Australia’s Queensland has finally made a move to standardize the age of consent for anal sex, with Labor looking to end one of the last legal discriminations against the state's homosexual community.
Queensland remains the only state to differentiate between vaginal and anal sex in legislation.
Queensland's consent laws hark back to the state's discriminatory past towards its LGBTIA community. Up until 1990 homosexuality was illegal in Queensland and the Joh Bjelke-Petersen Government tried to keep it that way. Photo: Fairfax Media
For all other intercourse other than anal, the age of consent is 16. Anal intercourse, which is still referred to as the biblical name of sodomy in the law books, is not legal until 18.
The law has had wider implications, with young teenagers, particularly gay men, unable to receive advice about the act until they were over 18.
Health Minister Cameron Dick said an expert health panel charged with investigating the law's impact found that young people "felt compelled" to withhold information about their sexual history from health workers "for fear of possible legal consequences" whether for themselves or their partner.
It's one of the last bastions of Queensland's discriminatory past towards its LGBTIA community, which began before Federation. Homosexuality remained illegal in the sunshine state until 1990, when the Goss Government overturned the law that the Joh Bjelke-Petersen Government had encouraged police to uphold.
Mr Dick made mention of the five Roma men who were charged under the homosexuality laws in the dying days of the 1989 National Party Government.
"It should be noted that during the 1989 election, the National Party Premier of the time, Russell Cooper, said that the Australia Labor Party's policy of decriminalisation of homosexuality would, as he put it, 'send a flood of gays crossing the border from the southern states'."
But the Goss Government, while decriminalising homosexuality, introduced an anal intercourse law which set the age of consent at 18.
Mr Dick said it was time Queensland caught up with society.
"Queensland cannot continue to discriminate between forms of sexual intercourse, particularly when we know young people felt compelled to withhold information about their sexual history from health practitioners for fear of possible legal consequences for themselves or their partner," he told Parliament.
"This can have serious implications for their medical treatment, particularly as unprotected anal intercourse is the highest risk behaviour for transmission of HIV. It also has the effect of stigmatising same-sex relationships, which in itself can be harmful for an individual's well being."
The Bill not only seeks to standardise the age of consent at 16, but also omit the offence of sodomy from the criminal code "and make further consequential amendments to ensure that the concept of carnal knowledge used in the Code is extended to include anal intercourse".
"The expert panel also advised they consider using terms such as sodomy in the criminal code may stigmatise this form of sexual activity, and homosexual relationships in particular.
"The Government has acted on this recommendation, removing archaic references to 'sodomy', and instead referring to 'anal intercourse'.
"For too long, debate about sexual practise has focused on criminal and moral considerations.
"By including this information amendment in a Health Bill, the Palaszczuk Government is sending an important message - public policy debate about lawful sexual practices should be focused - first and foremost - on improving the sexual health and wellbeing of Queenslanders."
The bill has been sent to a parliamentary committee for review. The government is also working through ways to expunge the record of those found guilty under the state’s historic homosexuality laws, for consensual acts and has made the first legislative moves to remove Homosexual Advance Defense - also known as 'gay panic' as a provocation defense.