26 Dec 2017

It is time to change the law on sex crimes

Sweden is considering a tightening of sexual criminal law. Considering the global discussion on sexual abuse, perhaps its time for every country to take a stab at defining consensual sex. 

Christine Tragler
Christine Tragler Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
It is time to change the law on sex crimes - NewsMavens
Sexuality. Wikimedia commons

Why this story matters:

gender, violence, women's issues

Sweden is considering a law stipulating that only yes means yes, sexually speaking. Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said at the beginning of the week in a Christmas speech: "Sex must be voluntary and if is not voluntary, it is illegal." In short, this would mean a tightening of sexual criminal law.

In Sweden, rape is already more broadly defined than in other countries. Since 2005, the word rape also applies when the victim cannot consent, that is: when he or she drugged, unconscious or asleep. Since 2013, a situation when the victim is fully conscious but does not fight back because of fear is also considered rape.

The above mentioned law would define things further. Before and during sexual intercourse, such as a change of position, one would have to seek the consent of the other party. Otherwise there could be legal consequences, even without violence. The basic principle of "no means no"  would be replaced by "only yes means yes". However, it is unclear how this yes should be articulated.

Nils Pickert, who writes a column on the feminist website dieStandard.at, says words are needed. We still don't talk about sex enough. Or if we do, we talk at each other instead of to each other.

"When we say that things used to be easier in the past, it also implies that powerful men like Harvey Weinstein had an easier time covering up their abuse. That's why we're here, having this discussion, pushing for clearer liabilities and more meaningful rules. That's why we're fighting", writes Nils Pickert.

With this in mind Pickert would like to make discussion even broader. He wants to talk not only about consensual sex, but also about sex as a currency. According to a British study, two out of three women, but only one in ten men, use sex as a bargaining chip.

"We live in a society in which women fell that they can only say no up to a certain point, and then when such a situation occurs it seems easier to submit to sexual acts", writes Pickert.

Pickert advocates tackling these critical issues so that the status quo be improved for all.

Details from the story:

  • In Sweden, a tightening of sexual criminal law is under discussion.
  • Rape is already more broadly defined in Scandinavia than in other countries. Since 2005, intercourse with an unconscious victim falls under the definition. Since 2013, a sexual encounter with a person who is fully conscious, but does not resist because of fear, will also be considered rape.
  • The new law would stipulate that a person should receive explicit consent before initiating any sexual act.
  • Nils Pickert's column calls for a broader discussion. He wants to talk not only about consensual sex, but also about sex as a currency.

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