Affirmative Consent reforms pass NSW Parliament

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman said the changes would mean people who engage in sexual activity with others would need to seek consent.

 

REFORMS to simplify sexual consent laws and to ensure more effective prosecutions of sexual offences have passed NSW Parliament this week.

Although no law can ever erase the trauma of sexual assault, members of parliament have listened to calls for change and consulted victim-survivors and legal experts to improve the response to sexual violence.

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“I thank victim-survivors, peak bodies, frontline services, legal experts, academics, and those across the criminal justice system for their thorough and thoughtful engagement.

“I commend particularly survivor Saxon Mullins for her extraordinary bravery in sharing her lived experience and her tireless advocacy for victim-survivors to ensure their voices were heard, all of which has contributed to the passage of these reforms,” Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence Mark Speakman said.

The NSW Government’s affirmative consent model sets clearer boundaries for consensual sex, reinforces the basic principle of common decency that consent is a free choice involving mutual and ongoing communication, and reinforces that consent should not be presumed.

“Under our reforms, if you want to engage in sexual activity with someone, then you need to do or say something to find out if they want to have sex with you too.

“It’s that simple,” Mr Speakman said.

Whilst the Bill is based on legislative drafting suggested as part of the NSW Law Reform Commission Report, it went further by requiring a person to do or say something to find out whether the other person consented, in order to have a reasonable belief that they in fact consented to sex.

“This requirement is not onerous; it does not make consensual sex illegal and t does not stop consensual sex.

“It does not require a written agreement or script, or stifle spontaneity.

“It’s a matter of common sense and respect,” Mr Speakman said.

The NSW Government’s reform package also includes: five new jury directions to address common sexual assault misconceptions; research into victim-survivor experiences with the criminal justice process; and community awareness campaigns that will build on the success of #MakeNoDoubt.

Targeted education programs for judges, legal practitioners and police will now take place, ahead of the new laws commencing in mid-2022.

 

By Tara CAMPBELL

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