The non-consensual removal of a condom during sex, known as stealthing, has now been made a crime in the ACT – the first Australian state or territory to do so.
While stealthing is already covered under existing law, the new laws, which passed in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday, will expressly identify the act as one of sexual assault. The new law also covers not using a condom at all after consent has been given.
The Bill was brought forward by Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee, who called the act “traumatic” and “appalling”.
When she introduced the Bill in April, Ms Lee quoted a joint study by the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre and Monash University that found out of 2000 people, a “staggering” one in three woman, and nearly one in five men who have sex with other men, reported being victims of stealthing.
“Stealthing is a traumatic thing for any person to go through and I am very proud that the ACT has passed nation-leading reforms to specifically criminalise this heinous act,” Ms Lee said.
Ms Lee told the Legislative Assembly that she had been contacted by people who had experienced stealthing and were “unsure or aghast” that the laws did not reflect the sentiment that it was a “heinous act”.
“Stealthing is an appalling thing to do to anyone … It violates bodily autonomy in the most intimate of moments and victims have spoken about the impact that it has on their ability to trust people,” she said.
Ms Lee said there had been a stealthing case before the Victorian courts for more than two years and the victim “is still without a result”.
“We cannot wait for cases to come before courts before stealthing is specifically outlawed – we need to act proactively and send a clear message to the community that this behaviour is unacceptable and a crime,” she said.
“I am under no delusion that legislation alone will stop stealthing from happening, but it is a step in the right direction and, along with public awareness and education, I am confident that we can work together to stamp out this act.”
Ms Lee said she hoped the legislation would motivate other states and territories to review their laws and bring forward their own reforms to specifically criminalise stealthing.
Women’s safety advocate Brittany Higgins took to Twitter to congratulate the ACT government on passing the legislation.
“This Bill is an important step in demonstrating that Australia will no longer tolerate sexual assault in any form,” she said.
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