South Australia bans "repugnant" practice of ‘stealthing’

Perpetrators found guilty of stealthing can now face between 10 years to life imprisonment under the new law.

A person unwraps a condom (which is removed in the act of stealthing).
Image: Pexels

CW: Descriptions of sexual assault

The state of South Australia has made ‘stealthing’ illegal and punishable by imprisonment. Stealthing is the non-consensual removal of a condom during sex, and studies have shown that the practice is worryingly more common than people think. The new law will amend the current Criminal Law Consideration Act in Australia, defining stealthing as when a “person agrees to engage in the activity because of a misrepresentation (whether express or implied) as to the use of a condom during the activity”.

Australian MP Connie Bonaros brought the legislation forward, describing it as a “repugnant and disgusting act of betrayal” and adding that a ban was overdue. She continued by saying that “Such grotesque acts of indecency deserve to be treated in the same manner as r*pe and a crime punishable by terms of imprisonment.”

South Australia’s Attorney-General Kyam Maher described it as “insidious” and continued to say that the bill will “explicitly make sure that stealthing is covered by our criminal law and people that engage in it can be charged with sexual offences… there have been many calls from advocates to criminalise this under state law to make sure we’re explicitly ruling this as a crime.”

The ban in the state of South Australia is following the suit of other states including Tasmania, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory. Last year, a similar bill was introduced by the former government, but it did not pass the lower house before the election. Anyone found guilty under the amendment of the law will face between 10 years to life imprisonment.

A study from one of Australia’s leading universities, Monash University, discovered in 2018 that one in five men who have sex with men, and one in three women had been victims of stealthing. According to Q News, research found that 80% of Australians agreed that stealthing should be criminalised, while 65% didn’t know what the term meant.

Stealthing is inherently illegal in Ireland, due to the clause of “conditional consent” present in Irish criminal law, defining it as assault via a technicality. The news from Australia will undoubtedly open discussion as to whether there should be a similar, more specific law against stealthing introduced here in our country. Concerns have also arisen about how stealthing is a popular category on pornographic websites, noting the dangerous mix of misrepresentation of sex in pornography, and the lacking sexual health education in Ireland. If anything, a specified law against this act would spread awareness that stealthing isn’t just ‘rape-adjacent’, but a form of rape in itself.

If you have been affected by the topics discussed in this article, visit the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre website. There you can find information about services they provide to survivors of sexual assault, including one-to-one therapy, web chat support and other outreach services.

You can call the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre’s national 24-hour helpline at 1800 77 8888.

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