*Age Of Consent & Legal Sexual Activity for the State of Queensland, Australia - A campaign to remove our Sodomy Law (which was enacted in 1990).

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30th November 2006 Courier Mail article by feature writer Jane Fynes-Clinton.  In this detailed and concise feature, especially related to World AIDS Day, Jane connects many of the more important issues related to Queensland’s unequal age of consent – including that the current law places youth at increased risk of HIV infection. She personalises the story with bookended references to Keith Phillips, an openly gay year 10 student at Alexandra Hills State High in Brisbane. (Listen to my interview with Keith’s mother, Trudi Lillicrap, which is clearly linked on the “downloads” page: http://www.queerradio.org/downloads.htm )

 


 

400K jpg image of the original article: www.queerradio.org/CM_30Nov'06_p31_age_of_consent_article_by_Jane_Fynes-Clinton.jpg

NB: This article was in print form only - therefor I've scanned and proof-read the text below:



Courier Mail, Brisbane - 30th November 2006, page 31

"Thursday View" column by Jane Fynes-Clinton

Young gays need support, not vilification

KEITH Phillips is a brave young man who this year has endured testing that would break many men far older.

On the eve of the most recent New Year, Keith revealed to his family and closest friends that he was gay. It was, the 15-year old says, a relief and a liberation, and he was blessed that those closest to him assured him they loved him regardless.

He began a life he describes as more open and more honest. He felt he could truly be himself.

At the beginning of this month, Keith's mum was advised to keep her boy home from Alexandra Hills State High School because of an alleged plot by senior students to heat him senseless. She did, he faced his fear, and returned to school to sit exams recently to show he wasn't hiding from those who allegedly wanted him hurt.

Despite progressing culturally towards acceptance of diversity in many areas, society's acceptance of the gay and lesbian communities flags. To our collective shame, people who are same-sex attracted still suffer vilifi­cation, alienation and rejection.

Tomorrow is World AIDS Day, putting a focus on HIV diagnosis rates. In Queensland, HIV is on the rise. Last year, 150 Queenslanders were newly diagnosed - more people than had been diagnosed in any of the past 10 years. More than 1500 Queenslanders are now living with HIV and the vast majority of the new diagnoses were linked to male-to-male sex.

Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Susan Booth says one of the areas of inequality she lobbies to correct is the unequal age of consent. Queensland is the only state to distinguish between sexual intercourse involving young heterosexuals and gay couples.

Under Queensland law, if a 16- or 17-year old gay man has anal intercourse with his partner, he can he jailed for 14 years. But legislation deems that traditional sexual inter­course between heterosexual youths aged 16 and over is lawful.

Lobbyists say that this is putting young gay men in danger. If these youths seek advice or information on sexual matters and reveal that they are having anal sex, they can be charged. Fear keeps their sex lives secret and means they are increasingly likely to be exposed to HIV and other diseases because of unsafe practices.

But there is a glimmer of hope.

Attorney-General Kerry Shine wrote to gay issues lobbyist and 4ZZZ presenter John Frame last week, saying that ".... at some point in the near future, I plan to meet with groups interested in these and other same-sex couple issues to discuss them further".

It is clear that same-sex attracted young people need more support than most. They need to know society cares about them not because they are gay, or a minority group, but because they are young people and we want to nurture them and help them become a con­tributing part of our society.

The law puts young gay men in danger

The Queensland Government's Sui­cide Prevention strategy 2003-2008 states that same-sex attracted young people are 3.7 times more likely to attempt or commit suicide than their heterosexual counterparts.

On a national level, a La Trobe University study last year found that 44 per cent of same-sex attracted young people experienced verbal abuse and 16 per cent copped physical abuse. The vast majority of these incidents occurred at school.

It is only with such openness, as exhibited by Keith, and an acceptance by legislators that we need to embrace equality under the law to help keep our young gay people safe, that hope for a brighter, healthier future for gay men can he kept alive.

Keith is a young chap with big dreams. The obstacles he will no doubt face as a same-sex attracted man in a sometimes intolerant world will teach him, test him, and hopefully make him stronger in his sense of self.

And that will contribute to his compassion and understanding if he fulfils his dream of becoming a barrister and, eventually, a Senior Counsel.

By that time let us hope he is match-fit, not battle weary, in his fight for social justice.

fclintonj@optusnet.com.au