AN ANTI-vaccination group in Australia has defended an advert which appears to compare immunising children with being raped.
The Australian Vaccination Skeptics Network posted an image of a woman with a man threateningly holding his hand over her mouth on its Facebook page earlier today.
The poster refers to vaccinations as "forced penetration" and asks: "Do you really 'need' control over your own body?"
The implication is immediately clear: allowing your child to be vaccinated without their consent is equitable to sexual violence.
Rose Taylor wrote: "This is disgusting. Are you saying you believe your child being immunised is as bad as your child being raped? This could be very triggering for victims of sexual assault."
Responding to a comment, the group defended its decision to publish the photo.
According to the Sydney Herald, it wrote:
"The post isn't tasteless - it is honest.
"What truly IS tasteless is our elected government trying to tell us that we have to vaccinate our children even if we don't believe it is best for their health."
Fiona McCormack, CEO for the organisation Domestic Violence Victoria told the Sydney Herald that the comparison was "irresponsible and inappropriate".
"To compare a doctor injecting a child against something like the measles to rape… it's obscene."
Catherine King, Shadow minister for Health, said that "equating doctors with rapists shows how completely unhinged the AVSN has become."
The organisation has long-rallied against the pro-vaccinatation views of the wider medical community by claiming that vaccines can cause autism and that vaccination is a "personal choice".
Their website claims that they "empower people to make informed choices because every issue has two sides".
The group has frequently caused controversy in the past. It has been accused of bullying and intimidating the parents of a baby girl that dies of a whooping cough.
Meryl Dorey, the former head of the network, was accused of attempting to access the baby's medical records on the day before the funeral.
This is not the first time that the group has compared vaccination to rape. In a tweet four years ago, they compared a court ordering the vaccination of a child as court-ordered "rape".
In March last year the AVSN lost its charity status over fears that it could adversely affect children's health. They were also forced to add the work "skeptics" into their name over claims that the title was misleading.
The vast majority of scientific medical evidence supports the overriding benefits of vaccines. In 2014, a major international review found no evidence linking the development of autism with widely used vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough.
Earlier this month Canadian mother Tara Hills reversed her anti-vaccinations views after all seven of her children contracted whooping cough within a week. She said: "Right now my family is living the consequences of misinformation and fear."