No Consent Means Rape: Sweden's Tough Sexual Offence Law Comes Into Force

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The new law, which was passed in Sweden this May, is the first regulation in Sweden's history that recognizes sex without explicit consent as rape. The move came in response to a big rise in sexual crime in the country and was welcomed by human rights groups.

The law stresses that passivity is not a sign of sexual consent and says a person must give clear consent, verbal or physical. It modifies previous Swedish legislation requiring proof that a perpetrator used force or took advantage of a victim that was in a vulnerable situation.

The fresh legislation introduces two new offences, "negligent sexual abuse" and "negligent rape", both carrying a maximum prison term of four years. In line with the law, a person has committed rape if they have been part of a sexual act in which the other person has not participated "freely".

READ MORE: Sweden's 'Consent App' for Mitigating Draconian New Anti-Rape Law Under Fire

The law was approved in a 257 to 38 vote in late May, with Sweden's Ministry of Justice describing the bill as being "based on the obvious." "Sex must be voluntary — if it is not, then it is illegal," it said in a statement.

The changes in Sweden's legislation come after the #MeToo movement, which rocked the country last year and put a spotlight on the problem of sexual assault and harassment worldwide. Sweden saw thousands of women across the arts, media, sports and politics speak out and advocate tougher sexual assault laws.

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Demands for a tougher policy on sexual harassment were echoed by Swedish politics amid public debate over the growing number of sexual assaults allegedly committed by refugees.

In 2015, when the migration crisis broke out in Europe, the nearly 10-million Swedish nation granted asylum to some 160,000 refugees, followed by another tens of thousands in 2016.

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