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No means no: a new sexual consent law has been finally passed in Germany

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Hayley Spencer
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What is being dubbed the 'No means No law' has been passed by parliament in Germany. The new law aims to make every non-consensual sexual act a punishable offence.

To make it easier to report sex crime and ensure that prosecution rates increase, new legislation broadens the definition of sexual assault and has been implemented to protect victims who do not give consent but do not use physical violence to deter their attacker.

Currently, victims have to demonstrate that as well as verbally refusing sexual advances they also physically resisted them.

It covers cases where victims have been taken by surprise, intimidated or threatened with violence, including in abusive relationships. It also classifies groping as a sex crime, punishable by a two-year prison sentence or a fine. 

Furthermore, it also makes it possible to prosecute anyone who is part of a group committing assaults in a crowd, rather than it being necessary that the person was caught directly attacking the victim.

Milo Moire protesting after Cologne New Year's Eve attacks

Milo Moire protesting after Cologne New Year's Eve attacks

"In the past there were cases where women were raped but the perpetrators couldn’t be punished,” said Germany’s minister for women, Manuela Schwesig.

“The change in the law will help increase the number of victims who choose to press charges, lower the number of criminal prosecutions that are shelved and ensure sexual assaults are properly punished.”

To put in perspective how integral the new law is to preventing and punishing attackers; according to statistics from German DPA News, 8,000 rapes are reported a year in the country, but only one in 10 women file charges. From there, only one in 10 leads to a conviction.

While a revision of laws has been ongoing in the country since 2011, the shocking mass attacks on over 1,000 women last New Year's Eve in Cologne has brought about the significant new measures, which were signed off in March by Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet.

The attacks New Year attacks were largely blamed on foreign nationals and heightened tension over the refugee crisis. As a result, Merkel proposed stricter laws about the deportation of foreign nationals who commit sex crimes back in January.

The new law will not be properly implemented until this Autumn. While it's a long time coming, it marks a huge step forward for attitudes to sex crimes and consent.

If you've been a victim of sexual assault you can seek help and advice at Rape Crisis or speak to someone on their helpline at 0808 802 9999.

Photo: Rex Features

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