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California ‘stealthing’ law: State becomes first to ban removal of condom without verbal consent during sex

The act of stealthing will now amount to civil action in California

Sravasti Dasgupta,Arpan Rai
Friday 08 October 2021 07:10 BST
File: A victim of stealthing can now sue their perpetrator for damages and punitive charges in California
File: A victim of stealthing can now sue their perpetrator for damages and punitive charges in California (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

California on Thursday became the first US state to ban “stealthing”, the act of removing a condom without the permission of a partner during sex.

The bill banning stealthing was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, adding the act to the state’s civil definition of sexual battery. The act states that removing a condom during sex without first obtaining the verbal consent of partner will be illegal.

It will allow the victim to sue the perpetrator for damages, including punitive damages once the civil code is amended. However, the act will not be included in the state’s criminal code.

A study by Yale University pointed out the rise in acts of stealthing against both women and gay men, following which Democratic assemblywoman Cristina Garcia pushed for its legis`1lation in 2017, seeking to criminalise the act in her original bill. Back then, experts said the act already fit in the misdemeanour sexual battery even is it was not specifically mentioned in the criminal code.

The discreet practice so far, experts said, was rarely prosecuted because proving whether the perpetrator acted intentionally instead of accidentally is difficult.

Ms Garcia argued that stealthing could cause physical and emotional harm to its victims. She had opposed the online communities that promote stealthing, seeking its criminalisation.

The progressive act by California is among several that promote women’s safety and rights. It is also one of the 11 states to distinguish between spousal rape and other forms of sexual assault.

A related legislation on stealthing was moved by lawmakers in New York and Wisconsin but California is the first to declare the unfair practice “illegal”, Ms Garcia said.

Agencies also reported that a second bill by Ms Garcia, on treating the rape of a spouse the same as the rape of a non-spouse, removing an exemption to the rape law if the victim is married to the perpetrator - was also approved by Governor Newsom.

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