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Communtity Law Manual | Gender & sexuality | Rape, sexual assault and family (domestic) violence

Sexual orientation and your rights

Rape, sexual assault and family (domestic) violence

Sexual crimes: Rape, sexual violation and other sexual assaults

The laws that deal with sexual crimes in New Zealand generally don’t refer to anyone’s gender or sexual orientation.

In this section we explain about the crimes of rape, sexual violation and indecent assault.

Rape, sexual violation and other sexual assaults are crimes, whether the people are of different or the same genders or sexes

Crimes Act 1961, s 3 (definitions of “genitalia” and “sexual connection”) and ss 128, 128B

Rape and sexual violation are very serious crimes, punishable by up to 20 years’ jail. This includes when someone:

  • penetrates your vagina with their penis
  • penetrates your vagina with their finger or another part of their body, or with a physical object
  • penetrates your anus with their penis or finger or other part of their body, or with a physical object
  • touches your penis, vagina or anus with their mouth or tongue.

It’s also sexual violation if the other person is doing any of these things with your consent to start with, and then you tell them you want them to stop but they keep on doing it.

The technical meaning of “rape” in New Zealand law

Crimes Act 1961, ss 128, 128B

In New Zealand law, the word “rape” is restricted to cases of a male penetrating a female’s vagina with his penis. However, under the law this is just one of two types of the crime of “sexual violation”. The other type – “unlawful sexual connection” – covers all the other types of sexual assault described above, and it has the same maximum penalty (20 years’ jail) as cases of “rape” of a female by a male.

Crimes Act 1961, s 135 (definitions of “genitalia” and “sexual connection”) and ss 128, 128B

If someone intentionally touches your penis, vagina or anus with their fingers or hands, this could be a different crime called “indecent assault”. Indecent assault carries a maximum penalty of seven years’ jail. It makes no difference whether they’re of a different sex or gender from you or the same sex or gender.

Intimate partner violence in same-sex couples (family or domestic violence)

New Zealand’s family violence protections apply to same-sex couples

If you’re in a same-sex couple, New Zealand’s family violence laws protect you against violence and abuse by your partner just the same as with heterosexual couples. This includes physical, sexual and psychological violence and abuse.

For short-term protection the police may be able to make a Police Safety Order, and the Family Court can provide ongoing protection in the form of a protection order.

For more information, see the chapter “Family violence and elder abuse”.

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