The Queensland government has finally equalised the state’s ages of consent laws to correct a decades-old discrepancy that discriminated against young gay men.
Under the previous laws, the age of consent for vaginal sex was 16 but anal sex, which was still referred to as “sodomy” in the Criminal Code, was illegal until a person was 18.
The Palaszczuk government on Thursday evening passed an amendment that standardises the age of consent for all lawful sexual activity at 16 and replaces the archaic term “sodomy” with “anal intercourse”.
Health Minister Cameron Dick (pictured) said a panel of health experts found standardising the age of consent would improve sexual health outcomes because the unequal ages “may lead to people feeling compelled to withhold information about their sexual history from health practitioners.”
“This may be because they fear possible legal consequences for themselves or their partner,” he said.
“Withholding this information could have serious implications for a young person’s medical treatment, particularly as unprotected anal intercourse is the highest-risk behaviour for transmission of HIV.”
— Cameron Dick (@camerondickqld) September 15, 2016
Opposition MP John-Paul Langbroek told parliament the amendment “creates consistent laws across the state” and encourages equality “not only practically, but textually” with the removal of the word “sodomy”.
The legislation also finally catches Queensland up with all other Australian states and territories in which the age of consent is equal for all lawful sexual acts.
Many Queensland LGBTIQ activists and health practitioners who have lobbied for decades on the issue watched the legislation being passed from the public gallery.
Queensland AIDS Council Executive Director Michael Scott welcomed the reform because “it is imperative to remove any barrier to access of healthcare for all people.”
Dr Wendell Rosevear from Stonewall Medical Centre has campaigned for many years and said “to legislate for the equal age of consent for sexual activity reflects the equal value of all people.”
“It will help in HIV and sexually transmitted disease prevention education if all people above the age of 16 could have access to knowledge about sexually transmitted diseases and HIV through anal sex,” he said.
“It is vital that sexually active people above the age of 16 can talk freely to their doctors without feeling that they are breaking the law through their activity.”