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‘Sex must be voluntary’: Sweden bolsters rape, sexual abuse laws

Sex without first getting explicit consent is to be criminalized in Sweden. The new bill was sent to lawmakers Tuesday, despite some deeming the law unnecessary.

Sweden already has extensive sexual assault laws, but country’s lawmakers want to further cement the need for consent in the hope that the new law will see more sexual assault cases being prosecuted. The government describes the bill as being “based on the obvious: sex must be voluntary.”

"Sex should be voluntary. Everything else is abuse," Justice Minister Morgan Johansson tweeted.

"I think it's important to reach that clarity in legislation," Johansson later added, Omni reports. "I think the number of crimes solved will increase. Particularly through the combination of stronger and broader legislation together with increased support for victims."

The bill went to the Riksdag, Sweden’s legislature, on Tuesday. Under the bill, consent can be given either verbally or through clear actions. The legislation will also get rid of the need to prove intent in rape cases, and introduce greater punishment for serious rape crimes.

Sweden's Council on Legislation has questioned the need for the bill, given much of what it entails is already covered by existing law. The government responded by altering parts of the draft after the Council sought clarification on what exactly was considered illegal. The basic principle of the bill remains unchanged though.

Johansson explained that it’s “willingness which decides if it’s an act of abuse or not,” reported the Local. “That’s different from current legislation, where it has to be shown that there was violence, a threat, force or that the plaintiff was in a particularly vulnerable situation.”

According to the bill, when assessing if participation in the sex act is voluntary, “it should be taken into account whether willingness has been expressed through words, actions or in another way.”

The government explained the bill is a response to an increasing number sexual offenses and the fact that “too few” of those offenses are being reported. “Reversing this negative trend requires both new legislation and changes in attitudes,” it said.

The bill also seeks to increase the maximum penalty for rape and rape of a child, and increase protection for sexual offenses against children in order to “avoid the problem of excessive emphasis being placed on the child's physical development.”

It will also provide support for victims at an earlier stage in the process. The government will commission an information campaign aimed at 13-25-year-olds, with SEK 5 million (€496,550) in funding already allocated.

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