New Swedish law says sex without clear consent constitutes rape

By Brooke Baitinger  |  May 24, 2018 at 12:30 PM
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May 24 (UPI) -- Sweden passed a new law Thursday that says having sex with someone without explicit consent can constitute rape.

The new law, passed by a vote of 257-38, says a lack of verbal or explicitly clear consent can be categorized as rape.

After the law takes effect July 1, prosecutors will no longer need to prove violence or that the victim's vulnerable situation was exploited. If a perpetrator took advantage while a victim is intoxicated, for example, that can legally be considered rape. Under the previous law, prosecutors typically had to prove one or the other to secure a conviction.

Lack of consent, the law states, is enough to constitute a crime. Passivity or silence is not a sign of sexual agreement, it adds.

"Sex must be voluntary," lawmakers said in proposing the legislation. "If a person wants to engage in sexual activities with someone who remains inactive or gives ambiguous signals, he or she will therefore have to find out if the other person is willing."

The law also introduces two new offenses -- negligent rape and negligent sexual abuse. Both carry a maximum of four years in prison.

Supporters said the changes were driven by the #MeToo movement, and that debate gained momentum in 2014 following several high-profile cases in which alleged rapists were acquitted because they'd argued it wasn't clear the victim hadn't given consent.

Around the same time, Sweden's former center-right government campaigned to find out why the country's high rate of reported rape didn't lead to more convictions. In 2015, only 22 percent of all sex crimes led to a conviction or other punishment. Many cases have also gone unreported.

"This is just one step out of many to reach the goal that each human being's sexuality is fully respected," Liberal Party member Maria Arnholm said amid the debate.

Other European countries have adopted similar laws, including Britain, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and Cyprus.

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