Last edited: February 12, 2005

Australia State to Modernize Consent Law, May 6, 2003

By Peter Hacker, Sydney, Australia Bureau

Sydney—The government of New South Wales has announced plans to harmonize age of consent laws for gay sex with the rest of Australia.

NSW and the Northern Territory still make it illegal for gays to have sex under the age of 18. In the rest of Australia the age of consent for both gay and straight sex is 16 in the Capital Territory and 17 elsewhere.

A 1998 attempt to modernize the law was voted down in the upper house by 20 votes to 19.

“This is not a radical proposal,” Attorney-General Bob Debus told parliament.

“It’s a reform that would see NSW simply catch up with other states and jurisdictions around the world.”

Labor and Liberal MPs will be allowed a conscience vote

“Studies have shown that young gay men are 300 per cent more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual peers,” said Debus.

But Christian Democrat MP Gordon Moyes said lowering the age of consent would only allow more sexual assaults on children.

The AIDS Council of NSW (ACON) also embraced the move, calling it overdue.

“Equal age of consent will help reduce barriers for young gay men accessing sexual health services including information about HIV/AIDS and safe sex resources,” ACON president Adrian Lovney said.

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