Why The ACT’s New Stealthing Law Is Important
The ACT's new legislation has changed sexual consent laws to now recognise stealthing as a criminal offence.
The ACT has become the first jurisdiction in Australia to make stealthing illegal.
The new legislation has changed sexual consent laws to now recognise stealthing as a criminal offence.
If you’re not one hundred percent sure what stealthing is, it’s the non-consensual removal of a condom during sex.
That could be if a sexual partner removes a condom, or doesn’t actually use one in the first place, if consent was only given for protected sex.
It’s been talked about online as a ‘disturbing sex trend’, but this new law makes it clear that stealthing – at least in the ACT – is in fact sexual assault.
What Is The New Stealthing Law?
The new law changes existing sexual consent laws under the Crimes Act, and now explicitly states that a persons’ consent is negated if the use of a condom by the other person was intentionally misrepresented.
The legislation was introduced by Canberra Liberals leader Elizabeth Lee, who said she wanted to make sure the new law put ‘beyond doubt’ that stealthing is sexual assault.
And this opens up wider conversations around consent, sexual assault, and the culture surrounding sexual violence.
Why Is This New Legislation Significant?
There is a legal argument that stealthing is technically already illegal across Australia, since it’s done without consent.
But some people aren’t so sure it would hold up in court.
Recently a stealthing case in Victoria was in court for more than two years without a result, so there’s not really any kind of legal precedent for conviction.
One study from Monash University surveyed over 2000 people, and found that 33% of women and 19% of men had experienced stealthing.
It said that the current language around sexual assault needs to expand in order to report and legislate against acts like stealthing.
And this wider discussion around sexual assault is not just about the act itself, but the cultural norms that tend to protect perpetrators and put the burden of safety on the survivors’ shoulders.
Which is why institutional changes like this stealthing law are so significant.
What Has The Response Been?
There’s been calls for the new stealthing law in the ACT to be applied across Australia, and similar laws were just passed in California as well.
Britney Higgins tweeted her congratulations recognising the significance of the legislation.
Congratulations to the ACT Legislative Assembly which passed Australia’s first anti-stealthing legislation.
— Brittany Higgins (@BrittHiggins_) October 7, 2021
And other women’s rights advocates have said that these laws will empower those who have experienced stealthing to come forward, and will be an important step in shaping Australia’s conversation around consent.
Earlier this year, the federal government was slammed for what became known as its ‘milkshake’ video, which a lot of young Australians in particular felt trivialised such an important issue.
And figures like Higgins have been fronting calls for the government to take better, and earlier, action in educating young Australians about sexual consent.