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 Yesterday, after many years of campaigning by women’s rights and survivors’ groups, the Danish government agreed to amend the Criminal Code to finally recognise in law that sex without consent is rape.

A cross-party agreement by Denmark’s government and coalition parties to introduce consent-based rape legislation is a step towards a historic victory for human rights, said Amnesty International. 

According to Amnesty International, some nine million women in the EU have been raped since the age of 15.

“This is a historic victory, not just for the campaigners who have fought long and hard for this day, but for everyone in Denmark.” said Amnesty International’s Women’s Rights Researcher, Anna Błuś.

“The new legislation must recognise the simple truth that sex without consent is rape and make absolutely clear that physical violence is not required for the crime to be considered rape. Even in long-term relationships and marriages, consent can never be assumed.”

Yesterday, Danish Justice Minister, Nick Hækkerup, committed to “move away from a system where there had to be coercion and violence for this crime to be considered rape to a system of consent. It is rape if one does not agree on it.”

“We now look forward to seeing the text of the law, and hearing how the authorities intend to challenge rape myths and negative gender stereotypes at all levels of society. This will require institutional and social change, as well as comprehensive sexuality and relationships education, including on sexual consent. We are confident that, led by survivors, Denmark can forge a new path which other countries in Europe will follow.” said Anna Błuś.

If the law is passed, Denmark will be the tenth country in the European Economic Area to recognise that sex without consent is rape.

The United Kingdom (comprising England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland), Ireland, Belgium, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Iceland, Germany and Sweden all have consent-based definitions. Greece and Spain have recently announced that they will amend legislation to recognise this fact. 

The remaining 23 European countries’ criminal laws still defining rape on the basis of physical force or threat thereof, coercion or inability to defend oneself. 

In Norway the parliament rejected the bill to regard sex without consent as rape. A citizens initiative signed by 55 723 people in Finland was delivered to the Finnish parliament and the process of making an amendment to the law is still ongoing.

Rape in Denmark is under-reported and even when women do go to the police, the chances of prosecution or conviction are slim. Of the 24,000 women found by a recent study to have experienced rape or attempted rape in 2017, just 890 rapes were reported to the police. Of these, 535 resulted in prosecutions and only 94 in convictions.

A study from the European Commission found that more than one in four people in the EU believe that sexual intercourse without consent may be justified in certain circumstances, such as if the victim is drunk or under the influence of drugs, voluntarily going home with someone, wearing revealing clothes, not saying "no" clearly, or not fighting back.

 

Paul Kostner - HT

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