‘I’m furious’: Rape laws slammed

A last-ditch effort to modify Queensland’s new consent laws before they passed through Parliament has been shot down.

The laws passed on Thursday mean consent will no longer be assumed if a person does not verbally reject a sexual act and consent will now also be able to be withdrawn by words or action once the sexual act has begun.

The Palaszczuk government’s consent laws were passed late in the afternoon but Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman has already conceded the laws may need to be updated once again.

Greens MP Amy McMahon, spurred on by advocates who believe the laws fail to protect women, made a last ditch attempt to add an affirmative consent model to the bill, which proposed the need to require clear and more enthusiastic agreement before taking part in a sexual act.

But this was voted down by both the government and the opposition, with Ms McMahon taking to social media, vowing to “not stop fighting”.

“I’m furious,” the member for South Brisbane tweeted after her amendments were rejected.

“To everyone who’s experienced rape or sexual assault, only to have a defendant claim they ‘thought it was OK’ because of outdated rape myths, I am so sorry.”

The affirmative consent amendments were backed by women’s rights and rape advocates who say the reforms passed on Thursday fail to adequately protect victims of sexual assault.

“It’s following on from a Queensland Law Reform Commission report that failed to listen to survivors, failed to listen to rape and women advocates and pretty much only listened to the lawyers,” Women’s Legal Service chief executive Angela Lynch told reporters on Wednesday.

“The laws and the system is weighted in favour of the perpetrator.”

The leading women’s rights advocate said a common response for a rape victim was to freeze during the attack, which she says could be interpreted as consent under the new law.

“You can’t assume that somebody who is frozen, someone who is unconscious, someone who just hasn’t said anything is enough,” she said.

“The woman doesn’t believe she has consented, she’s actually frightened but often it can be argued in court to take it (the complaint) further.”

Ms Lynch said the “figures speak for themselves”.

“Possibly between 20,000 and 40,000 rapes occur in Queensland each year, around 6500 charges go to the police, and we have just around 300 convictions,” she said.

“Many victims do not come forward because of the trauma of the criminal justice system itself.”

The Attorney-General said the amendments were an “important step to modernise consent laws” but admitted more could be done.

She said the Palaszczuk government was open to amending the bill once it was passed but rejected the assertion a frozen or silent victim could be viewed as providing consent, insisting the “law is making it clear that silence is not consent”.

“I understand that some stakeholders believe that our laws could have gone further, and our government is absolutely committed to looking at anything we can do to keep women safe and hold perpetrators to account,” Ms Fentiman said.

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