more adults or two or more minors, and, depending on laws with regard to age of consent, sexual contact between an adult and a minor.
Neglecting national variations in the basis of statistical estimates, figures from Interpol indicate that in 1990 there were approximately 241,000 sexual offences reported from 91 countries worldwide, namely 8.5 per 100,000 population; some 168,000 (namely 70%) were claimed to have been resolved.
In UK the number of sex offenders within the prison system has been rising rapidly to almost fifth of the total. More sexual offences are being reported (though probably only a fraction of those committed) and the courts are sending convicted offenders to prison for longer periods than earlier. In the USA, between 15 and 22% of the prison population in 1991 were serving sentences for sexual crimes.
In Japan, with a population of 126 million, there are little more than 5,000 complaints of sexual assault a year. However, a 1994 survey of women's groups found that 71% of women said they had been sexually molested. The frequent incidence reported was of groping, usually on overcrowded trains.