Swedes may be charged with rape unless they get ‘explicit’ sexual consent under proposed law
Sweden’s adults could be convicted of rape unless they receive a verbal or non-verbal sign of consent from their partner at each step of their sexual encounter, according to a new law set to come into force next year.
“It should be obvious. Sex should be voluntary. If it is not voluntary, then it is illegal,” Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, who leads a center-left coalition, said during a presentation in Stockholm. “If you are unsure, then refrain!”
As with other ‘Yes means Yes’ initiatives, at any trial it will now fall on those accused of rape to prove that their actions were welcomed by their partner, rather than on the accuser to show that they did not consent – which Lofven said will “put the victims’ interests first.”
Standing next to the PM, Justice Minister Morgan Johansson said that the line on what constitutes a sufficient show of consent will be decided on a “case-by-case” basis, but added that he “expects the number of rape convictions to rise.”
Johansson openly declared that the law, which is expected to be enforced from July 2018, was launched as a purposeful “signal to Sweden’s men and boys.”
“If men’s violence against women is to cease, it’s the men who have to change,” stated Johansson, who has allotted some $120 million of extra funds next year for the police to combat sex crimes.
Other legislation to be approved as part of the package will introduce more severe custodial punishments for rape, and the concept of “negligent” rape and sexual abuse. In such cases perpetrators could be charged with rape even if they did not explicitly intend to coerce their victim, which is the standard for the existing sexual abuse law.
“It’s a new chapter in Swedish gender equality history. Not least in connection with the #metoo movement, we see that this is needed,” said Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lovin, who had campaigned for the initiative, referring to the social media movement sparked by the allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
#metoo is thought to be responsible for sexual crime reports spiking since the scandal broke by a third compared with the same period last year. Over two-thirds of Swedes asked have told pollsters that they have discussed the issues raised by the scandal either at home or with their colleagues and partners.
Although affirmative consent has been implemented in several states in the US in relation to college campuses and schools, Sweden is to become the first country to turn it into a universal law, Denmark having voted down a similar proposal.
While it is unlikely to meet parliamentary resistance, the Swedish Bar Association General Secretary Anne Ramberg has criticized the “populist” law, saying that it is could be “divorced from reality” and “repressive,” leading to innocent people being jailed without affecting the overall incidence of sexual assault.