A community resource of accurate information, opinion and references regarding the discriminatory “Sodomy Law” which is Section 208 of the Queensland Criminal Code. This law places Australia among the worst nations in the world for the criminalisation of homosexual activity.
This page and the associated links constitute a detailed resource regarding the need for Equity in Age Of Consent and Legal Sexual Activity for the State of Queensland, Australia. This campaign commenced in March 2000, calling for removal of our state's 1990 “Sodomy Law” which defines anal sex (often presumed to define “homosexual sex”) as being a criminal activity for any person aged under 18, as well as for their sexual partner. The Courts do accept “Consent” as a defense. The Sodomy Law section of the Criminal Code provides absolutely no added protection for youth, and in fact it acts solely to reinforce homophobic oppression of same sex attracted male youth by tainting them as being likely criminals, while also obstructing the delivery of vital safe sex education. All evidence is that youth engage in sexual activity regardless of the law, and that male youths engage in sex more frequently, and at a younger age, than females do. The aim of seeking a truly equal age of consent at 16 is to enable equal legal protection, societal support and community acceptance of all youth - regardless of their gender or their sexual orientation. Since 2003 Queensland has been the only region in Australia without as truly equal age of consent. The age of consent is truly equal at 16 in New South Wales, Victoria, West Australia, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory – and at 17 in Tasmania and South Australia.
Sadly even a few high profile Australian LGBT activists have carelessly made statements which perpetuate the myth that Australia no longer has any laws against homosexuality. On 11th April 2014 Rodney Croome made such a statement in his article for “New Matilda” – and that same day I posted the following correction: “This is a very fine article by Rodney Croome, however the second paragraph is only partly accurate in stating that Tasmania "was the last Australian state to criminalise homosexuality, which had a maximum penalty of 21 years in gaol." This is because Queensland definitely still criminalises homosexuality, by criminalising homosexual activity ("sodomy" - anal intercourse) with a maximum penalty of 14 years (not 21). The discriminatory "Sodomy Law", Section 208 of the Criminal Code, applies to 16 and 17 year olds who engage in "sodomy", as well as to any of their partners aged 18 or over. "Consent" is not accepted as a defense in Court. If a school counsellor or principal is aware that one of their students of this age is involved in sodomy, then they are obliged by Queensland Education Department rules to report the matter directly to Police. The Australian public needs to be consistently reminded that our nation has not yet fixed all of its laws which criminalise homosexuality. The landmark Toonen vs Australia case was a key argument quoted by Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Susan Booth in her 15th July 2005 letter to Labor Attorney-General Rod Welford in which she called for reform of the Sodomy Law to allow the basic right of a truly equal age of consent. True equality in age of consent exists outside of Queensland at 17 in Tasmania and South Australia and at 16 elsewhere. The most recent jurisdictions to enact an equal age of consent were New South Wales and the Northern Territory in 2003, when they removed a higher minimum age of 18 for male to male sex.”
Please note that throughout this document, and in any linked files, the "Queensland AIDS Council" and “Queensland Association for Healthy Communities” are names for the exact same group. The community funded group was established in 1984 as “The Queensland AIDS Council” and still uses that name today. Between June 2006 and late 2013 they were known as the “Queensland Association for Healthy Communities”. The Queensland AIDS Council website URL is www.quac.org.au .
Click the following bookmarks to go to related details within this page:
- The Proposal for equal age of consent reform
- Main reasons for enacting a truly equal age of consent
- More reasons for enacting a truly equal age of consent
- Evidence in support of an equal age of consent
- Media coverage (newspapers and radio)
- The Sodomy Law worsened rather than deleted in October 2008
- A Brief Overview of the
- Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commissioner supports reform
- DVD/CD-ROM information pack sent to all Members of Parliament in June 2007
- Premier Anna Bligh evades honest discussion on the Madonna King show ABC612 Oct/Nov 2007
- Parliamentary “E-Petition” July 2005 signed by 740
- Definition and Prosecution
- Former Premier Peter Beattie’s full awareness that the Sodomy Law should never have been enacted
A statement of support for equal age of consent reform in Queensland
by Paul Martin, Principal Psychologist, Centre for Human Potential, Brisbane
Excerpt: “I am a psychologist with over 25 years experience specializing in mental health in LGBTI populations. I run a practice which sees many young same sex attracted people and am actively involved in PFLAG where I spend much time with parents of same sex attracted young people. I have worked with parents who have lost their child to suicide as a result of their conflicts around being same sex attracted and young people who were close to dying as a result of suicide attempts. These are extremely vulnerable segments of Australia’s young population. Clinical and research evidence strongly suggests that the Queensland Sodomy Law which sets a higher minimum age of 18 for anal intercourse not only exposes many of them (any person who engages in anal intercourse) and any of their sexual partners to criminal prosecution, but also causes psychological harm and increases risks of negative outcomes including suicide.”
Paul’s conclusion is that: “Whilst the Premier’s ‘It Gets Better’ video would have had a positive impact on the mental health of some same sex attracted youth, the impact may be largely negated by her refusal to change discrimination in the Sodomy Law. This law quite clearly causes psychological harm and it is imperative that our Premier acts urgently to change this for the sake of the most vulnerable youth in Queensland.”
(13 minute, 320kps stereo, 30mb mp3 of the original podcast used by kind permission) (aired 11:30am Brisbane Time, Friday 2nd December 2011).
Queensland’s age of consent is 16, however “sodomy” (a penis entering an anus, or the attempt to do so) involving any person aged under 18, is a criminal offence under the "sodomy law" (Section 208 of the Criminal Code 1899) and is punishable with up to 14 years imprisonment. Queensland is the only state or territory in Australia which does not have a truly equal age of consent (equal at 16 in West Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, and at 17 in Tasmania and South Australia.)
So why hasn’t equal age of consent reform been enacted yet? The main problem was that the Queensland Labor Government’s administration – i.e. their Premiers Beattie and Bligh and their last six Attorneys-General, from Matt Foley to Paul Lucas, all apparently cared more about the risk of losing a few votes than they cared about the health and well being of our state’s youth. Support for equality in laws related to age of consent had been written into Queensland Labor’s Policy Platform for many years – so there’s no legitimate excuse for their inaction. Strong resolutions of support for equal age of consent reform had been confirmed in 2010 and 2011 among many branches of the Queensland Labor Party, however the matter was not made an agenda item at their party’s 2011 State Conference.
Another big problem is the dire lack of organised community activism to push for reform. In every other state and territory LGBT groups and community legal services gave due priority to the issue of equal age of consent reform and they fought determinedly to make it happen. LGBT representative groups in Queensland tended to place this issue well down on their list of priorities and it has rarely even been mentioned in their media opportunities or press releases. The Northern Territory’s 2003 case for reform was actioned by the Darwin Community Legal Service, however our Caxton Street Legal Service have advised that they have neither the staff nor the finances to take any action. In June 2010 the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties officially declared its support for reform (emailed pdf letter) and that’s a very important fact to note.
The third problem is that mainstream media, except for local radio ABC612 and national youth network TripleJ, continue to treat this as a “non-issue”. The editor of Queensland’s sole statewide tabloid, The Courier Mail, has flatly refused to publish a feature - even when a very fine article was submitted by one of the paper’s own senior staff.
Photo by Mark Tedeschi QC
3rd February 2010 statement by Hon. Michael D. Kirby AC CMG:
Read: “Unequal Laws Affecting Homosexual Citizens In Queensland” (pdf file, 40k)
· Excerpt: “It is time that this last relic of criminal legal discrimination was removed in Queensland. It is a hangover from earlier, ignorant and prejudiced days. It exposes homosexual youth in Queensland to grave differential criminal penalties; potential harassment; and impedes effective strategies to respond in Queensland to the risks of HIV and AIDS in young people. All of the reasons given for the noteworthy decision of the Indian judges apply here. What India and the rest of Australia have already done, Queenslanders should now do by parliamentary action. It is a basic matter of equality of citizenship.”
Michael Kirby retired in February 2009 as a Justice of the High Court of Australia, where he served for 13 years. He is perhaps Australia’s most well known and respected openly gay man and he has been a lifelong active advocate for true equity for all.
Visit Michael’s own site at: http://www.michaelkirby.com.au/
On 8th July 2010 John Frame was in the audience for the "In Conversation with Michael Kirby" event at State Library of Queensland and in Question Time asked Michael to comment on equal age of consent reform. The event was recorded and broadcast 15th July 2010 by Radio National. Hear that question and answer as a 2m 26s excerpt (2mb mp3).
In 2011 Michael Kirby wrote an article titled “THE SODOMY OFFENCE: ENGLAND’S LEAST
” for the inaugural issue of the “ASSOCIATION OF COMMONWEALTH CRIMINAL LAWYERS - JOURNAL OF COMMONWEALTH CRIMINAL LAW”. His abstract for that article is:
· “This article describes the influence of the British Empire on the intercontinental spread of the criminal offences involving adult, private, consensual same-sex activity. It describes the origins of the crimes in Judeo-Christian scriptures and early English common law and statutory offences. The nineteenth century moves for criminal law codification in Europe succeeded in abolishing such offence. They were not a feature of other European empires. However, although codification of criminal law failed in England, five template codes exported the sodomy and other offences to every land ruled by Britain. In 41 of the 53 Commonwealth countries, the offences remain in force. The article describes how they were (often reluctantly) repealed by legislation between 1967-97 in the older dominions. Repeal in newer Commonwealth countries has been slow or non-existent. The author describes new developments that give hope for progress, including the Naz Foundation Case in India (2009) and the recent moves in the United Nations and elsewhere to foster legislative and judicial removal of this unlovely legacy of Empire.”
8th October 2010 statement of support by Peter Tatchell - Australian-born, UK-based human rights and LGBT rights campaigner:
"In a democratic society, everyone should be equal before the law. There is no moral or medical justification for having a higher age of consent for anal intercourse. Even though some heterosexuals have anal sex, this unequal age of consent is, in essence, a de facto discrimination against gay and bisexual men. The best way to protect against HIV is education about safer sex, not arbitrary and discriminatory laws that predominantly penalise the gay and bisexual communities."
- Peter Tatchell
That Queensland's Criminal Code be amended to be in line with every other Australian State and Territory through the enactment of a truly equal age of consent to sexual activity, in order to enable equity in the protection and support of all youth regardless of their gender or their sexual orientation.
Reasons for Equal Age Of Consent Reform in
The 1990 PCJC Report on Reforms in laws Related to Homosexuality is at:
The Report "Sexual Offences Against The Person" published May 1999 by the Model Criminal Code Officers Committee of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. The pdf of the report is at:
and that file is found via the Model Criminal Code listing at:
The La Trobe University 2005 Research Report "Writing Themselves In Again: The 2nd national report on the sexual health & well-being of same sex attracted young people in Australia" pdf file is at:
and that file is found via the list at:
Paul Martin, Manager of the Queensland AIDS Council (then known as Queensland Association for Healthy Communities) issued a 3rd February 2005 press release declaring that "The current law causes confusion amongst many in the community who believe that all sex between men is illegal before the age of 18" said Paul R Martin of the Queensland AIDS Council. "We are concerned that young people who are sexually active are reluctant to come forward to access sexual health services and receive sex & relationships education for fear of being prosecuted". Mr Martin went on to say "There is no legitimate reason why the age at which young men and women can have vaginal sex, which may result in child birth, should be any different from the age at which people can legally have anal sex. The current law does nothing to protect young people, on the contrary it criminalises young people who choose to have anal sex".
October 2008: Qld's "Sodomy Law" was worsened rather than deleted by Attorney General Kerry Shine in October 2008
An October 2008 amendment to the Criminal Code Sections 208 and 209 had actually worsened the effect of the "sodomy law". Section 209 - attempting to engage in sodomy - was deleted and the wording was incorporated into Section 208, which meant that the penalty for attempting sodomy had been doubled from a maximum of 7 to 14 years.
Attorney-General Kerry Shine actually reviewed the Sodomy Law element of the Criminal Code and yet decided to make it worse, when he was personally well aware that the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commissioner had recommended 3 years earlier that it be deleted altogether and she had reminded him, in person, just a year earlier that she was definitely serious about the need for that reform.
The Criminal Code and Other Acts Amendment Act 2008 Act No. 55 of 2008 (assented to 23rd October 2008):
The current version of the Qld Criminal Code is at:
DVD-Video and CD-ROM package “6 Statements of Support for Equal Age Of Consent Reform in Queensland” posted to all MP’s June 2007:
Click the individual
photos below to choose either YouTube video or transcripts of each of these statements of strong support for
equal age of consent reform in
Since early 2000, when I started to actively pursue this reform, the Premier and various Attorneys-General have all either refused or failed to meet with a representative group in order to discuss the matter. So I decided to bring the people to Parliament via the medium of DVD-Video (with transcripts and audio on an accompanying CD-ROM).
I produced the project between February and May 2007 and during
June the DVD-Video and CD-ROM package entitled “6 Statements of Support
for Equal Age Of Consent Reform in Queensland” was sent to each individual
The CD-ROM contains audio versions of the statements, transcripts and also selected relevant documents (including Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Susan Booth’s 15th July 2005 letter to Attorney-General Rod Welford).
Premier Peter Beattie’s written response was that he is continuing to leave the decision on this matter with the Attorney-General (despite Mr. Beattie’s personal 1990 statement that he supported an equal age of consent).
The Attorney-General’s 22nd June 2007 response merely re-affirmed the Beattie Government’s ongoing refusal to make any commitment to this reform (while offering no justification for this decision).
The June 2007 edition of
(click the image for full text plus link to a full size jpg of the article)
In my home
Even though the law applies to "any person" (both men and women) it is clear that the intent of the 1990 law was to discourage young men from doing male to male sex. It was passed in the same Bill which otherwise "decriminalised" sex between men. The lawmakers deliberately used the term "decriminalised" in the legislation to make it very clear that the administration was not inferring any approval of homosexual activity just because they happened to be changing the law. The Goss Labor government of the time had the clear numbers to force any law through, but the Sodomy Law was included in order to placate its own gay-hating conservative Members. All debate in Parliament was about whether homosexual law reform should happen at all. In fact the Sodomy Law has never been debated in Parliament, nor has it ever been officially explained to the public.
I got involved in seeking sodomy law reform when, on 19th February 2000, our only state-wide newspaper (The Courier Mail) published a full page article headed ">Reasonable Age - Will lowering the age of consent for homosexual sex open the floodgates to paedophilia?" The article's author clearly thought the answer was "YES!". She dangerously misrepresented the truth of the law by suggesting that ALL male to male sex was illegal under 18 years. I phoned and wrote to the paper and they refused to print a correction or retraction. When I spoke with other people about this I was shocked to find that about 80% (whether straight or gay) did not understand the law.
Since 2000 I've had a constant stream of correspondence and phone calls with our state government's Premier and several Attorneys-General, I've organised rallies and meetings, written articles and done radio interviews. 740 citizens joined a Parliamentary E-petition and our Anti-Discrimination Commissioner even wrote stating that the law should be reformed. All this has been to no avail. The Premier simply refuses to budge on reform - even though former Premier Peter Beattie actually Chaired the 1990 all-party Parliamentary Committee which Reported on homosexual law reform. In that Report Mr Beattie declared his personal support for the majority Recommendation to enact an equal age of consent.
The Premier and the Attorney-General persist in offering, without qualification, the following inadequate statement to justify their ongoing inaction on reform: “The issue of the age of consent is a vexed one and one in which there are deeply held and opposing views.”
Both the Premier and the Attorney-General have refused to meet with a representative community group to discuss the need for an equal age of consent – and they continue to ignore the July 2005 recommendation for reform by the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commissioner.
Queensland Government Parliamentary E-Petition (Number 421-05) for Criminal Code Law Reform went online on 1st February 2005, sponsored by Simon Finn, MP for Yeerongpilly, with the wording:
TO: The Honourable the Speaker and Members of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland
citizens draws to the attention of the House the current Queensland Criminal
Code discriminates against 16
E-petition was open only to citizens of
On 22nd March 2006 an Official Ministerial Response was posted by Queensland Attorney General Linda Lavarch. The Attorney General’s entirely unsatisfactory response acknowledges the negative aspects of the current law, but she advises that the Government will not enact reform because “The issue of the age of consent is a vexed one and one in which there are deeply held and opposing views.” It seems clear from this statement that the Beattie Government cared more about the risk of losing votes than it cared about the health and well-being of youth.
In preceding weeks the Courier Mail had reported that Peter Beattie was actively negotiating with the conservative religious Family First Party to secure preference deals for the upcoming state election (hoping to split the conservative vote). Successive polls had shown the Nationals to be almost certain to win at the 2006 election (NB: Labor retained power – at least until the 2012 election). Nationals Leader Lawrence Springborg has clearly stated that they will not support an equal age of consent.
On 15th July 2005
The Commissioner concludes by stating that “It is now imperative that
Queensland’s age of consent is 16, but anal intercourse (“sodomy”) involving any person aged under 18 is a criminal offence under the "sodomy law" (Section 208 of the Criminal Code 1899) - punishable with up to 14 years imprisonment.
Definition of “sodomy”: "Under
How is the Sodomy Law prosecuted in
for the judiciary are contained in the QUEENSLAND SUPREME AND DISTRICT COURTS BENCHBOOK on pages 148, 149 and
150. It is important to note
Mr Beattie was Chairman of the Parliamentary Criminal Justice Committee (PCJC) which conducted community consultation and delivered a detailed Report to Parliament in October 1990. In the PCJC Report he clearly declares his personal support for the Committee’s first 8 recommendations, of which “RECOMMENDATION 7” is “THE COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS THAT THE AGE OF CONSENT FOR HOMOSEXUAL ACTS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PRINCIPLES OF SEXUAL EQUALITY AND ANTI-DISCRIMINATION BE THE SAME FOR MALES AS IT IS FOR FEMALES, IRRESPECTIVE OF WHETHER THE SEXUAL ACT IS HETEROSEXUAL OR HOMOSEXUAL.” There is no official record of the reason why, but this recommendation was ignored in the Bill which was introduced to Parliament in November 1990 - a Bill which included a higher age for anal intercourse - a Sodomy Law.
Premier Beattie also knew that the Sodomy Law directly placed 16 and 17 year olds at increased risk of HIV by impeding safe sex information. His PCJC Report states on page 49:
"The Committee was of the view that the professional advice put before it concludes the following:-
1. Sexual orientation is most likely determined early and while the age is not determinable it is most likely before puberty.
2. Once sexual orientation is determined it is very difficult if not impossible to change.
3. The law regardless of whether it makes homosexual sex between consenting males in private legal or not has little impact or no impact on the practice of homosexuality in private. Its impact is in relation to whether safe sex is practiced and whether the community is susceptible to particular AIDS education programs.
4. The evidence seems to suggest that homosexual orientation is not a matter over which homosexuals have any control in the same way heterosexuals have no control over their sexual orientation."
The Queensland Government continues to advise that it does not have any plans to change the existing legislation.
Contact the Premier and the Attorney-General:
It will be of immense value for you to write your own letter to The Premier and to the Attorney- General (see contact details below) with a copy to your local Member of Parliament. Tell them how you feel about the inequity inherent in the Sodomy Law (Sections 208 & 209 of the Criminal Code) and how it adversely affects your life or that of your family and friends. Ask for prompt action on reform. Be sure to give your name and address so they know that your letter is genuine and so they can send you a reply. Please consider sending me a copy. Post or email the Premier and Attorney-General at:
Hon. Anna Bligh MP, Premier of
details for all current
All Media Coverage:
27th Feb 2009 A recent Queensland Pride Magazine online article inspired ABC Toowong journalist Kaitlyn Sawrey to record an interview at my home for use as a discussion topic on Triple-J's "The Hack" program. That same night they ran the topic as the show's "Shake Up" panel discussion - here's a link to an mp3 of that segment 11 minutes 38 seconds (64kps mono mp3, 5mb) I'm extremely glad that Tommy Murphy (stageplay writer/director of Tim Conigrave's "Holding The Man") was on the panel. Tommy makes very good sense - making up for the regressive comments by conservative christian gay journo John Heard.
(click the image for the full text plus link to a full size jpg of the article)
Nov 2006 Courier Mail
article by feature writer Jane Fynes-Clinton. In this concise yet accurately detailed
feature, especially written for World AIDS Day, Jane connects many of the more
important issues related to Queensland’s unequal age of consent – including
that the current law places youth at increased risk of HIV infection. She personalises the story with bookended references to Keith
Phillips, an openly gay year 10 student at Alexandra Hills State High in
20th June 2005 9:20am, ABC 612 Local Radio: Steve Austin interviewed John Frame for 8 minutes (64kps mono mp3, 3mb) regarding the need for Sodomy Law Reform - including mention of the Parliamentary E-petition and the fact that the Northern Territory Labor Government had been returned in the preceding weekend's election with a greatly increased majority (and they had reformed their Sodomy Law in the most recent term of office). The ABC received no calls at all in regard to the interview - a sign that the thinking public is very comfortable with the need for reform.
10th March 2005 “ON LINE opinion” forum article by Rose Cooper on age of consent: http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=3094 . John Frame’s comments were posted under the tag EqualRightsActivist:
“Rose raises many good
points - regardless of any nit-picking in regard to her grammar. It is
especially important that she points out that there should be no difference in
the protection and support afforded to youth of any gender (male/female/intergender) at the age of consent. Anyone with an honest
and open mind and with even a smidgen of life experience must know that same
gender attraction is
The term "homosexual lifestyle" is as uselessly definitive as "religious fanatic" - but one certainly makes a choice when embracing extremes of fashion or displaying wanton bigotry.
The legal age of consent should be the benchmark for all youth to have access to all information and support that they might reasonably need in order to protect their sexual health as well as their emotional health. All youth should have equal support and protection at the same age. In
Attorney General Rod Welford will tell you that the Sodomy Law is not discriminatory, because it applies to all persons, whether they are male or female – but the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commissioner says that it is equally wrong that the law discriminates against 16 and 17 year olds. Unfortunately she cannot force reform of State laws and the Beattie Government seems content to let youth remain at risk while they maintain a vote-winning veneer of Bjelke-Petersen style conservatism.”
27th Feb 2005 Brisbane’s monthly LGBT street press Queensland Pride publishes an article in their March edition reporting on the 14th February “Love In For Love Equality”. For full article text click here.
21st Feb 2005 The Los Angeles based, half-hour weekly, internationally distributed lesbian & gay radio magazine This Way Out included news coverage of the 14th February 2005 “Love In for Love Equality” and also included a 6 minute edit of representative voxpops recorded on that day by John Frame. For full details of this This Way Out program click here.
16th Feb 2005 The Queer Radio program on 4ZZZ Brisbane airs over 30 minutes of voxpops recorded at the 14th February Love In For Love Equality – we heard from representatives of the Queensland AIDS Council (Paul Martin, Brisbane Parents Family & Friends of Lesbians And Gays, University of Queensland Sexuality Collective, University of Southern Queensland queer student group “USQ-Plus”, Brisbane LGBT youth service “Open Doors” and Toowoomba’s LGBT social group “The Silver Wheat Society”. HEAR all nine “voxpop” recordings as 128kps stereo mp3’s.
Feb 2005 – approx 5:45pm
The ABC’s national youth radio network Triple-J's "The
Hack" program aired a 6 minute interview
(128kps stereo mp3, 6mb) on the
need for reform of the Queensland Sodomy Law. Steve Cannane, Sydney-based presenter of the “Hack” program, spoke
by phone earlier in the day with John Frame from the ABC’s
14th Feb 2005 CLICK HERE for PRESS RELEASE re success of Love In For Love Equality (13th Feb ’05)
2003 A fine
article titled “Sodomy” by Rodney Polkinghorne
was printed in the September 2003 “Queer Edition” of Semper Floreat
– the monthly magazine published by the
YouTube video of John Frame as a
guest speaker of the Queensland Association
for Healthy Communities at their 4th June 2008 Pride Campaign launch at
Linked to the buttons below are: Details of the current