Australian feminists oppose Victoria State’s ‘gag’ law on sexual assault survivors

Victoria State’s law effectively prohibits publishing the details of any sexual assault case where proceedings are on or a guilty verdict has been given, even if it is the survivor who wishes to speak out

August 26, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Australia sexual assault gag law

Feminists in Australia have condemned a law passed by the State of Victoria, which they claim silences survivors of sexual assault. Victoria-based activist Nina Funnell announced the launch a #LetUsSpeak campaign in Victoria and will be working with Rape and Sexual Assault Research and Advocacy (RASARA), End Rape On Campus Australia, and other legal and news organizations to repeal the legislation being dubbed as a “gag law.”

Funnel also launched a fundraiser on August 26, Wednesday, to cover the court proceedings of three survivors who wish to share their stories of assault.

The gag law was passed without much debate or discussion by the Victoria State government in February as part of the Judicial Proceedings Reports Act. It effectively prohibits publishing the details of any sexual assault case where charges have been laid and the proceedings are pending, as well as those which have resulted in a guilty verdict.

While the law was passed to supposedly protect sexual assault survivors and prevent them from being identified by name, those who want to share their assault stories will now have to seek court permission before doing so, failing which, they could face prosecution with a possible jail term and hefty fines. Activists claim that this renders the victim’s consent in the matter meaningless.

Attempts have been made to pass similar legislation in different Australian States over the past few years. However, such laws have been opposed by survivors and activists, who have been running the campaign #LetHerSpeak or #LetUsSpeak.

In March, a campaign led by Steve Fisher from Tasmania, a survivor of child sexual abuse, along with other survivors under the umbrella of Beyond Abuse, overturned a similar existing legislation in place since 2001. Funnell’s campaign seeks to do the same in Victoria.

“These new laws prevent survivors from speaking to the media using their real names, in all cases which have resulted in a conviction. The laws apply regardless of whether the victim consents to be named. They also silence many survivors who have lawfully been able to tell their stories in public in the past,” reads Funnell’s fundraiser campaign on GoFundme. The campaign has already raised AUD 18,500 (USD 13,300).