#LetHerSpeak: Northern Territory to reform sexual assault gag laws

#LetHerSpeak: Northern Territory to reform sexual assault gag laws

nicole manison
Survivors of sexual abuse in the Northern Territory may soon be able to share their stories publicly, with the Territory Government looking to reform laws that make it illegal for survivors to name themselves in the media.

The archaic gag laws, currently in place only in Tasmania and the Northern Territory, prohibit survivors of sexual assault from naming themselves and sharing their stories in the media.

In October, Tasmania committed to reforming laws to allow survivors to speak out without fear of prosecution, and now the Northern Territory is following suit.

Northern Territory Deputy Chief Minister Nicole Manison tabled a bill on Thursday to amend the existing Sexual Offences (Evidence and Procedure) Act 1983 – which she said would help survivors speak out.

If the new legislation in the Northern Territory is approved, adult sexual assault survivors will be able to share their name and stories publicly if they provide prior written consent, have no mental impairments and do not identify any other alleged victims who had not consented to share their stories.

“It’s time the Territory’s laws were modernised and brought into line with other jurisdictions — this will do that,” Manison said.

The Northern Territory has the highest rate of sexual assaults in Australia, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The gag laws have been the focus of the #LetHerSpeak campaign, championed by survivors who have fought to be able to share their own stories. In August, Grace Tame from Tasmania, won the right to self-identify in the media. She was the first sexual abuse survivor in Tasmania to be allowed to do so, but only after a high-profile, expensive and protracted court application.

After being tabled in Parliament yesterday, the bill has been referred to the legislation scrutiny committee, who will consider public submissions and give recommendations to the Northern Territory Parliament in March 2020.

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