The removal of a condom during sex without consent will be specifically outlawed after a new law brought forward by the opposition passed in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday, in what the Canberra Liberals said was an Australian first.
The practice, known as stealthing, will now be listed in the Crimes Act as an act that negates sexual consent, after the law, drafted by Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee, was passed with support from all three parties.
"Stealthing is an appalling thing to do to anyone and we know that it has long-lasting impacts on the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of victims. It violates our bodily autonomy in the most intimate of moments and victims have spoken about the impact that it has on their ability to trust people," Ms Lee told the Assembly.
Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury and the Minister for Women, Yvette Berry, sought to cast the bill in a broader context of reform and shifting community attitudes, work which is presently being considered by the ACT government's working groups on sexual assault reforms.
Mr Rattenbury said: "While legislative reform alone will not address all work that we need to change attitudes, it does play an essential role in defining clearly our expectations as a community as to the behaviour we expect and demand."
Ms Berry said she looked forward to sharing the final report of the sexual assault prevention and response steering committee, which had considered Ms Lee's bill, current laws and proposed positive consent legislation from Labor backbencher Dr Marisa Paterson.
"This work can't be just about changing the law; as is the case with domestic and family and intimate partner violence, we simply cannot arrest our way out of this. It's important to change cultural attitudes and breaking down those power dynamics," Ms Berry said.
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The Crimes Act already contained provisions which would have likely outlawed stealthing, but Ms Lee said there was no Australian case law to show this and the new law would move ahead of the legal system to clarify the issue.
Ms Lee said the change to the law would set a community standard and she noted people who had been victims of stealthing had contacted her to say they were unsure if it was illegal.
"If we can't draft laws that are clear, unambiguous and capable of being understood by the average person then why have them at all? ... There is no point bringing forward a law that is going to create even more uncertainty," she said in April, before the stealthing bill was introduced to the Legislative Assembly.