Removing a condom without consent during sex could soon be considered the legal equivalent of rape under new laws set to be introduced into Queensland Parliament on Wednesday.
Coercive control will also be criminalised under a series of “sweeping” news laws that are expected to pass Parliament. The changes are aimed at installing an affirmative consent model in the state.
The shift would allow judges to prosecute sexual assault and other sexual crimes under a system whereby consent is not considered the mere absence of ‘no’ but the presence of an active and enthusiastic ‘yes’. Judges will also be allowed to inform juries of common misconceptions around sexual assault under the changes.
Removal of a condom without the knowledge and consent of the other partner is known as ‘stealthing’ and has recently been made illegal in Tasmania, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia.
Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said interfering or tampering with a condom without someone’s knowledge or consent “strikes at the heart of a person’s right to bodily autonomy and their right to choose whether and how to participate in a sexual activity”.
“It is rape and we are changing our laws to reflect this,” she said in a statement.
In 2021 the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce was established in the state to investigate trends of coercive control — an abusive pattern of behaviour whereby one parter controls the others’ actions through threats or intimidation. They also looked at domestic violence and sexual assault more broadly and, in 2022, released the ‘Hear Her Voice’ report that made 188 recommendations for legal changes in Queensland to better protect women.
“The Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce heard from victim-survivors of sexual violence who said they were traumatised by the offence and then re-traumatised by the justice system,” D’Ath said.
“[The] taskforce found that sexual offence laws are often misunderstood, and rape myths and stereotypes, including narratives of ‘implied consent’, still feature heavily in trials.”
The Queensland Government has said that it is making significant progress in responding to the report’s recommendations and would be working over the coming four years from 2022 to “bring about systemic and cultural change in responding to violence against women and children.”
As of May of this year, 24 of those recommendations have been implemented, with a further 56 commenced, and 9 scheduled to commence at a later phase of implementation
“We will continue to build on the work achieved to date, and improve support for victim-survivors of sexual violence and women and girls in the criminal justice system in Queensland,” the government has said.