Inner West Independent

Affirmative Consent Laws to be made law as early as this week

The Lower House passed the proposed Affirmative Consent Reforms on Wednesday night. Photo: Creative Commons.

By DANIEL LO SURDO

Affirmative consent laws were passed by the NSW Lower House on Wednesday night, allowing the Bill to become law by as early as this week. 

The Independent has previously reported on the Affirmative Consent Reforms Bill, which includes an affirmative consent model that details that “consent to a sexual activity must not be presumed” and “consensual sexual activity involves ongoing and mutual communication, decision-making and free and voluntary agreement between the persons participating”. 

The Bill seeks to reflect Tasmania’s sexual assault laws, which are generally considered the best in Australia. 

“This is a very significant reform,” State Member for Newtown Jenny Leong said in a statement on Thursday. 

“It means that it can no longer be assumed that someone consents to having sex. The person who wants sex must also be able to demonstrate that they took steps to ensure that the other person also enthusiastically consents to this.” 

Making Progress

The Bill won support in the Lower House after multiple amendments by Labor and the Greens were unsuccessful, though the Greens will seek to move “additional amendments” in the Upper House before the Bill is expected to be approved.

Attorney-General Mark Speakman introduced the Bill to the Lower House last month, and called the reforms a “basic matter of respect”. 

“We have listened to calls for change and consulted on these reforms with victim-survivors and legal experts to introduce the best possible Bill to Parliament that will simplify our laws and help to address rates of sexual violence,” Mr Speakman said in October. 

Sexual consent reforms in NSW were largely precipitated by the recommendations made by the NSW Law Reform Commission’s Report to ‘strengthen’ and ‘simplify’ consent law in November last year. The Government adopted all 44 of the Commission’s recommendations before introducing the Bill into Parliament in late October. 

“This reform was a long time coming, and is a significant step towards eliminating the excessive levels of sexual assault in our society,” Ms Leong said. 

“The Bill puts victim-survivors at the heart of the law, and removes rape myths and assumptions from the Crimes Act.” 

As part of the proposed legislation, consensual sexual activity will recognise that “every person has a right to choose whether to participate in a sexual activity” while also updating the language of the Crimes Act 1900, whereby references to an “offender” will be replaced with “accused person”, while a “victim” will be changed to a “complainant”. 

The Bill is expected to come before the Upper House in the coming days. 

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