*Age Of Consent & Legal Sexual Activity for the State of
May 2007 DVD-Video/CD-ROM package entitled “6 Statements of Support for Equal Age Of
Consent Reform in
This file is the covering letter specifically worded for the Attorney-General and includes the full video interview transcripts. I sent this a couple of weeks before any other packs were made up because I hoped for an immediate (or at least timely) positive response on reform action. I received a letter from the Attorney-General’s Senior Policy Advisor Paul Bini, dated 28th May 2007, stating “The Attorney-General has asked me to advise you that he is seeking further information and a full response will be forwarded to you shortly.” No further response has been received from his office.
See full details of the DVD-Video/CD-ROM pack – including covert art and YouTube videos of all six statements at: AOC_June_2007_DVD_CD-ROM_pack.htm
From: John Frame
Ph: 07 3350 1562
To: Attention Mark Biddulph,
The Office of The Attorney-General
Date: 18th May 2007
Thank you for talking with me by phone about two weeks ago. At that time I had called to talk about the DVD project which I had in progress, featuring six statements by reputable people, including Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Susan Booth, who all strongly support urgent reform of our state’s unequal age of consent.
After seven years of corresponding with four Attorneys-General, as well as the Premier, all of whom have either refused or failed to meet with any representative group to discuss the need for this reform, I decided that I would try bringing those representative people to the attention of Parliament via the modern and easily accessible medium of DVD-Video.
The completed project material, including printed transcripts, is enclosed for the attention of the Attorney-General and his advisors.
The project comprises a 2 disc DVD case containing a DVD-Video of the six statements – with an easy to use menu, as well as a CD-ROM which includes transcripts (as Word files), audio files (as CD quality “wav” files) and several other important relevant documents – notably the 15th July 2005 letter from ADCQ Commissioner Susan Booth to then Attorney-General Hon. Rod Welford, in which she gives a more detailed statement recommending urgent reform.
This same package has also been sent to Iain Clacher, editor of the popular local lesbian and gay community magazine Queensland Pride.
A copy of the DVD-Video/CD-ROM has been sent to each of the project’s contributors:
- Susan Booth, Commissioner,
- Paul Martin,
- Shelley Argent, President,
- Rodney Goodbun,
representative, Action Reform Change
- Felix Kellett, 22 year old volunteer announcer, Community Radio 4ZZZ fm
- Tim Klein, Psychologist and Psychotherapist
I will wait a week before sending further copies of the DVD-Video/CD-ROM to mainstream press and to each individual Member of Parliament.
I trust that this project will receive early and favourable attention and I welcome any enquiry.
Complete Transcripts (in order of appearance on the DVD):
Hello, I’m Susan Booth,
The current provisions of the Criminal Code that impose different ages when people can lawfully participate in sexual intercourseare not consistent with the objects of the Anti-Discrimination Act. These laws discriminate on the basis of sexuality.
The Anti-Discrimination Act requires that everyone should be equal before the law – and that includes equal benefit of the law, without discrimination.
I support the removal of the provisions that discriminate against same sex attracted young people.
Susan Booth, Thank you very much.
(end of interview)
Hi my name is Paul Martin. I'm the General Manager of the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (or QAHC) and we're an organisation that promotes the health of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in
Can you tell me how Queensland Association for Healthy Communities might view the current situation with Queensland Criminal Law where there is an unequal age of consent? How do you think that affects the community in general?
Well here at QAHC we can see no rational reason for an unequal age of consent. It doesn't make sense that at sixteen a heterosexual couple can have a child - bring a life into the world - but that same couple can't have anal sex, nor can a same sex couple have anal sex. There's just no rational reason why that's the case. How can having anal sex need more protection than bringing life into the world?
There's no rational reason for it - and it's worse than there being no rational reason, it actually does harm in two ways, from our experience. The first is that it causes confusion amongst particularly gay men themselves - and among lesbian and gay young people more broadly. So many lesbian and gay young people and young gay men think that it is illegal to have sex, of any type, until the age of 18. So that makes them reluctant to come out to nurses, youth health workers or organisations like ours and disclose that they have had sex and seek out safe sex education and information. If young people are concerned that they're going to criminalised or dobbed in or shown to break the law, they're less likely to come forward to get safe sex information, resources and support.
So firstly it causes confusion among gay men themselves.
Secondly, it causes the same kind of confusion for
professionals who work with young people. They're not quite sure what the legal
situation is - they get confused and think that all male to male sex is illegal
until the age of eighteen, and some even believe that it's illegal at any age.
And so they're not sure what type of information they're able to provide young
people and they start questioning "Oh is this a child protection
issue?" and "Can I
start talking to this young person about sexual health?" What tends to happen is that they either say nothing at all or they just refer then on to somebody else - and it might be that that health professional is the only person that the young person feels comfortable approaching. They might have built up a rapport with the youth worker or professional. They maybe worked up to the point of asking that question after weeks or months and the
health professional says "I'm sorry I'm not allowed to talk to you about that" or "That's not something we can talk about". So immediately it gives the young person the impression that "You're doing something wrong" or that "You're wrong". It gives them no safe sex information, no sexual health information, no mental health support and the young person is just left alone - and still has their questions unanswered.
One of the pieces of advice that was given to the 1990 Parliamentary Criminal Justice Committee that was looking at decriminalising homosexual activity was that young people will tend to have sex regardless of the law. Do you find in your dealings with youth that this seems to be true?
I would think it's fair to say that young people - heterosexual and gay and lesbian - don't take a huge amount of notice of what the law says about what's the right age to have sex. It's more the services they need to access if they are having sex. So whether that's going along to a General Practitioner or sexual health clinic to get an SDI check up; whether it's purchasing condoms from a supermarket; whether it's going along to a sexual health and
HIV service and asking for information. They might be having sex and doing that quite happily, but with some questions - but be reluctant to disclose the fact that they're having sex to somebody in authority because of the fear that that person in authority will go "Nup, that's illegal - I'm going to dob you in" (or tell the police or child protection or whatever).
Do you have an opinion at all about the fact that in
I think it's fair to say that there are still some areas of the law that
(end of interview)
My name’s Shelley Argent and I’m the mother of a 30 year old gay male.
I’m President of a support group called PFLAG – which stands for Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays, and is a peer support group for parents who are struggling to understand their child’s or son’s or daughter’s sexual diversity.
In 2006 I received an OAM for my work in the gay community for encouraging understanding and acceptance.
And I’ve also written quite a few booklets – one was for young people who are questioning their sexuality and another one called “Sexuality Is Not A Choice”. That was written for parents who are struggling to understand their child’s sexual diversity and it also hopefully hastens to encourage their understanding and acceptance.
Also too, in 2006, I wrote a information package that was
sent to all the school-based health nurses around
So that’s basically me, and I would like to say that I’m very glad today to be giving my opinion, and PFLAG’s opinion, on equality regarding age of consent.
OK. Could you share with us that opinion?
Well what I’ll do first, if you like, is I’ll just read the general statement that PFLAG parents put out and that is that we believe that the equality regarding age of consent is discriminatory here in
Same sex attracted youth are having underage sex – whether we like to think they are or not – and the problem is it’s without the benefit of legally accessing information to keep them safe.
Health workers also, it’s another issue for them, because health workers are unsure about the legalities and the repercussions regarding providing safe sex information to these young people.
Under-age gay youth are hesitant also to seek the information and have sexual health checks – which is very important, we all know – because of fear of embarrassment. And also too, there’s the issue that if they did get an STI or have some health problem, there’s the fear that they may have to disclose the partner’s name. And then again that has more repercussions because then that person, if they’re over the age of 18 could then be charged with having sex with a minor. And so because the young person doesn’t want to implicate their older partner, if he is older, it puts the young person in a very dangerous position.
Also too, regarding sexual predators and the exploitation of gay youth - with all the research I’ve done over the years, I have found absolutely no proof to suggest that sexual predators are an issue regarding gay youth if the age of consent was lowered.
Equality regarding age of consent also – we believe doesn’t mean that gay youth will become more promiscuous. We believe that it means that they will feel more confident to access reliable information before engaging in a sexual act.
Also too, research shows that if young people are informed properly regarding safe sex activity, they don’t necessarily have sex at an earlier age. Very often they have it later. And also too, if they do have it a young age, which a lot of kids are these days, they have the information and so they do engage in safe sex practices – which keeps them, again, safe.
We also believe that equality regarding the age of consent neither encourages nor promotes homosexuality. And research shows that homosexuality poses no threat to society. We believe that this law, as it presently stands, is not protecting our gay youth and it’s actually endangering their lives.
As a parent who, when my son did “come out” at quite an early age, I – like an awful lot of PFLAG parents – were quite fearful about the issue of safe sex, and HIV and things. And I didn’t have the benefit of even having the child under 18 have the safe sex practices. And I think this is a real issue for a lot of people these days. The parents, they’re all fearful – because as a parent, we don’t know about safe sex with homosexuality, because we’re not homosexuals. So we can’t give our children that information. So they need to be able to go somewhere who can give them that information, keep them safe, and not have the fear that they themselves will get into trouble by providing our young people with safe sex information.
Excellent. So do you also see that it’s important that parents, we would expect, would want to see all their children being equally protected and supported – not just their heterosexual children?
That’s right. No. I mean equality isn’t just for some of our children, it’s for all of our children – and it should be across the board. And we all know that safe sex is a very important thing for everybody, regardless of your age. And also too these days young people, whether they’re straight or gay, are engaging in sexual practices at an earlier age – and our heterosexual young people, they do have the benefit of safe sex education or relationship education, because it’s there in the high schools all the time. But our homosexual or same sex attracted youth, they don’t have that benefit. They’re getting very little information and most of it is negative. And again a lot of the same sex young people, they’ve got low self-esteem because they’re hearing all the time that to be gay or lesbian is bad. And so again, if you’ve low self-esteem you’re not going to look after yourself like you would if you had confidence and you’re not going to have the same respect for your self.
(end of interview)
My name is Rod Goodbun and I’m involved with a group called Action Reform Change
What does your group – what do you understand about the existence of an unequal age of consent in
Well we know that the law in relation to anal sex is different to the law in relation to vaginal sex. With vaginal intercourse, it’s legal to do that at age 16. So people undertaking anal intercourse at age 17 are criminal under the
We can find no policy basis for this. No health basis for this. The only basis one might claim for this different law is a moral one. If it’s a moral argument, then it’s a moral argument around sexuality that really doesn’t stand up to tests on what community values are these days in relation to these issues.
I’ve worked in sexual health for about 18 years now, in a number of capacities – in a voluntary capacity in HIV prevention, as a researcher, as a adult trainer and educator. And I’ve found there’s a really interesting development in the way people think about sexuality over the last 18 years or so.
We’ve become much easier at talking about sexual acts, at thinking about the ways in which sexuality should or should not be regulated, but this area of legislation where anal intercourse is still considered to be, under Queensland law, somehow an extreme activity that needs to be regulated, is out of step with the way in which we think about the rest of the range of sexual behaviours.
It’s interesting that, even though there’s been a lot of information in the public domain about sexuality, about issues like HIV/AIDS, and now hepatitis, there’s still a level of discomfort in talking about the nitty-gritty of sexuality. The language around it is uncomfortable for many people. I think it’s important that we are able to conduct a public debate, to have a public discourse – an informed one, where we’re able to talk about vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse, oral intercourse, and other forms of love and expression, without being squeamish about it. That’s something I think that our organisation, along with HIV/AIDS organizations and Family Planning organisations have been working towards for many, many years.
Action Reform Change
Well if we ask the counter-question “Why should someone be treated differently?” you would have to mount an argument on the basis of health reasons, or reasons related to psychosocial issues, as to why that should be the case. There isn’t any evidence – there simply isn’t any evidence to suggest that one form of sexual expression, i.e. anal intercourse, is more harmful or risky than any other form of sexual intercourse, i.e. vaginal intercourse. There are ways in which both activities can be risky or harmful to people engaged in them. If sex is happening through coercion, if there’s risk of sexual transmission of infections, then obviously that activity can be harmful. But there are ways and means in which society is working to minimise those risks – through education, through promotion of condom use, through promotion of resilience and self-advocacy, and self-esteem and confidence building so that people know what consensual sex is about and how they should ask for it. There are ways in which we’re learning, as a society, to deal with these issues.
Having a differential age of consent for vaginal sex and anal intercourse is really not part of the suite these days. It’s not part of a helpful range of strategies to promote confident young sexually expressive people who can ask for and know what they want.
British comedian Ricky Gervais – I’ve heard him, as part of his stand-up routine, make the comment that, in
Well, I would think if you were to poll young people you’d get a very clear view of what they would like from the lawmakers in relation to their expression and their right to choose. We tend not to ask young people. That’s the question that we could be posing – “What if we asked young people?” or “Why don’t we ask young people what these laws should be about and how they should be constructed?” Young people will advocate when they have the opportunity, but our society – and our political process – tends to lock them out.
So it’s not surprising that you don’t see people marching down the street. In addition to that, these issues are issues where, particularly for young gay or lesbian people – or for people questioning themselves about their sexuality - it’s often not the kind of place where they’re going to undertake that questioning behaviour.
If they’re wondering about their sexual identity, you’re not likely to see them campaigning in front of Parliament House – you’re likely to see them worrying in their bedrooms about what their future is, or perhaps ringing a counselling line. Political expression, political advocacy is something that does tend to come from people who are self-confident and mature and asserting their rights. So no, it’s not surprising that you don’t see young people marching down the street, but I think we should be asking them what they’d like – and I’d be very surprised if they didn’t say they’d like the right to choose.
(end of interview)
My name is Felix Kellett. I’m 22. I’ve been working on 4ZZZ’s community radio station for about 5 or 6 years. I’ll tell you a bit about my personal take on the age of consent and the Sodomy Law of 18.
I wasn’t aware of the laws surrounding the age of consent in regards to anal intercourse until I was about 19 years of age. When I was 16 or 17, I was studying at a local high school in Brisbane - Ferny Grove State High School – which wasn’t exactly the best place to be for a queer youth at that time.
One experience I vividly remember is being in an English class, where we were studying “To Kill A Mockingbird”, of all books. At the time, of course, people wanted to disrupt the class and one of the things they would do would be just to talk about people they’d heard, or wanted, to spread rumours about. So you would have the class interrupted with chants or calls out of “Oh that’s gay, sir” or “Why would you be gay? That’s so stupid.”
And at the time I remember reading a book about intolerance and trying to discuss what had happened fifty, sixty, seventy years ago in America with intolerance of people of colour and at the same time our teacher not being able – or confident – to talk about intolerance when it came to people of different sexual orientation.
Teacher was able to say “Well, you know, one in ten of you will be gay” and I can remember people standing up and saying “Well that’s stupid. No. One in ten of us isn’t gay” and there actually did happen to be ten people in the classroom at that time – and I didn’t feel able to come out in that sort of a situation, because I hadn’t been able to get any kind of reinforcement or knowledge about being gay. I hadn’t been able to access any information in that school at that time. I hadn’t been able to find out really about anything to do with any issue that would affect me with queer sexuality in any of the sex education classes that we’d had.
Later on, being 19, I’d found out that the reason for that was, basically, the age of consent laws. You’re not really able to discuss the things that queer people do, the issues that they have – because it’s all taken to be, in queer sexuality, “What do you imagine queer people do? Well it must only and singly be anal intercourse.” Which isn’t actually the fact.
A concern expressed by health education organisations is that young people aren’t given the inclusiveness in sex education as well as relationships education at school. So did you find this also to be true?
I found it was pretty much a source of ignorance that was going on in the high school environment that I was in at the time. It wasn’t something that was really up for discussion. I don’t think that either the sex educators or the teachers were able to confidently discuss issues that were there at the time in my high school.
One man I remember particularly – I won’t name him, but – he was definitely gay and he could not hide it. He was very effeminate in mannerism and he got a lot of flack from other students in the school. I don’t recall any of the teachers that I had in that school – or any of the students even – being able to stand up and say “Well, leave him alone. It’s OK to be gay. We should try and tolerate people.”
And there was nothing I remember anyone could really refer to – even in Sex Education classes you would hear the speech that “Well, there’s a certain proportion of people that are gay and that it’s OK to be gay” – but you would never hear what gay people are, what they do, why they are gay. Didn’t hear a thing about it. So it was kind of an empty reason people that would hear of why it’s OK to be gay – why it’s OK to have people who are gay as friends. And I don’t think that a lot of those people have ever really found out about gay people in society.
Do you feel that if there was that inclusiveness, saying that it was OK to talk about being gay as part of sexuality education / relationships education, that that would have helped you feel better about yourself at that time?
I think that if teachers and sex educators in my school had been able to confidently talk about people with different sexual orientations, I think there would have been a greater level of discussion around sexual orientation – and I think there would have been better confrontation of the intolerance that was going on in my school at the time.
Honestly, my experiences in late high school were of depression, and I think there were a few other people in my year level, that I know of, that were of the same experience of depression and may have been having the same causes (of that intoleration of different sexual orientation).
Do you know anyone personally who has been severely affected by depression – perhaps by suicide?
By suicide – in a circle of friends outside of the people I met in high school? Yeah, I do know one man who has suicided. He was a good friend. I don’t think he found his experience in his high school much different to that of mine. It’s usually one of silence and just taunts that you get. People will call each other, over the smallest of things, “gay”. If they don’t like something, or something’s bad, or not as good as something else – they won’t even say “Oh I don’t like that” or, if they’re going to swear, say “That’s shit” – they’ll just say “That’s gay”. And you get a constant refrain, day after day, of “That’s gay”, “That’s gay”, “That’s gay”, “This is gay”, “He’s gay” and that’s NOT an environment in which someone can build up self-esteem, at all.
That’s an environment which pushes people into depression, which pushes people into the closet, which pushes people into silence. It’s repression of the worst kind because you’re pushing it onto the people who don’t have the resources to fight back against it - who are stuck in an institution, that is the educational institution, and that institution is supposed to have a responsibility in locutus to protect the people that it’s looking after. I don’t feel, in any sense, that my experiences or the experiences of the man I know who has killed himself were one where that in locutus responsibility has been taken care of.
One of the justifications for installing this higher age for anal intercourse in 1990 was that, by making it an illegal activity with a very heavy penalty, it might stop male youth from considering engaging in anal intercourse at ages 16 and 17. From your experience, do you think that it being against the law had anything to do with your inclination to think about doing anal intercourse?
Well, I was unaware of the age of consent law regarding anal intercourse until I was 19. So my activities in between the age 16 or 17 - when I became sexuality active - and 19, weren’t influenced by that law because I was in ignorance of that law. The vast majority of people who I knew who were the same age when I was 16 to 19, and who I know now who are aged around then, don’t know about the age of consent laws. So it doesn’t influence our activity. What it does influence, for me and what I’ve noticed, is that in high school you don’t learn about safe sex when it comes to penetrative gay sex. You don’t know the differences between what can keep you safe, if you are inclined to heterosexual penetrative or homosexual penetrative sex – and there IS a difference. It’s not simply one of “Well, this is what you do male and female” and “This is what you do male to male” or even if you’re doing anal intercourse male to female, there are different techniques – and if you could learn them in safe sex I think not only would young people be a lot less endangered by STI’s, they’d probably have a lot less painful experiences, I think, coming round to their first sexual experiences.
(end of interview)
My name is Tim Klein. I’m a registered psychologist and I’m a psychotherapist. I have qualifications in both psychology and psychotherapy as well as in youth work and I’ve been working in the field for about 20 years.
A lot of my work has involved working with issues of sexuality amongst same sex attracted young people as well as same sex attracted adults. And just to fill in my background a bit – this has included being involved in doing a lot of counselling and therapy with same sex attracted young men and women, and same sex attracted adults and their families, as well as being involved in organising one of the first conferences that looked at issues of suicide and self-harm among same sex attracted young people. In the second conference it looked at issues of addressing homophobia in the school system. As well as that I’ve done extensive training with youth workers, human service workers etcetera in South East Queensland regarding best practice around working with same sex attracted young people.
So it’s an area I feel quite passionate about.
So that’s my background. In terms of the unequal age of consent, the bottom line is that it’s another piece of discrimination.
Many, many years ago when I was in a position of first starting to train workers in regards to working with same sex attracted young people, I spent quite a bit of time trying to distill a lot of the research that I was coming across in how socialisation worked in our culture – and the words I ended up with were that, in essence, how society teaches young people three things:
- They teach people that they need to be heterosexual
- They teach people that they shouldn’t be homosexual
- and the don’t teach people about being a homosexual.
So you’ve got your blatant heterosexism, and all the models around heterosexuality – which a lot of heterosexuals have to find their way out of anyway, because they’re quite rigid. And then you’ve got the overt homophobia of “You shouldn’t be gay” and all the things that are wrong with that. And then there’s the covert homophobia, which is where young people aren’t presented with positive role models of adult gays and lesbians. There’s a whole silence around the reality of being gay.
Now, those three things work together quite well and are oppressive for everyone in our culture. There’s quite huge links, particularly in Australian culture, between homophobia and the construction in particular of masculine identity – in that basically guys learn form an early age that you prove that you’re a real man by proving that you’re not a poofter. And that’s quite oppressive for straight men – all the bits of themselves that they have to cut off to fit into that tiny little box. So those three things that people are taught that I was referring to– they’re oppressive for everyone. But for people who are actually same sex attracted – people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual – it’s actually a source of trauma and as far as I’m concerned it’s actually a form of systemic abuse.
I’ve been saying this for about ten years now, that this is a form of systemic abuse, and I think what the research is showing more and more is that, yes, it is a form of abuse and the impact of that abuse, the research around that is starting to come out more and more.
I know when I first starting saying it to other therapists and other human service workers back in the mid-nineties, referring to this socialisation as a form of abuse actually got some responses of “Oh god! How can you use that word? That’s a bit strong isn’t it?” Now when I talk about it there is no response like that – there’s actually, it seems to me, there’s a growing realisation particularly amongst the sector that I work in that, yes, this is a form of abuse.
Now, it’s a form of systemic abuse. It can exacerbated by what might happen in an individual’s particular family or particular school, but it’s systemic in that it’s across the culture. When we look at the laws in our culture, those laws support that systemic abuse - the laws regarding same sex marriage, civil unions, laws regarding superannuation etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. But then, here in Queensland, when we look at the age of consent – that’s another example of where you’ve got legislation that not only supports, but is part of that systemic abuse of same sex attracted young people - that very clearly gives out the message of “You’re not equal”. And if you’re not equal, then you’re less than – it’s that you’re better than, you’re less than.
The Government actually says that this issue – the unequal age of consent – is something that they don’t have to pay particular attention to, because they consider it to just be a “vexed” issue – that there are strongly held opinions for and against. But would you consider that the psychological welfare of youth is such that they should be paying much more attention to this issue?
Well it’s an issue of discrimination. The bottom line is that it’s an issue of discrimination. So that means that same sex attracted young people do not have the same rights as opposite sex attracted young people. I mean for that alone it needs to be paid attention to – it needs to be addressed.
You’ve pointed out that the lack of acceptance that’s already existent within our society for same sex attracted youth, as they’re evolving through their teenage years, that that actually constitutes a form of abuse. So would you expect then that if the law was changed, the age of consent was made equal at 16 for everybody for all sexual activities, that that would then enable youth to have a better chance of developing to be people with greater self-esteem, with greater respect for others?
I think it is part of it. It’s an important part of it and it’s only one part of it – and it’s a part of it that needs to change. I mean what the research shows is that for an individual that is same sex attracted, all other things in their life being equal, the development of a positive sexual identity represents a form of developmental crisis - kind of like a speed bump that they have to go over. And once that’s actually resolved, the mental health of same sex attracted people is pretty much on par with the mental health of heterosexual people – once they can get over that speed bump.
Now, things like the unequal age of consent. Things like same sex couples not having the same rights regarding their relationships. These are the things that make getting over that speed bump more difficult – and also that means that once you’ve got over that speed bump, yes, you may have developed a positive sexual identity, but it still means that you’re in a situation where you don’t have the same rights as your heterosexual counterparts. And that discrimination and the message of inferiority, the message of lack of acceptance, the message of contempt, that those lack of equal rights give, that can then have ongoing psychological impacts on same sex attracted individuals.
(end of interview)