Stealthing to be criminalized as rape and affirmative consent adopted in Queensland’s sexual violence law overhaul

Queensland will adopt an affirmative consent model and criminalize “stealthing” as part of major changes to sexual violence laws.

The new consent model will see Queensland follow other states like New South Wales and Victoria, which have passed laws requiring a person participating in a sexual act to actively seek consent from the other person, and not assume it has been given.

Queensland laws currently define consent as “being freely and voluntarily given by a person with the cognitive capacity to give it”.

Attorney-General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence Shannon Fentiman said the government will now move to change the definition to replace the word “given” with “agreed”.

“We will provide in the criminal code that consent must be freely and voluntarily agreed, rather than given,” she said.

“This better reflects the community’s expectations of equality and mutual respect in sexual relationships, and reforms the way that sexual offenses are prosecuted and defended,” she said.

The state will also move to make “stealthing” a crime by recognizing it as rape, coming into line with NSW, Victoria, the ACT, South Australia and Tasmania where it is also illegal.

Man in bed with woman holding condom
Stealthing will soon attract a maximum penalty of life in prison.(Supplied: Pexels)

Stealthing is when a partner secretly removes a condom during sex, without the other person’s consent.

The act, which experts say has become “common place”, will soon attract a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Laws to be introduced next year

Ms Fentiman said the law changes for stealthing, consent and making coercive control a crime would be introduced into the Queensland Parliament and passed next year.

“There will be a lot of education and awareness campaigns,” she said.

“With the changes to affirmative consent, there does need to be a community-wide campaign.

“We do need to start talking about consent and what it means and we need to talk about stealthing.

“So there will be a significant community awareness campaign before the bill is introduced.”

Headshot of Margaret McMurdo
Justice Margaret McMurdo recommended 188 recommendations as part of the Women’s Safety and Justice task force.(ABC News: Stephen Cavenagh)

The law reforms were among 188 recommendations from the final Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce’s Hear her Voice report, which have all been supported or supported in principle by the state government.

The government will invest $225 million to implement the recommendations from the report, which also included upgrading the IT systems in 81 courts across Queensland to make it easier for victims to give evidence, and expanding the 24 hour sexual assault response team in Townsville to two others locations.

A Victims’ Commission in Queensland will also be established as an independent statutory office to promote and protect the needs and rights of victims of all violent offenses.

‘Historic’ law changes to ‘rebalance the scales’

Angela Lynch with shoulder length red hair wearing a maroon shirt sits in her office.
Queensland Sexual Assault Network secretariat Angela Lynch says consent laws changes have been needed for decades.(ABC News: Julie Hornsey)

Queensland Sexual Assault Network secretariat Angela Lynch has labeled the changes as “historic” and applauded the state government, the task force and task force chair Margaret McMurdo for their work to update sexual assault laws.

“Currently, Queensland has some of the worst sexual violence laws in Australia and updating these laws will make a significant difference to victims of sexual violence who are wanting to take action in the courts in the future,” she said.

Ms Lynch said changes to consent laws in Queensland had been a long time coming.

“This is something that has been called on for years, if not for decades,” she said.

“It changes the legislative approach, it really requires an explicit, informed and voluntary agreement to participate in a sexual act which is different from the law currently in Queensland and how it is interpreted.

“It will rebalance the scales in terms of victims of sexual violence.”

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