In a breakthrough decision, Sweden has adopted a law requiring people to get explicit consent before sexual contact, otherwise, it will be considered as rape. The law which says, “Sex must be voluntary — if it is not, then it is illegal” was passed on Wednesday by the Swedish Parliament with a majority of 257 votes against 38. It will be effective from July 1.

The law requires explicit consent — verbal or physical — from participants before they engage in a sexual act. Under previous laws, prosecutors had to show that there had been violence or a threat of violence or the exploitation of a victim in a vulnerable state to establish rape.

But the new law says that it is no longer necessary for the offender to use violence or threats. Or to exploit the victim’s particularly vulnerable situation for rape charges to be brought forward. This means that in the court of law, the lawyer need not show any evidence of a violent attack on the victim, he/she just needs to prove that consent was never given. And what can be constituted as consent? Only active participation in the act will be interpreted as a yes. Any kind of passivity will not be read as consent.

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More Prosecutions, Few Convictions

However, the new law has received a lot of critiques. Some members of the Swedish Bar Association have said that the law is going to lead to more prosecutions but less of convictions since the lawyer, only when he/she proves the intent, will be able to prove that a crime has been committed.

Law about changing cultures

Reacting to the critique, others have said that since the laws are nothing but an expression of what is acceptable in the society, the new law is more about changing cultures. It’s about changing people’s attitude about sex. It’s about changing the mindsets of people who are still ignorant about what constitutes a rape.

Closer Home

Creating a contrast with India, we are one of the 36 countries where marital rape is not constituted as a crime. Just last month, the Gujarat High Court ruled that sexual intercourse by a man on his own adult wife (above 18) will not be accounted as rape. Thus, granting a free hand to all the men to force sex on their non-consenting wives.

There is no specific data on marital rape in India since most cases go unreported. Why? Because wives don’t know themselves that it is wrong.

Sweden is the 10th country in Western Europe to recognize non-consensual sex as rape. Other countries that have consent-based legislation includes England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Belgium, and Germany.

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Malvika Bansal is an intern with SheThePeople.Tv

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