Update: The Age of Consent for M/M Sex has been changed to 16 bring NSW in line with all other states! Congratulations to the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby for their outstanding contribution to gay and lesbian equality!
The age of consent laws in Australia are mainly equal for all types of sex, whether it be male to male or female to female with the exception of New South Wales, Australia's most populous state. In 2001 / 2002 the legal age of consent was changed in Western Australia to 16 for gay men, equalising with all other types of sexuality. This change has been passed by both houses of parliament in WA and is now waiting for Royal Ascent to be enacted into law. More information about the legal age of consent around the world can be found at the Superdrewby Age of Consent database.
The age of consent for gay men to have sex in NSW is currently 18, which is a leftover from the time when gay sex was illegal in NSW. The age of consent for all other types of consensual straight sex is 16 years of age. This draconion difference for gay men is nothing other than discrimination against young gay and bisexual men. After all if the law says that a 16 year old can consent to sex with someone of the opposite sex, why can't they make the same sort of informed decision to have sex with someone of the same sex.
In 1998 a bill was tabled in NSW Parliament to equalize the age of consent. Unfortunately this bill was defeated by 20 votes to 19, when it was put to a conscious vote through the work of the religious right and in particular Elaine Nile of the Christian Democratic Party. In 2001 / 2002 another bill has been tabled to again try and equalize the age of consent for gay men to 16. This bill needs our support to be passed by the NSW Parliament and finally equalize the rights of young gay men to have consensual sex. The bill be tabled as a private members bill by NSW Parliamentary leader of the Australian Democrats, Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans and will include equal property and superannuation rights for long-term single-sex couples.
You can help ensure that this bill is passed by sending messages of support for the bill to members of the NSW Parliament and in particular the following politicians (they all support the bill in principle). Send them an email to tell them that you support the lowering of the age of consent to eqalise gay sex with straight sex.
NSW Premier Bob Carr
NSW Attorney General - Bob Debus
Clover Moore - Independent
Dr Arthur Chesterfield Evans - Democrats
A full list of the members of the NSW Parliament with contact details can be found at the NSW Parliament site.
If an eighteen year old guy has sex with a seventeen year old guy he can be charged with statutory rape and the charge can be up to 25 years prison.
Even if someone reasonable believes that the same sex person they are sleeping with is over eighteen the cannot claim reasonable belief, although if the situation involves an older male with a younger female the male can claim reasonable belief that the girl was older than 16. In other words if a 30 year old guy sleeps with a 15 year old girl who he reasonably believed was 16 or over (she told him that she was for example) then he will not be charged with rape.
The safe sex message and access to sexual health clinics and tools such as condoms is not guaranteed for gay couples where they are under the age of 18 without the potential for severe legal repercussions on the person / organisation providing the advice or service.
Arguments Against Equalising the Age of Consent
The law is there to protect children from older predatory men and pedophiles.
The unequal age of consent for gay men does not protect young boys against predators, just as the age of consent for girls at 16 does not protect them against predators. The age of consent will allow young gay men to make their own choice without fearing legal problems.
Boys cannot consent to gay sex until they are older than 18
If a boy can consent to sex with a female at 16, what is the difference between a 16 year old gay male and a straight male? Both males are able to understand and rationalize their actions and their desires to have sex and they can still say no to something they do not want to do.
16 Years old really means 14 years of age
This argument has been used by the religious right to suggest that if the age of consent is lowered to 16 the law will turn a blind eye to 14 years old having sex with other men. This is ridiculous and the law will very actively prosecute anyone who has sex knowingly or unknowingly with a male under the age of 16.
Pedophiles will abuse young boys
The lowering of the age of consent will allow young gay men to legally have sex, it does not encourage or allow older men to have sex with younger men.
This will encourage young gay men to have sex
Let's face it, young gay men will have sex regardless of whether it is legal for them to do so or not. The lowering of the age of consent will not encourage men to have sex if they do not want to do so and by assuming that young men do not have sex is akin to an ostrich with it's head in the sand.
This will encourage homosexuality
The lowering of the age of consent for gay men does not make straight men gay or gay men straight, it only equalizes the age of consent for young gay men to have the legal choice if they want to have sex.