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Goff makes sexual offences gender neutral

Goff makes sexual offences gender neutral

Justice Minister Phil Goff introduced into Parliament today legislation that makes all sexual offences gender neutral.

"The Crimes Amendment No 2 Bill is the result of the first overall review of sexual crimes in the 1961 Crimes Act, which includes offences which date back to 1908, and tends to presume that women are not capable of sexual offending," Mr Goff said.

"The gender neutral provisions of the legislation require everyone to be treated equally under the law, with all sex offences expressed and applied in a gender-neutral manner. "Under current law, women are not committing an offence if they have a consensual relationship with a boy under the age of 16. However if a man has a similar relationship with a girl of the same age he faces up to seven years' jail.

"Several cases this year have highlighted that inconsistency, including one woman who admitted publicly that she went ahead with a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old boy because she knew she would not be charged.

"That anomaly also means there is no redress for the victims of women who indulge in such practices. By making sexual offences gender neutral, the new legislation will see all perpetrators and victims dealt with in the same way, regardless of their gender.

"Offences that currently relate to sexual intercourse will also be extended to cover all forms of sexual connection. At the same time, the penalty for sexual connection with a person 12-16 years will be increased to a maximum of 10 years' jail.

The penalty for sexual connection with a child under 12 is up to 14 years' jail.

"The legislation leaves in place the offence of rape (a male-against-female offence only) for one category of sexual violation. However it invites public submissions on whether this should remain as a separate offence or, as in the case of like offences, be termed 'unlawful sexual connection'."

Mr Goff said sexual offences against children would be simplified into three groupings: sexual conduct with a child under 12, sexual conduct with a child under 16, and sexual assault irrespective of age. Loopholes would also be closed to prevent offenders escaping conviction in cases where the precise age of the child could not be established.

"No defence of consent will be available for offences involving a victim under 12. Only limited defences similar to current defences (e.g. marriage, age of the accused) will be available in relation to offences against a child under 16.

"The 12-month time limit that currently exists on prosecution of some offences involving victims between 12 and 16 will be repealed.

"A new offence of familial sexual abuse, covering all forms of sexual connection, will be introduced to protect those under the age of 20 from abuse of a power relationship.

"The offence covers a wider range of relationships including foster parents, adoptive parents, guardianship and those related by marriage.

"A revised offence will cover sexual conduct with an intellectually impaired person when consent is induced by exploiting the impairment."

Mr Goff said the new legislation also provided a statutory basis for drug rape prosecutions by clarifying that there is no consent when a person has been drugged in order to remove their ability to give consent to sexual connection.

The Bill also facilitates New Zealand's compliance with the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.


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