Bleats

NSW Government To Overhaul Sexting Laws By Treating Teens Like Actual Adults

The new laws come into effect today.

The NSW government has overhauled the laws regarding sexting, with the changes coming into effect today.

Under the new laws, teenagers under the age of 18 who take, share or keep nude photographs of themselves or others won’t be convicted of possessing child pornography, especially if the nudes were sent or received consensually.

Previously, teens who engaged in sexting could be charged with possessing child pornography. But thanks to these changes, the government believes that “normal sexual development and experimentation among teenagers” is no longer at risk of becoming criminalised.

The new laws also provide for a ‘similar age’ defence for consensual sex, where both teenagers are at least 14 years old and the age gap between them is no larger than two years.

These changes have been introduced following the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Attorney-General Mark Speakman told the ABC that the changes were “putting the safety of children front and centre and fixing shortcomings in the law” highlighted by the royal commission.

Consensual sexting has been a normal part of adolescence since mobile phones were invented, and these changes do a good job of recognising that.

Teenagers who send photos of themselves should never have been at risk of facing charges of child pornography possession, but the law is often slow to adapt to changes in technology and society.

This is still a rule tho.

Other changes that have been implemented include the criminalisation of grooming the parent or carer of a child for sexual purposes, and knowing an adult working in an organisation poses a risk of abusing a child and failing to reduce or remove the risk.

In addition, historical child abuse offences will be sentenced based on today’s sentencing guidelines, rather than the guidelines in effect at the time of the offence, and courts will no longer be able to consider an offender’s good character a mitigating factor when sentencing in historical child sex offences.

That means that no matter how nice an offender may seem, no matter how many hours they’ve volunteered at church bake sales or school fetes, the judge will not be able to consider that when deciding on a sentence. Considering assaulting a child proves you’re actually not a good person, these new laws make sense.

A Year On From The Marriage Equality Survey It's Not All Rainbows And Sunshine, It's Mixed Emotions

It's not like achieving marriage equality solved everything.

A year ago today, people gathered in parks and pubs around the country to hear the outcome of the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey.

I was in Sydney’s Prince Alfred Park when the announcement was made: all states and territories recorded a majority yes response to the question “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”, resulting in a 61.6% Yes result nationwide.

The response from the crowd when the Yes vote was announced was instantaneous and invigorating. People screamed, and cried, and hugged strangers, and proposed to their loved ones, all in the space of a minute after the result was announced. It was a fantastic moment to be a part of.

Today, on the one-year anniversary of that announcement, I returned to that same park for a more subdued celebration. Lord Mayor Clover Moore announced that the part of Prince Alfred Park where the announcement took place would now permanently be known as the Equality Green. There were still drag queens involved, of course.

Looking back, while that historic announcement on November 15, 2017, put me in a good mood, I know it came after a long and unpleasant campaign – and I can’t help but think that my ability to associate positive memories with that day is because of my relative privilege.

My immediate family is incredibly supportive (we won’t talk about my extended family – considering most of them live in the Blaxland electorate, which voted No, and are all pretty religious, I can take a guess): they all voted Yes, and were wonderful and kind when I came out a second time earlier this year.

Most of my friends are in some way LGBTQ, and my straight ones are great allies. I don’t ‘look’ like a stereotypical lesbian, so I avoid abuse in public, and the most I had to interact with homophobes during the campaign was when I cold-called people with GetUp in an effort to encourage them to vote (it consisted of two people telling me they were voting no because being gay was wrong, so I just thanked them for their time and hung up).

That isn’t the case for many others. Others are kicked out of home after coming out, and in the US (Australian statistics are harder to come by), LGBTQ people make up 40% of homeless young people.

In addition, LGBTQ people aged 16 to 27 are five times more likely to attempt to take their own lives compared to the general population (for trans people over 18, that increases to eleven times more likely).

A lot of these LGBTQ people don’t have access to the resources, support and care they need, and while a plebiscite might not be as immediately awful as being homeless, constant reminders from the media and public figures that your right to love is up for debate would hardly boost your self-esteem.

LGBTQ activist Sally Rugg tweeted some important reminders ahead of today’s anniversary, namely that the LGBTQ community fought to stop the plebiscite for an entire year.

Sally’s tweets remind us that the majority of the LGBTQ community didn’t want it to come to a public vote in the first place. The campaign showed us Australia at its worst – divided, spiteful, and determined to deprive others of happiness.

While that part of Australia proved to be a minority, knowing that nearly 40% of people who bothered to vote voted against your right to marry the person you love hurts.

Writing for the ABC, Joshua Badge reminds us of the worst things to come out of the postal survey, which includes the fact that the survey literally took a toll on the health and life satisfaction of LGBTQ people living in electorates that voted no. It also gave us Bronwyn Bishop comparing same-sex marriage to bestiality and infanticide, and Archbishop Mark Coleridge comparing it to paedophilia.

Nobody should have to endure hateful messages like that, and if someone is already vulnerable as a result of enduring lifelong homophobia or transphobia, messages like that from prominent public figures can be hard to shake off. Doubly so if your family and friends are receptive to those messages and treat you differently as a result.

Essentially, this anniversary is a bittersweet one. The announcement itself came as a relief after a drawn-out campaign very few LGBTQ people wanted to endure, and while the result was a good one, it didn’t have to happen the way it did.

Writing for The Guardianactivist Rodney Croome said of the plebiscite:

“The postal survey was the result of political failure, the cause of great grief and isn’t what delivered marriage equality.”

He’s right – marriage equality wasn’t won overnight, nor was it the result of the short campaign ahead of the survey itself. It’s taken decades of work on the parts of activists to get Australia to a point where a majority support same-sex marriage. Tasmania didn’t decriminalise male homosexuality until 1997.

And it’s not like achieving marriage equality solved everything. It didn’t even achieve full marriage equality – trans people in Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory still have to get divorced before they can change the sex on their birth certificates.

I, like many LGBTQ Australians, have mixed feelings about today’s anniversary. I’m glad that Australia voted Yes, but I’m not glad that the postal survey happened. I’m grateful to the work done by countless activists, but I’m sorry that the work had to be done at all.

This Nationals Senator Says He's Now A Woman And Can Criticise Abortion All He Likes

Your daily reminder that Australian politics is a farce.

Barry O’Sullivan, a Nationals Senator for Queensland and someone you’ve most likely never heard of, has announced to Parliament that he is a woman, in an effort to get women to stop their “attacks” on his anti-abortion views.

This all started because he moved a motion calling for pro-choice activists to be banned from disrupting the “Day of the Unborn Child”, established by Pope John Paul II and held on March 25.

During the debate, Greens Senator Larissa Waters said:

“Senator O’Sullivan needs to get his hands and his rosaries off my ovaries and those of the 10,000 Queensland women who have an abortion each year, 10,000 women who have the right to make a decision about their own bodies without the opinion of senator O’Sullivan getting in their way.”

She later withdrew those remarks after Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz objected.

Fortunately, the motion was voted down, but Barry was clearly distressed by Senator Waters’ request that he stop focusing on what people do with their own bodies.

He was so distressed that today, he announced to Parliament:

“I am going to declare my gender today, as I can, to be a woman and then you’ll no longer be able to attack me.”

He claims conservative politicians can’t even utter the word ‘abortion’ without being attacked by the Greens, and that the purpose of his announcement was to “call out the vomit and vitriol” of the Greens.

He continued:

“These people come and attack me for my religious basis the other day, using words like rosary beads, because I had the audacity to raise issues around late-term abortions where babies that are only minutes away from getting a smack on the arse and a name are being aborted under the policies of the Australian Greens.”

According to Buzzfeed News, O’Sullivan had told people he was planning the stunt on Tuesday. And what a childish stunt it is.

Not only is it based on a flawed premise – that women’s views on abortion are above scrutiny (the number of women involved in the pro-life movement put that notion to rest), but it’s incredibly insulting to transgender people, for whom being open and honest about who they are is a hugely important thing. And O’Sullivan turned all of that into a joke, just to get a dig in at the Greens Senators who disagree with his views on abortion.

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