Swedish Parliament Declares the Obvious: Sex Without Consent is Rape

Sweden just joined several other European nations in bringing its rape laws into the modern age. On May 23, the Swedish parliament passed a bill which the government said, “states the obvious: if sex is not voluntary it is illegal.”

Obvious indeed, but not so much that it goes without saying, and having it written in the law is an important step forward.

According to the new law, which goes into effect on July 1, silence is not considered consent. Someone who is unconscious or gives unclear signs has not given consent. If someone wants to engage in sexual activity with another person, they’ll have to find out, either through clear verbal or physical agreement, that their partner is willing.

The previous law reflected the same outdated attitudes about rape still seen in many countries today. Until now, only instances including violent threats or coercion constituted rape.

Now, rather than victims having to prove they were coerced, prosecutors will have to show that consent was never given. Proving a negative does sound rather challenging, though.

The vote also introduced “negligent rape” and “negligent sexual abuse” into law, both of which carry a maximum of four years in prison and focus on instances in which one party did not voluntarily participate in a sexual act. Lawmakers believe this will make abusive situations easier to prosecute.

In addition to legislative change, the Ministry of Justice said in a statement that cultural changes are also necessary.

“To bring about real change, we need to talk about the responsibilities of men and boys,” the ministry said, further stating that victims also need to “be aware of their rights and have the courage to report.”

The law passed by a landslide in a 257-38 vote, making Sweden the 10th European country to update and modernize its rape laws and finally outlaw sex without active consent. According to Amnesty International, Germany, England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Belgium, Iceland and Cyprus have all preceded Sweden in redefining rape and how it can be prosecuted.

It’s not just rape laws which are improving across Europe, but other laws affecting women’s lives. Ireland just voted to legalize abortion after decades of activism. France recently approved legislation to outlaw street harassment and fine men who harass women in public. Several major cities in Europe have also voted to ban sexist outdoor ads. Several European nations, including Iceland, Britain, and Germany have passed laws in recent years to address pay inequality.

While no country in the world is completely gender equal, there does appear to be a push among some European countries to make life safer and more equal for women.

There is still a long way to go in Sweden and elsewhere, but women’s rights leaders in Sweden hope that the vote will stimulate a shift in European laws and attitudes regarding sexual assault.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

64 comments

Dave fleming
Dave fleming10 days ago

TFS

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Nicole H

@ Jenn C : Sorry, but your comment is pure racism !! Do you really think that this law was just agreed upon now, because there is a slight increase of muslim migrants in Sweden, and even more in other W. European Countries. We have in Belgium, already this law since many years. Also because of the increase of muslim migrants 4 or 5 years ago ?? In each and every country or religion, you have the good guys and the bad guys. And the fear that most people have that when something wrong has happened, the Muslims had done it, is real B.S. My sons car was stolen, while parked right in front of our house. As we live in a mixed community of Muslims and Belgian people, everybody was whispering : it's Mustapha, no it's Omar, no it's Abdul, etc... And finally they caught the thief about 2 weeks later. Guess who it was : A BELGIAN !!

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Nicole H

May I be proud to be a W. European (Belgian). Yes, of course. And NOT only for this issue. Also for legal abortion we were among the first European countries. And Euthanasia is legally allowed, provided a certain number of steps have been taken and agreed upon by 2 independent doctors. And now we are debating whether or not we could foresee a procedure that people suffering from serious mental illness could also have euthanasia. Of course this is a difficult matter, as the patient can NO longer confirm whether or not he or she wants to continue her life. But it is heartbreaking when you see these people suffer, and are kept alive with tube feeding, etc.. It's not only hard for the patient, but also for all who have a good relationship like partners, children, brothers or sisters, etc..
Anyway, I am happy that the Swedish people now also have this law. The victims, sometimes still children of 14/15 years are too ashamed to tell their story and fear the reaction of the perpetrator in case he has no jail sentence. It will be much more difficult to deny everything, and proving there was consent. Well done Sweden !! Now others still to follow urgently

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Dubravka T
Dubravka T13 days ago

Isn't it obvious to other parliaments as well?

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Marija M
Marija M15 days ago

Clever parliament.

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Leo Custer
Leo Custer15 days ago

Thank you for posting!

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Lesa D
Lesa D17 days ago

wow... how long did that take???

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Lesa D
Lesa D17 days ago

thank you Lauren...

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Sabrina D
Sabrina D18 days ago

Thank you very much for sharing it.

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