Northern Territory Legislates Consensual Teen Sex

Via Queen Emily comes this story out of the Northern Territory, Australia.  The government has decided to enact a law that forces anyone — from doctors to parents — to report any any sexual activity taking place among those who are under the age of 16. Because that sex is always illegal.  Regardless of consent.  Emphasis mine:

The Northern Territory Government says its Care and Protection of Children Act is all about keeping kids safe.

But the AMA is warning the act’s mandatory reporting requirements go too far and Dr Paul Bauert from the AMA’s Northern Territory branch is deeply concerned.

Until now, NT laws were similar to what operates in the other states; it was mandatory to report suspected child sexual abuse.

But now health workers must report sexual activity among under-16s to a team that includes police and staff in the Territory’s department of health and families.

Failure to do so could result in a fine of up to around $20,000. And it is not just doctors who will have to report.

“This applies to everybody,” Dr Bauert said. “Parents, brothers and sisters, mates.”

The legislation has been in place for months but it was only late last week that the Northern Territory Health Department told staff to comply.

They were told to report anyone under 16 who is sexually active, even if that person’s sexual partner is also under 16 or of the same age, and regardless of consent.

“Any person who has sexual intercourse with someone under the age of 16 is guilty of a crime and liable to imprisonment for 16 years,” Dr Bauert said.

Yes, you read all of that correctly.  Teenagers who have sex with each other are now facing potential imprisonment of up to 16 years.  The thing is, we’re not even talking about where statutory rape laws ought to draw the line, and whether or not there should be “Romeo and Juliet” clauses, etc.

No, we’re talking about the possibility of two consenting 15-year-olds facing jail time for “raping” each other.  Way to trivialize actual fucking rape.  And we’re talking about parents facing huge fines if they know about that sexual activity and don’t report their own children.  And we’re talking doctors who can’t give out factual and needed sexual health care without having to report their patients to the police.

We’re also talking about racial oppression.  For those of you who aren’t up on Australian politics and society, what you need to know is that the Northern Territory has a relatively high population (at least percentage wise) of Aboriginal or Indigenous Australians.  And like in virtually any country that has been colonized, those Aboriginal people face a huge amount of social oppression and coercion, and as a result, high rates of unemployment, violent crime, drug and alcohol abuse, and so on.

The Australian government has a history of enacting horrific measures against Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory in the name of supposedly “cracking down on child sexual abuse.”  In 2007, they instituted a ban on alcohol and pornography, and required mandatory health checks on children.  They further reminded us of how supposedly past the whole colonization thing they are when they sent the military into Aboriginal communities for the same “reason.” Needless to say, these supposed efforts did nothing to combat child abuse, but did do a hell of a lot of damage.

This newest law seems to apply to all residents of the Northern Territory, but looking at the history there, it doesn’t take a huge leap of logic to figure out that this law “combating child sexual abuse” is actually aimed at the Aboriginal population.  It’s pretty obvious which teens in particular they think are abusive by the very nature of  having sexual urges.

I have asked more than once how exactly we expect teens to know how to recognize abuse when we constantly tell them their bodies are not theirs to begin with — and not only when they frequently don’t know they have a right to say “no,” but also don’t know that they have a right to say “yes.”  BFP rightfully takes a step further than that with regards to this case:

How do we learn, engage in, and trust ourselves to build a healthy fabulous sexuality when from the time we reach reproductive age, the nation/state literally owns the first and final say as to what happens to our bodies? How do we learn to say “no” or “yes” when the nation/state insists on doing it for us?

It’s bad enough that we tell teens their bodies belong to their parents.  It’s a whole new issue though when the government passes laws saying the bodies essentially belong to them.  And unsurprisingly, the government is claiming the rights to those specific bodies that it has long believed and acted as though belonged to them to begin with.

For public health reasons — you know, teens being unable to take birth control pills or honestly answer the question “are you sexually active?” — the Australian Medical Association strongly opposes this new law, and is hoping they can persuade the Northern Territory to change it.  I’m a couple of weeks behind on reporting this story, but searches haven’t turned up any more recent information.  Here’s indeed to hoping that the laws are not only changed, but that in an even further long shot, these assholes get kicked out of office and are replaced with those who really care about child abuse rather than just furthering racial oppression.

0 thoughts on “Northern Territory Legislates Consensual Teen Sex

  1. Pingback: Femmostroppo Reader - May 12, 2009 — Hoyden About Town

  2. Emma

    That’s ridiculous. In every other state of Australia, you can get advice without being reported.

    Isn’t it better that teens at least have safe sex and are well informed?!

    All I can say is that I sure as hell hope that they don’t decide to implement this anywhere else.

  3. Ken

    I live in the Northern Territory.

    Unfortunately the labor party is the less conservative of the 2 major parties in the territory; the 2 power parties Liberal and Labor.

    We had a local pharmacist, on evening radio news, lamenting that she would even have report under 16s buying condoms. But then we have the anomaly that condoms are sold in the supermarkets. The question has to be asked whether a checkout operator would be required to report them under this act?

    When I was 13 years old, in my first year of high school, during the early 70s many of the boys bragged that they had had sex. Now we all know that most of them were lying but there would have been some that were sexually experienced. I would also suggest that by the time I was 16 at least 1/3 to 1/2 of my fellow students had experienced sex, good, indifferent and, I hope not too many of them, bad. I understand that students of today are far less naive than we were. So how many are, potentially, going to be caught under this legislation

    Then the fact that the territory has the highest number of ‘STIs’/head of population in the country. Under 16s would be reluctant to go for medical treatment if they feared punishment. ‘STIs’ need to be treated early if there is to be little or no health repercussions, if they are not treated early enough, they can, in extreme cases, be fatal.

    The negative consequences of this and other federal and territory intervention legislation are too many to list here. To start with; the human rights legislation that are suppose to protect?? me, have been suspended for people living in aboriginal communities.

    Here are some articles from the ABC commenting on the legislation.

  4. Marissa

    What about those under 16 who actually ARE raped, say by another person under 16? Since many girls especially do not know they have the right to say yes or no and do not legally have rights to their own bodies and choices for their bodies, then they likely do not know when they are raped, or like all rape cases, are necessarily going to state that they were raped. So pretty much, amoung other atrocities described above, rape victims will also end up in jail for supposedly “underage raping.” Great. Just great.

  5. Pingback: South African Teen Charged With “Underage Sex” After Recanting Rape Allegation — The Curvature

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