Inner West Independent

NSW Parliament passes Affirmative Consent Laws

Affirmative Consent Reforms were passed by NSW Parliament today. Photo: NSW Parliament.

By DANIEL LO SURDO

In a landmark decision, the NSW Parliament today passed new sexual consent laws to install an affirmative consent model across the state. The law will now reflect those implemented in Tasmania, in what is considered as the best in Australia.

The Affirmative Consent Reforms detail that “consent to a sexual activity must not be presumed” and stipulate that consensual sexual activity involves “ongoing and mutual communication, decision-making and a free and voluntary agreement” between those participating.

“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,” Minister for Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence Mark Speakman said.

“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.

“It does not make consensual sex illegal. It 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.”

Making Change 

The State’s Lower House passed the Consent Reforms in early November after amendments proposed by Labor and Greens members were unsuccessful.

The push for change came in November last year when the NSW Law Reform Commission’s Report into sexual consent reforms recommended that consent law be simplified and strengthened. The Government adopted all 44 of the Commission’s recommendations before the Bill was introduced in late October.

Greens member for Newtown Jenny Leong credited the decision to the Director of Rape and Sexual Assault Research and Advocacy Saxon Mullins, who has led the way for victim-survivors in advancing sexual consent reform throughout the country. Mr Speakman echoed Ms Leong’s sentiment.

“I commend particularly 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,” Mr Speakman said.

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

The reform package includes further measures as part of the affirmative consent reforms, including five new jury directions to address common sexual assault misconceptions, research into victim-survivor experiences with the criminal justice process and community awareness campaigns. Specific education programs for judges, legal practitioners and police will also take place.

The new laws will be commencing in mid-2022.

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