Germany lawmakers debate 'no means no' rape law

2016-07-07 16:35
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Berlin – German lawmakers debated a bill on Thursday that will make it easier for victims of sex crimes to file criminal complaints if they rejected their attacker's advances with a clear 'no'.

The law currently requires victims to show that they physically resisted attack before charges for rape and other sexual assaults can be brought.

"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."

The bill was expected to pass easily thanks to the government's large parliamentary majority.

Low conviction rates

Opposition parties welcomed the lowering of the threshold for prosecutions, but criticised two measures in the bill that could see people who aren't directly involved in the assault punished, and foreigners deported for sexual harassment.

Campaigners have long argued that Germany's law on sexual assault lags behind other countries where the principle of "no means no" has been adopted, leading to low reporting and conviction rates for rape.

According to figures cited by Heiko Maas, the country's justice minister, only one-in-10 rapes in Germany is reported and just 8% of rape trials result in convictions.

Conservative lawmakers had previously resisted changing the law, arguing that it is difficult to prove in court that someone said "no" if no independent witnesses were present.

But a string of attacks in Cologne at New Year – blamed largely on asylum-seekers – sparked a fresh debate about sexual violence in Germany and a change of heart from Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right Union bloc.

Under the new law, attackers could also be convicted if they surprise their victims or exploit the fact that victims fear greater violence if they resist.

Read more on:    germany  |  gender equality

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