Australian law makes sexual consent explicitly verbal

If you want to have sex you now have to ask for it loud and clear and get a verbal “yes” back under new reforms announced by the New South Wales government in Australia. NSW is a state on the west coast of Australia and Sydney is its capital.

Sexual consent is at the core of the state’s first strategy against sexual assault released on Friday, which will focus on raising awareness about consent, as well as protecting victims and preventing sexual harassment in workplaces and universities.

Under the package, a new $1 million advertising campaign will teach people how to “obtain a clear yes.” Young adults, in particular, will be targeted in pubs, bars, clubs and universities and via social media, with messages like “no means no” and ­“silence is not a yes.”

Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Minister Pru Goward told the Daily Telegraph consent was “a responsibility, both in the ask and in the reply.”

“If you want sex you have to ask for it and if you want that sex, you have to say yes,” she said.

The State Government announced in May it had referred the state’s current consent laws to the NSW Law Commission, following an investigation into one of the country’s most high-profile rape trials, which threw the existing laws into question.

Luke Lazarus, the son of a Kings Cross nightclub boss, was acquitted of rape after a five-year criminal legal battle, despite a jury and two judges finding Saxon Mullins, then 18, had not consented to sex with him behind his father’s club in 2013.

While a jury and judges found Mullins did not consent to sex, the legal sticking point was whether Lazarus knew she was not consenting. Both are required for successful prosecution under the current state laws.

In Australia, consent laws are legislated individually by states and territories. Tasmania has the toughest sexual consent laws in the country, requiring “active consent,” meaning a person is not seen as having consented unless they “do or say anything to communicate consent.”

The number of sexual assaults in NSW has also risen, with the latest figures revealing a 12 percent increase in victims in the last 12 months. More than 13,000 incidents were reported to NSW Police in the past 12 months.

Yesterday, Goward said the government would launch the entire suite of reforms that had been recommended by the NSW Law Reform Commission which, in addition to the new ad campaign, would also provide further training for frontline sexual assault health workers and greater education for school children around protecting themselves from harassment.

Goward said reducing the number of sexual assaults and the damage caused required “a whole community response.”

“Whether it is the failure to seek consent, refusal to recognize when someone cannot give consent or ignoring their refusal, consent is at the heart of the continuum of sexual ­offending,” she said.

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