I’ve written previously how the federal government’s 2008 changes to laws defining relationships forced unwanted marriage style legal provisions on de facto couples, including same sex couples, and how this effectively defined all sexual / romantic relationships in law as prostitution.
The laws assume that when people enter into sexual relationships that they also automatically enter into economic relationships. This assumption is false, archaic and offensive. People in relationships make a conscious decision whether they are forming an economic partnership. The government should not assume economic partnerships exist for all sexual / romantic couples regardless of whether they cohabit.
A recent Queensland legal case has smashed the government’s archaic assumptions. A woman who lived in a share house and had an ongoing sexual relationship with one of her house-mates was denied youth allowance because the government assumed she was in a de facto relationship with her lover, which meant that her partner was assumed to be financially supporting her, thus making her ineligible for the allowance.
The woman contested the rejection in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and won, meaning that the government now has to reassess her eligibility for youth allowance as a single person. The tribunal found no evidence of an economic partnership between the woman and her lover, and thus determined that they should not be legally defined as a de facto couple.
This is a very positive development because it indicates for the first time that the government’s assumption that all sexual / romantic relationships are financial relationships is false and can be contested. This is particularly relevant for young people, or non-monogamous people of all ages, who may cohabit with lovers without ever making economic commitments to them. These people can now confirm that they are single, not coupled, in terms of the law for economic purposes. The government can no longer assume that partners automatically pay for the affections of their partners. Sex and money have been separated.
Note: I am using the term prostitution deliberately making full reference to its archaic and offensive connotations. I am clearly distinguishing between my use of this term in relation to government policy and the honest sex work that sex workers engage in.