Victoria passes affirmative consent laws

·1-min read

Victoria has adopted an affirmative consent model, shifting scrutiny off victims and back on to perpetrators of sexual violence.

Under new laws, which passed Victorian parliament on Tuesday, a person must have a clear and enthusiastic go-ahead for their belief in consent to be reasonable.

The consent can include - but is not limited to - verbally asking and getting a "yes" in response, a physical gesture such as a nod, or reciprocating a move such as removing clothes.

The reforms are a crucial step in stopping all forms of violence against women, Prevention of Family Violence Minister Ros Spence said.

"Every Victorian has a responsibility to challenge the harmful behaviours, attitudes and assumptions that lead to sexual violence," she said.

"This new standard of consent in Victoria shifts the focus away from the victim and towards the accused and what actions they took to confirm consent."

The laws make clear that "stealthing" - the removing, tampering with, or not using a condom without consent - is a crime.

They also target image-based sexual abuse, which includes taking intimate videos of someone without their consent as well as distributing or threatening to distribute intimate images.

A person who knowingly distributes an intimate image of someone else faces three years' imprisonment under the Justice Legislation Amendment (Sexual Offences and Other Matters) Bill 2022.

The new laws mean judges can give juries directions about consent, and have to explain to them what "proof beyond reasonable doubt" means.

The reforms will start to come into effect from next month, with the affirmative consent model to begin from July next year unless earlier proclaimed.