THE Queensland parliament has voted in favour of changing age of consent laws for anal sex.
The age of consent for sodomy is 16, now on par with all other lawful sexual acts, previous Queensland law had the age of consent for sodomy at 18, with advocates campaigning for years to have it changed.
The Bill was tabled today by Health Minister Cameron Dick who said in his speech in parliament that changes to the age of consent will make it easier for younger people to access sexual health services.
Previously, people under the age of 18 who sought out services and admitting to anal intercourse could be reported to police, resulting in many young people not being tested for HIV, STIs and accessing appropriate services.
A panel of health experts met in May 2016 to consider a change to the Criminal Code 1899 and found that standardising the age of consent would improve sexual health outcomes.
“The expert panel considered that the current laws may lead to people feeling compelled to withhold information about their sexual history from health practitioners,” Dick said.
“This may be because they fear possible legal consequences for themselves or their partner.
“Withholding this information could have serious implications for a young person’s medical treatment, particularly as unprotected anal intercourse is the highest-risk behaviour for transmission of HIV.”
Michael Scott, Executive Director of the Queensland AIDS Council (QuAC), welcomed the reform.
“It is imperative to remove any barrier to access of healthcare for all people. An unequal age of consent has been a barrier to equal access to healthcare.
“We are concerned that with the current inequality of age of consent, young people who are sexually active are reluctant to access sexual health services including HIV and other STI testing and preventative health education for fear of being prosecuted.”
These amendments bring Queensland into line with other Australian jurisdictions in relation to standardising the age of consent.
“My hope is that this reform bill will continue to break down barriers of discrimination, to help change the discriminatory attitudes of others, and to continue the journey of our state, so it truly becomes a place where all people are treated justly, fairly, compassionately and most importantly equally,” Dick said in parliament.
“The amendments to standardise the age of consent will support the final Sexual Health Strategy by ensuring that young people talk to their health practitioners about safe sexual practices and receive appropriate testing and treatment where needed.
“So many other gay Queenslanders, have during their lives faced fear, intimidation and abuse, threats of violence and actual violence, bullying, exclusion and humiliation, amongst other things, simply because of their sexuality. They have experienced these things simply because of who they are.
“Many gay men and women in our state have overcome these challenges; many carry scars, others, I am sad to inform the house, were simply unable to endure what was thrown at them.
“My hope is that this reform bill will continue to break down barriers of discrimination, to help change the discriminatory attitudes of others, and to continue the journey of our state, so it truly becomes a place where all people are treated justly, fairly, compassionately and most importantly equally.
The Bill was voted in 72-2 with Rob Katter and Shane Knuth of Katter’s Australia Party being the only two MPs to vote against it. Only 28 of the 42 LNP MPs were present for the vote, those who were present either voted in favour of the Bill or abstained from voting.
— Alastair Lawrie (@alawriedejesus) September 15, 2016
Only 28 of the 42 LNP MPs turned up to the division to standardise sexual consent #qldpol
— Geoff Egan (@geoffegan) September 15, 2016