The Opposition on Friday warned that the Government might end up legalising buggery through the back door because of a provision in the new Sexual Offences Bill.
Opposition Senator Navel Clarke who was making his contribution to debate on the bill in the Senate Friday morning, pointed to a clause in the bill which introduces into law a new crime called grievous sexual assault.
The bill sets out specific circumstances in which grievous sexual assault can be committed to include the penetration of the anus and vagina without consent.
However Senator Clarke argued that the inclusion of the phrase ‘without consent’ implies that buggery would be perfectly legal where there is consent.
“In my opinion, this has been a slight of hand (where) somebody seemed to have slipped in the matter which abolishes the (offence of buggery) as we know it,” he said.
The Opposition Senator was backed by Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate, AJ Nicholson who argued that the bill was littered with unresolved issues because the Government had failed to follow proper procedure and had rushed the process.
“The route that has been taken has caused avoidable delays, a meandering and a troubled journey through the houses … different days be appointed for the start of different provisions. Even after our deliberations here in the Senate, there will requirements for the House of Representatives to consider future amendments recommended in this chamber,” said Senator Nicholson.
The controversial bill, which was also subject to extensive and heated debate in the Lower House, is likely to continue to stir up a firestorm of reactions among several Senators yet to make their contribution.
Charging women for raping men
In the meantime, Government Senator Dennis Meadows wants the Sexual Offences Bill to be amended to allow women to be charged for raping men.
Senator Meadows elicited giggles from some Government and Opposition Members of the Senate as he argued for the section of the bill which recognises marital rape, to be made gender neutral.
Previously, the law did not recognize that a man could rape his wife.
But the Sexual Offences Bill sets out five circumstances in which a husband can be charged for raping his spouse.
The bill now says that marital rape can only be committed where the spouses have separated under law, are seeking a divorce or trying to annul their marriage, where there is an injunction ousting the husband from the marital home or if the husband knows himself to be infected with a sexually transmitted illness.
However making his contribution to debate on the bill in the Senate Friday afternoon, Senator Meadows argued that that section of the bill should not only address husbands raping their wives but wives raping their husbands.
According to him, the change would also address date rape.
“I’m man to say that I can be raped by a woman … I may not cry rape but it is possible. A woman who drugs a man with a date rape drug for example and has sex with him without his consent has committed rape or in this case grievous sexual assault,” said Mr. Meadows.
Married women left out in the cold – Mark Golding (right)
He was not the only Senator who took issue with the section of the bill dealing with marital rape.
Opposition Senator Mark Golding argued that by restricting marital rape to only five specific circumstances, the new bill would unwittingly end up offering less protection to married women than the law now offers to unwed women.
“The unmarried woman who lives with her man in long term relation will actually now enjoy superior rights than a lawfully married wife since if her man has sex with her without her consent he would have committed rape but that is not so in the case of a lawfully wedded wife unless one of the five circumstances is also present,” said Senator Golding.
The Senate will continue to debate the Sexual Offences bill next Friday.