The Bill, passed in the House of Representatives on March 31, seeks to amalgamate the various laws relating to incest and other sexual offences, and includes provision for a Sex Offender Registry and a Sex Offenders Register to be established as a means of monitoring sex offenders.
It will also repeal the Incest (Punishment) Act and several provisions of the Offences Against the Person Act.
Minister Lightbourne noted that in 1995, the Offences Against the Person (Amendment) Bill, which sought to make amendments to the law relating to rape and other sexual offences, and the Incest (Punishment) (Amendment) Bill, seeking to make amendments to the law relating to incest, were tabled in Parliament and submitted to a Joint Select Committee for consideration and report.
She said that there were matters on which the Joint Select Committee failed to reach agreement.
“In those circumstances, the Bills fell off the Order Paper on the prorogation of Parliament and remained in abeyance until they were re-tabled in Parliament in 2006,” Minister Lightbourne said.
She also explained that new Joint Select Committees were named in 2006 and 2007, to consider and report on the re-tabled Bills, with the intention of arriving at a consensus on the areas of controversy.
“In light of the various changes which the Committee was minded to recommend, it decided that, instead of the enactment into law of the amending Bills with the agreed amendments to them, a new Act, the Sexual Offences Act, should be enacted,” she explained.
In explaining the changes which the Sexual Offences Act will make, in relation to the various aspects of the law relating to rape, incest and other sexual offences and related matters, Senator Lightbourne noted that the offence of marital rape, which was previously exempt, will be statutorily established.
She noted further that the Incest (Punishment) Act will be repealed and incest offences between persons closely related by blood will be established, in replacement of those under the repealed Act.
Provisions will also be included in the Bill to deal with certain acts done by an adult for a sexual purpose in relation to a child under 16 years of age.
She said that the Bill upheld the view that the term ‘sexual intercourse’ should maintain the traditional meaning of the penetration of the female sexual organ by the male sexual organ and that the offence of rape should continue to be a gender specific offence, that is, one which can only be committed by a male against a female person.
The Bill, however, creates a new offence, that of grievous sexual assault, involving mainly various non-consensual gender neutral sexual acts, which can be performed by persons of either sex against persons of either sex and which will carry the same maximum penalty as the offence of rape.
Additionally, the offences now known as the carnal knowledge offences will be replaced by the offence of sexual grooming of a child.