European countries’ ‘outdated’ rape laws
EUROPEAN countries must overhaul their “outdated” laws that let rapists off the hook and perpetuate a culture of victim-blaming, rights groups have said. Only eight out of 31 countries surveyed by Amnesty International define rape as sex without consent, according to research published on the eve of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
The rest have legal definitions of rape based on force, threat of force, coercion or the victim’s inability to defend himself or herself.
“Time and again, surveys show that many people still believe it’s not rape when the victim is drunk, wearing revealing clothes or not physically fighting back,” said lead researcher Anna Blus. “Sex without consent is rape, full stop. Until governments bring their legislation in line with this simple fact, the perpetrators of rape will continue to get away with their crimes.”
The survey covered the 28 EU countries, plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. Research by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights suggests one in 20 women has been raped. But rights groups say rape remains hugely underreported in Europe, despite movements like #MeToo which have spurred women to speak out about sexual violence.
The countries that define rape as sex without consent are Belgium, Cyprus, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Sweden and the UK. Blus said rape survivors across Europe are often failed by “outdated and harmful” laws. Some countries, including Croatia and Spain, categorise sex without consent as a lesser offence, sending a message that “real rape” must involve physical violence, she said.
Spain is planning a new rape law following public outcry this year when five men were cleared of gang-raping a teenager during the bull-running festival in Pamplona. The men were convicted of a lesser crime, partly because the victim remained silent during the attack. “Rape is a crime of violence, and you shouldn’t have to prove additional violence to show rape,” said Jacqui Hunt, Europe director of Equality Now. — Thomson Reuters Foundation.