New South Wales police commissioner Mick Fuller said that the country needed to modernise ideas around “positive consent” but also acknowledged that this app idea might have been “the worst idea I have all year,” according to news reports.
Mr Fuller was quoted by ABC Radio Sydney as saying, “intimate violence, particularly against women, is a real problem crime for us at the moment and we need to find a solution.” He noted the importance of adopting technological solutions.
Admitting that a sexual consent app might be misused by people with ill-intentions, he, however, noted that initiating this conversation was critical, local reports said.
Mr Fuller’s comments came days after more than 100,000 women across Australia took out rallies demanding gender equality and justice for sexual assault survivors. The country was rocked by rape allegations against some lawmakers that protesters said were poorly handled by government.
Sexual assault cases rose by 10 per cent in 2020 with a total of 15,000 women coming forward, according to data from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. However, Mr Fuller noted that conviction rates in sex crimes remain low. Reports said that “only 2 per cent of those led to guilty verdicts in court.”
The app idea has been mostly been criticised.
Catherine Lumby, a professor at Sydney University who specialises in ethics and accountability, was quoted by ABC News as calling Mr Fuller’s idea “naive.” She said, “Fundamentally what we are having now is a reckoning that a very small minority of men are opportunists, who make the decision to sexually assault women, they don’t care where, how and why they do it, they will take the opportunity and I’m sure they are more than capable of manipulating technology. They certainly wouldn’t say, ‘I’m thinking of having sex with you now, would you like to sign up to this app and say yes?’”
Mr Fuller acknowledged the backlash and pointed out that “whether the app floats or not, I think it’s irrelevant... I think it’s about understanding that this crime is on the increase … and we need to confront it whether that’s through technology or education and training or through other ideas,” according to local news reports.
The Associated Press reported that a consent app similar to Mr Fuller was launched in Denmark last month. “But the app hasn’t been widely adopted, with fewer than 5,000 downloads,” it said.
Social media users mocked Mr Fuller’s app idea. One user tweeted, “The words ‘sexual consent app’ just crossed my TL and I would like to delete reality please.”
One 19-year-old said, “the sexual consent app is such a joke. just teach people consent. Simple.”
Another user, Emily Mayo, tweeted, “The Police Commissioner is THE LAST PERSON who should be having ideas about consent. The very last. Imagine coming out with this and thinking ‘this’ll go well, the community and women will love this’.” (sic)
Andrew Dyer, a senior law lecturer at the University of Sydney, was quoted by local reports as saying that a consent app would do more harm than good.
“The proposal is well-intentioned [but] it would seem that the perpetrators of sexual assault might well gain more protection from this than victims. If the evidence of consent on the app came into evidence at a trial then [it] could be used against the woman to discredit her,” Mr Dyer said.
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