Age Of Consent in QLD

There’s a bit of a gotcha for the gay boys in Queensland…

According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies Queensland is the only state where the sexual act alters the age of consent.  The age of consent for anal sex (Which the QLD Criminal Code refers to as “sodomy”) is two years higher than any other act, at age 18.  (section 208)  The age of consent for any other act is 16 (Section 215) and is referred to as “carnal knowledge”.

Also according to the AIFS:

“Age of consent laws are important measures for protecting children and young people from sexual exploitation. Whether the sexual interaction between an adult and a person under the age of consent appeared consensual is irrelevant, as the laws determine that children and young people do not possess the maturity to consent to sex with an adult. Adolescence is an important developmental period in which young people are developing autonomy and forming relationships. The challenge for legislation is to find the balance that ensures age of consent laws protect young people from adult sexual exploitation in a manner that does not disempower or criminalise the sexual exploration with peers that is normal for their age and stage in life.”

Well that sounds all ok, doesn’t it?  No discrimination going on there, right?  I disagree.  Why?  We have just heard – or at least, read – that “children and young people do not possess the maturity to consent to sex with an adult.”  I don’t disagree.  I’m all for protecting our young people. But if the purpose of these laws is to protect kids because they don’t have the maturity to consent to sex, why is it different when that sex occurs in a vagina rather than an anus?  
Does vaginal sex require less maturity than anal sex?  
What about a threesome – does that require less maturity than anal sex?

So how is this discrimination?  It’s much less blatant discrimination than some things, but I’m here to tell you that boys are boys.  There comes a point where penetrative sex becomes the goal, whether they’re gay or straight.  

So let’s take two 17 year olds on their birthdays.  One is gay, one is straight.

The gay guy finds a guy who is 20 who is willing to help him out.  Except, that is, for anal sex, since it’s illegal.  No penetration for gay Johnny in this scenario. For him to “score” with said 20 year old, he’ll need to wait another year.

Meanwhile Straight Jim has found 20 year old Jill who also says “But no anal, you’re too young for that!” So there’s one option that’s off limits, but there’s another one that is all systems go.  Straight Jim scores that night.  Depending on whether he and Jill were sufficiently mature, Jim may find himself to be a father in 9 months time.  Mature enough to be a father, but still not mature enough to consent to anal sex.

And there’s the rub – The Age of Consent for penetrative sex differs between gay men and the rest of the population.  Every other state has fixed this.

There is a part of me that says “Why is this battle not being fought with similar vigour as that against the surrogacy rollbacks?  Shouldn’t we be fighting as much for this as we are for marriage equality? Aren’t we ignoring our gay young people’s rights to equality?” This is in no way to say that I don’t think we should be fighting those battles as well.

Then I look at how reluctant I was to write this article.  I don’t want to be considered predatory.  I don’t want to look like I’m after “young guys” – I’m not.  I don’t care if you raise the AoC for everything to 18, or lower the AoC for “sodomy” to 16, or meet in the middle, or come up with a new figure entirely.  I don’t know why queer QLD youths haven’t taken this issue up earlier either… I kind of wonder how many of them know about it?  I just want it to be the same for all Queenslanders for all acts

What I also don’t know is, “Where do we go from here?  How do we fix this problem?”  Age of Consent is a touchy topic.  Yet it’s a battle that still needs to be fought in this state.  I would like to hear how you feel this topic should be tackled, and if you feel it shouldn’t, I’d love to know why you think that too.

I’ll see you tomorrow for my regular eThankfulness article!

2 thoughts on “Age Of Consent in QLD

  1. Thank you to Dylan for keeping this topic alive – my resource pages detail 12 years of lobbying, a compelling broadly informed and expertly supported argument, and a history of the Queensland Sodomy Law): I’m relieved to say that I have only been accused a few times, invariably by brainless twats, of having some ulterior motive in being involved in this action for youth equality. When I first started work on this it was in response to a really dangerously inaccurate Courier Mail article in February 2000 in which the author Deborah Cassrells wrote crap like “In Australia any man who has sex with a 17 year old male is a paedophile”. The paper’s editor refused to print any correction. I had foolishly thought that the Beattie Labor Government would quickly fix the law once they were reminded that it was still outstanding – but I later found out that Beattie had full personal awareness of the wrongness and great harm of this law. He was the Chairman of the 1990 Parliamentary Criminal Justice Committee which held public hearings on the decriminalisation of sex between men and which Reported that the age of consent ought to be made equal at 16 when that happened. Beattie knew that the reason the higher age of 18 was written into the November 1990 Bill was purely in order to appease a handfull of influential Labor MPs who were opposed to any decriminalisation of homosexuality. BTW: My early estimate of public and institutional awareness of the Sodomy law was that 80% did not understand how the law worked – and most thought that all sex between males was illegal until 18. Open Doors LGBT Youth Service staff once told me that their young clients were oblivious to the law – that it did not either limit or affect their sexual activity. However the impact is has on them is that, whether they are aware of it or not, if they are doing anal sex under age 18 then they and their lovers are open to prosecution as a result of anyone who wants to dob them in – i.e. vindictive parents etc. They are also being denied proper respect and inclusion in sex education and relationships studies at school. I expect that young people themselves are busy enough living their lives, and I believe that it is adult LGBTs and their allies who have a duty of care to lobby for equal age of consent reform at 16 to be enacted as a matter of priority. I have been consistently disappointed that Queensland lobby groups have routinely placed this reform at the very bottom of the pile – focusing instead on issues which affect adults specifically (marriage, surrogacy, adoption etc).

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