There is a new, concerted effort to convince Queensland’s Labor Government to amend age-of-consent laws that unfairly discriminate against gay men in the state.
A Change.org petition has been set up, appealing to the Bligh Government to take reform action in early 2012 while it still holds the parliamentary majority.
In 1990, the Queensland State Caucus amended the Criminal Code and the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1978-1989 to decriminalise consensual sexual activity between adult males in private.
It approved the introduction of appropriate legislation, setting the age of consent at 18, Queensland’s age of consent is 16 for heterosexuals (for oral and vaginal sex), but anal intercourse (aka sodomy) involving any person (male or female) aged under 18 is a criminal offence under the so-called Sodomy Law, section 208 of the Criminal Code 1899.
It’s punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment.
Queensland remains the only state or territory in Australia which does not have an equal age of consent.
The Bligh Government has so far refused to debate the issue, while the Liberal National Party has stated it has no plans to change the laws if it wins government.
Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (QAHC) general manager Paul Martin said the laws contribute to the poor mental health and increased rates of suicide in young gay men.
“Symbolically, the Government and the state of Queensland believe anal sex is so heinous that young people have to be thrown in jail for 14 years for doing it,” Martin said.
“That sends a destructive message to young gay men, particularly at a time when they’re coming to terms with their sexual orientation.”
Martin said he believed the discriminatory laws also put unnecessary pressure on health service providers and educators.
“Young people are unclear about whether they can access sexual health services and be open about their sexual behaviour for fear of being reported and people who work with young people such as teachers and youth workers can be unclear about whether they’re allowed to talk to young people about anal sex,” he said.
“They’re also unclear as to whether they should report that given a young person has admitted they have done something illegal.
“It reduces the access of young gay men to sexual health information just at the time when they need the information most.”
Martin said the issue was part of an agenda that QAHC set out for the election and was presented to Labor, LNP and the Greens.
Sign the petition here.