15 Dec 2018

The fear of having to respect consent

When Sweden introduced tougher legislation on prosecution and sentencing of rape, some media in the Balkans reacted by spreading false news about it.

Tijana Cvjeticanin
Tijana Cvjeticanin Istinomjer, Bosnia and Herzegovina
The fear of having to respect consent - NewsMavens
Lock and law, PixaBay


In the beginning of June, Serbian tabloid “Alo” published an article with this headline:

"WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN IF SERBIA PASSES THIS LAW?! If you want sex, you’ll have to visit the notary first!"

With the help of an “expert” -- notably, a tabloid psychiatrist and a former short-term ambassador of Serbia to Nigeria, who publicly bragged about having “young mistresses” during his tenure -- the article contineues to elaborate on the intricacies of this astonishing “news”:

“Sweden has adopted a law which requires people to get written consent for sex from the other person Furthermore, it must be verified by a notary, or else that interaction will be considered a rape.

The law is about to be applied in the whole EU soon and our experts think that this unusual law would bring Serbia more damage than good. The law is going in effect on July 1st and Jovan Marić, psychiatrist and a sexologist, thinks that 'Swedes are a strange people'.  


A law of this sort would suffocate the little good mood for love making left over after a hard day, so this is about vulgarization of the finest human relations -- he claims and adds that this would only increase the number of sexual harassment reports."  

The article ends with a question aiming to engage audience and stir discussion in the comments: “What do you think. Does Serbia need notary-verified sex?”

After Alo, many other tabloids and fake news websites followed. Here are some of the headlines of the reprinted article from throughout the region:

"SWEDEN GOES FIRST, THE REST OF THE EU WILL FOLLOW You want sex? Head to the notary first to get 'verification'!"

The Swedes will have to get A VERIFIED PERMIT FOR SEX from the notary, is this something Bosnia and Herzegovina will also face?

Swedes make love only with partner’s written permission



The changes to Sweden’s criminal code define nonconsensual sex as rape. This means that if both parties do not clearly consent to sex, there doesn’t have to be a use of physical violence or threats for it to be prosecuted as rape -- the fact that one person didn’t consent to it is enough.  

There is, of course, nothing in the law about obtaining “written consent”, or having to receive a stamped paper to make sex “legal”. It’s also not the first such law adopted in Europe, nor is it a law that was going to be “applied to the whole EU”.

It was, however, a law which seemed to have struck a chord with right-wing websites who published the claims that Sweden will force people to obtain “written consent for sex” or fill out a “sex consent card”. The article in Alo added a “notary” to the original fake story, doubling down on the claims about a law designed to make sex impossible and turn it into a bureaucratic procedure.


The claims of a law requiring written consent or a verification from the notary for sex in Sweden are fake news. They also express anxiety about having to respect consent and aim to ridicule the intention of law makers to protect people from becoming victims of sexual violence -- overwhelming majority of whom are women. We therefore rate this story as trivialization of violence against women.


Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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