NSW comes closer to legislating affirmative consent laws

NSW comes closer to legislating affirmative consent laws

25 October 2021 By Naomi Neilson
NSW comes closer to legislating affirmative consent laws

NSW’s Attorney-General has confirmed that a bill designed to set clearer boundaries for consensual intimacy and to better support victim-survivors of sexual assault has been introduced into parliament with a plan to make it law by mid-2022.

The “common sense reforms” will reinforce that consent is a free choice involving mutual and ongoing communication and that consent should never be presumed, Attorney-General Mark Speakman said when announcing the planned reforms. He added that the bill “brings us another step closer” to implementing important change.

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“If you want to have sex with someone, then you need to do or say something to find out if they want to have sex with you too – under our reforms, it’s that simple.

“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 address rates of sexual violence,” Mr Speakman said.

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The belief of an accused that consent existed will no longer be an acceptable defence in circumstances outside of the accused saying or doing anything within a reasonable time to obtain consent. This new requirement will not apply to an accused person who had a cognitive or mental health impairment.

Mr Speakman said the affirmative model of consent is “not onerous” and does not require a written or video agreement “as some suggested”. Instead, it simply clarifies that a person does not consent unless they freely and voluntarily agree to the sexual activity while providing jury directions for judges to deliver at trial.

The bill will also provide targeted education programs for legal professionals, a research project to improve the community’s understanding of victim-survivor experiences with the justice system, and a community awareness campaign.

Survivor advocate and director of Rape & Sexual Assault Research & Advocacy, Saxon Mullins, said it’s a momentous win for victim-survivors and experts who have contributed to this cause and for an affirmative consent model for years.

“These reforms mean so much to so many survivors who understand first-hand the difference this bill can make,” Ms Mullins commented.

“It has been three years since I came forward to share my own story, and while progress can feel slow, I know this bill is a huge leap forward and will see NSW leading the way in consent law around the country.”

NSW comes closer to legislating affirmative consent laws
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