Affirmative Consent Has Become Law In NSW Parliament - Women's Health

Affirmative Consent Has Become Law In NSW Parliament

The new reform is set to establish clearer boundaries for consensual sex, reinforcing the notion that consent is not to be presumed.

In a landmark moment for NSW, affirmative sexual consent laws have been passed in parliament, marking a significant milestone for survivors and advocates who have fought to overhaul the state’s consent laws. The new affirmative consent model adopted by the NSW parliament now means that if anyone wants to engage in sexual activity with someone, they will need to do or say something to establish the other person has consented. Ultimately, it serves to reinforce the notion that consent is no longer something to be presumed. 

For victims and survivors of sexual assault, the new reforms are to be celebrated. As NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman explained, the reforms might be “common sense”, but they also serve a serious purpose in simplifying consent laws to ensure more effective prosecutions of sexual offences. “No law can ever erase the trauma of sexual assault, but we have listened to calls for change and consulted victim-survivors and legal experts to improve our response to sexual violence,” said Speakman. 

Under the new laws, Speakman also emphasised that actively seeking out consent for sexual activity is “not onerous.” “It does not make consensual sex illegal. It does not stop consensual sex. It does not require a written agreement or script, or stifle spontaneity. It’s a matter of common sense and respect,” Speakman added. Consent before sex doesn’t mean both parties need to sign a consent form, but it does mean an ‘enthusiastic yes’ needs to be expressed, through words or gestures. 

That we have these new reforms is testament to the tireless work of countless women (and men) who came forward with their own stories, and campaigned to see such laws enforced. Saxon Mullins came forward with her story in a recent Four Corners Investigation, which focused on Sydney man Luke Lazarus who was found not guilty of sexual assault on appeal, despite a jury and two judges finding that the then-18-year-old Mullins had not consented to sex with him. Having endured two trials and two appeals with no final resolution, Mullins demonstrated bravery and a strong sense of self, even despite her vulnerability. As Speakman said in an interview with the ABC, “This young woman’s bravery in coming forward and sharing her story is commendable.”

With the new reforms, there will be a change to the way sexual assault cases are prosecuted, with defendants having to show they took active steps to obtain consent. As Speakman described, it “reinforces the basic principle of common decency that consent is a free choice involving mutual and ongoing communication and reinforces that consent should not be presumed.”

Greens MP Jenny Leong took to social media to celebrate the news, calling it “huge” and “important” reform. “YES! A bill to introduce an affirmative model of consent has just cleared the final hurdle and passed through the NSW Parliament. That’s it! We did it! This is huge, important, vital reform and will help to deliver justice for survivors of sexual assault,” she wrote. 

“Thank you to every single one of you who took to the streets to say enough is enough, who wrote letters and emails, who talked to your family and friends about why this reform is so important – this is for you. To all the survivors, activists, feminists and experts who put everything they had into making this happen – this is for you. To Saxon Mullins who gave up her anonymity to share her story and put NSW on notice, who brought others along with her with such strength and care – this is for you.”

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732. 

By Jessica Campbell

Jess is a storyteller committed to sharing the human stories that lie at the heart of sport.

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