Donate Now
We've Moved! Check out our new boards.
  New Poll  
my profile | directory login | search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » Mandatory reporting of sex in under-16s

 - UBBFriend: Email this page to someone!    
Author Topic: Mandatory reporting of sex in under-16s
eryn_smiles
Peer Ambassador
Member # 35643

Icon 1 posted      Profile for eryn_smiles         Edit/Delete Post 
I was recently at a conference in Australia and was deeply disturbed and angry to learn about this law in the Northern Territory and the effect that it has had on young people there.

Recent changes to the "Northern Territory Care and Protection of Children Act (2007)" require the MANDATORY reporting of suspected SEXUAL BEHAVIOUR in anyone under the age of 16*. Prior to April 2009, this law required only reporting of suspected ABUSE.

"Suspected sexual behaviour" includes consensual intercourse, oral/anal sex, viewing/posession of pornography, and use of condoms and contraception. Reporting responsibility applies to all adults, INCLUDING teachers, counsellors, doctors and family planning services. Failure to report could result in a fine of more than $20,000. The report goes to team that includes police and staff in the Territory's Department Of Health And Families. The police then decide whether or not to act on the report.

Almost immediately, my friends who are GPs in the territory noticed that young people stopped coming to their clinics. They stopped asking for condoms and emergency contraception and STI checks. They stopped talking about their abusive relationships. Even outside of the territory, the effects of the law were seen. I have heard that some doctors took matters into their own hands by no longer asking their young patients if they're sexually active, so they wouldn't have to report it.

I understand that the legislation is part of the government´s response to reports of "widespread sexual activity by minors in remote Aboriginal communities". Australian users may be familiar with the first stage of the "Northern Territory Intervention" which required ALL INDIGENOUS children to have so-called "well-child checks" including sexual health checks. I believe that this was racist oppression and it created a great and harmful distrust of white medical services among Aboriginal communities.

The new legislation too, disproportionately affects indigenous youth, who are more likely to engage in sexual behaviour and get pregnant during the teenage years. We can only speculate that this inequality in pregnancy and STI rates will continue to increase.

*On August 17th 09, after much lobbying, the law was changed to lower the mandatory reporting age to 14 years.

Please comment on this, especially if you are Australian (and you, Karyn!). I have done my best to read around this law but apologise for any misconceptions or inaccuracies.

--------------------
"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

Posts: 1326 | Registered: Nov 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Karybu
Scarleteen Volunteer
Member # 20094

Icon 1 posted      Profile for Karybu     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Thanks for posting this, eryn. I hadn't heard about this latest change to the laws, so thanks for bringing it to my attention!

I have so many very nasty things I could say about John Howard (who was prime minister when the NT Intervention was enacted), his government and the intervention itself, but most of those things are not appropriate to post, so I won't. Let's just say that the intervention has been a disastrous failure, has succeeded in increasing massively the distrust (completely justified, by the way) that Indigenous people have of the government and medical system. It says a lot, I think, that the intervention (including these latest changes) are considered "special acts" under Australian law and are therefore not controlled under the racial discrimination act of 1975.

This is just another band-aid on the massive wound caused by white colonisation of Australia, and another way in which Aboriginal people are seen as problems to be fixed, and not as people. I guess it's a teeny step in the right direction that the mandatory reporting age has been lowered, but still. It doesn't seem to have occurred to anyone in the government that top-down interventions or programs won't work, you need to work from the bottom up and give the Indigenous community back their agency.

The fact that this is only going to increase the rates of STIs in Aboriginal populations is another thing that makes me incredibly angry. Compared to non-Indigenous Australians, Indigenous people have on average a life expectancy that is 17 years (17 YEARS!!!!) less. Yeah, enacting a law which is pretty much guaranteed to add to their health problems? Effing genius. My honours supervisor is an anthropologist who works with the Yolngu people in Arnhem Land (northeastern Northern Territory, one of the most remote places in Australia) has said that things have gotten so much worse for the communities there since the 2007 intervention; this is only going to make it worse.

*phew* I think I need to go do some deep breathing and calm down, but to finish off, I've found a couple of things that might be interesting for anyone wanting to read more about this.

The Australian Human Rights Commission's analysis of the original 2007 intervention. Full of legal-speak, really long, but very eye-opening.
an article from Crikey on the response to these recent changes from Indigenous physicians

--------------------
"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." -Arundhati Roy

Posts: 5799 | From: Canada/Australia | Registered: Sep 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Jill2000Plus
Activist
Member # 41657

Icon 1 posted      Profile for Jill2000Plus     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
16 years? That's awful, not least because plenty of under 16s who aren't australian aborigines are engaging in sexual activity with peers, this is an attempt to police teen sexuality and a discriminatory one, there's nothing wrong with widespread sexual activity by minors so long as it's consensual and the government's role (as far as I'm concerned) is to ensure that everyone's right to body ownership is not violated, to protect legal minors from exploitation/abuse and to provide healthcare, including sexual health care, to all, policing teen sexuality makes teenagers weary of doctors so they become less likely to see them when they need help, as well as being wrong on principle. That 17 year life expectancy difference is the impact of all the discrimination (which I know is obvious but I'm just acknowledging it).

[ 08-26-2009, 05:17 AM: Message edited by: Jill2000Plus ]

--------------------
Always knock before entering my room when I am in there alone, as I may be doing all sorts of wonderfully thrilling things that I'd rather you didn't see.

Posts: 840 | From: UK | Registered: Dec 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

Icon 1 posted      Profile for Heather     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
This is so, so deeply upsetting and disturbing. Anyone want to blog about it?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Karybu
Scarleteen Volunteer
Member # 20094

Icon 1 posted      Profile for Karybu     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I'd be willing to. I probably won't get to it until this weekend, but it definitely deserves a blog entry. Would it be okay to include some contact information so that people can write to the Minister of Indigenous Affairs about this?

--------------------
"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." -Arundhati Roy

Posts: 5799 | From: Canada/Australia | Registered: Sep 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
eryn_smiles
Peer Ambassador
Member # 35643

Icon 1 posted      Profile for eryn_smiles         Edit/Delete Post 
Thanks Karyn, for writing about this and for that link. I understand more about the NT intervention now, and honestly am more stunned by it than before.

I hear what you're saying about the government. It's quite telling isn't it, that it took Kevin Rudd to finally deliver that historic apology to the Stolen Generations last year.

Just a personal story about the intervention..
I was really privileged to hear a couple of indigenous doctors talk on this. They spoke of how insulting and condescending it was to be told that "Little Children Are Sacred"; something their communities had ALWAYS known. They spoke of fear for their childrens' safety, fear that they would be stolen away by the colonisers..AGAIN.

(I find it so ironic that the govt was trying to address child sexual abuse and yet no-one realised that coercing children into compulsory sexual health checks without informed consent is also traumatic, if not a form of sexual abuse).

One of the women who spoke was Dr Aleeta Fejo, the first Indigenous medical student in the NT. It is so sad that she is one of only 125 indigenous doctors in Australia. This is 0.2% of the health workforce..it should be at least 2.5% to be representative of the population. This is Dr Fejo's inspiring story:
http://www.racgp.org.au/afp/200812/200812fejo.pdf

I could tell that the health workers felt so conflicted in this "policing" role (as Jill aptly puts it). One GP spoke about having to report a couple of 16 year olds who were engaging in consensual sex. She had no other teenage patients that week. And I just don't know what else to say about that.

This appears to be an account of the most recent amendment to the Act from 17/8/09:
http://www.nt.alp.org.au/01_cms/details.asp?ID=71

[ 08-28-2009, 08:36 AM: Message edited by: eryn_smiles ]

--------------------
"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

Posts: 1326 | Registered: Nov 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Karybu
Scarleteen Volunteer
Member # 20094

Icon 1 posted      Profile for Karybu     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Blog entry is up: http://www.scarleteen.com/blog/karyn/2009/08/28/advance_australia_fair

--------------------
"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." -Arundhati Roy

Posts: 5799 | From: Canada/Australia | Registered: Sep 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
eryn_smiles
Peer Ambassador
Member # 35643

Icon 1 posted      Profile for eryn_smiles         Edit/Delete Post 
Well done on the blog!
Still angry and hoping they scrap this amendment altogether...

--------------------
"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

Posts: 1326 | Registered: Nov 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

  New Poll   Close Topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete Topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Contact Us | Get the Whole Story! Go Home to SCARLETEEN: Sex Ed for the Real World | Privacy Statement

Copyright 1998, 2014 Heather Corinna/Scarleteen
Scarleteen.com: Providing comprehensive sex education online to teens and young adults worldwide since 1998

Information on this site is provided for educational purposes. It is not meant to and cannot substitute for advice or care provided by an in-person medical professional. The information contained herein is not meant to be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or for prescribing any medication. You should always consult your own healthcare provider if you have a health problem or medical condition.

Powered by UBB.classic™ 6.7.3