First Day of Affirmative Consent Laws in NSW

The new positive consent laws went into effect across NSW on Wednesday.

In a move the state government hopes to revolutionize sexual consent, NSW has implemented state laws requiring affirmative consent before sexual interaction.

First Day of Affirmative Consent Laws in NSW

Under the newly passed legislation, a person cannot reasonably believe that someone wants to have sex with them without an obvious sign or verbal cue.

Camera Icon Attorney General Mark Speakman said the new laws are designed to tackle sexual violence in the community. Gaye Gerard Credit: News Corp Australia

Attorney General Mark Speakman said the new laws clarify that a person must do or say something that consents to sexual activity. The legal reforms aim to change social behavior and address sexual violence in the community.

“These laws put clearer boundaries on consensual sex, reinforce the basic principle of common decency that consent is a free choice with mutual and ongoing communication, and reinforce that consent should not be presumed,” Mr. Speakman said.

The NSW government hopes the clearer rules on engagement will help reduce the number of sexual assaults in NSW, which the Bureau of Crime and Statistics shows has increased by 4.8 percent over the past five years.

Camera icons state the government’s new ad campaign to teach young people how to ask for sexual consent proactively. Credit: Included

The new laws emphasize that consent is an ongoing process and must be sought before any sexual act.

An educational campaign titled “Make No Doubt” was released last week to accompany the law changes.

It was praised by surviving attorney and Rape & Sexual Assault Research & Advocacy Director Saxon Mullins.

“This is a very powerful campaign that I believe will have a huge impact,” she said.

The new campaign stands in stark contrast to the consent campaign released by the federal government last year, which was widely ridiculed for trying to use milkshakes to teach young people consent.

Camera icon The federal government’s confusing education campaign for schools featured a bizarre video of a woman slathering a man’s face with a milkshake. Credit: Included

The legislative reforms were announced in November 2021, with a six-month delay to allow police and courts to understand the affirmative consent laws and how to enact them.

There has been criticism, most notably from powerful attorney Margaret Cunneen SC, that the laws would lead to a major increase in sexual assault cases being dealt with in the already overstretched justice system.

A spokeswoman for Sexual Violence Crisis Center Full Stop Australia said the number of victims has increased since the consent laws were passed.

In the past year, the number of calls from victims of sexual violence to the center has increased by 27 percent. Many of those calls were from new callers, and most did not want to file a report with the police, the spokeswoman said.

Camera IconRape & Sexual Assault Investigator Saxon Mullins supported the announcement of the new state sexual consent laws. Gaye Gerard Credit: News Corp Australia

Despite the suggestion that the new laws would increase the workload for police, child abuse, and sex crimes, Chief Inspector Jayne Doherty, Chief Inspector of Police, Child Abuse and Sexual Crimes, they approved the new laws.

“The NSW Police Department supports steps to simplify and strengthen consent laws in NSW and a legislative model for affirmative consent,” she said.

Lori J. Kile
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