By Dave Uwakwe
A draft law on sexual consent was adopted by the Swedish Parliament on Wednesday and will be implemented from 1 July.
Under the new law, sexual intercourse without the explicit verbal or physical consent of all parties will now be unlawful. Using violence or taking advantage of someone in a vulnerable state will no longer be a prerequisite for being convicted. The law introduces two new crimes: rape and sexual assault “by negligence.” The new crimes carry a sentence of up to four years in prison.
“Sex has to be voluntary, otherwise it’s illegal,” said Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin. “It should sit in the spines of every boy and man in Sweden that this is how it is. That you have to make sure that the one that you intend to have sex with is a voluntary participant,” said Swedish justice Minister Morgan Johansson.
The bill has received widespread support in the wake of repeated acquittals in rape cases that have provoked waves of national indignation. One of the most controversial, which occurred at the time the bill was presented at the end of December 2017, was a high profile rape case in which the five defendants were acquitted. The court found that the evidence was not sufficient to obtain convictions, despite the presence of semen from three of the defendants.
Several criticisms have nevertheless been made against the draft law, in particular by the Swedish Bar Association. “We have been very critical, because it will not lead to more convictions,” said Anne Ramberg, the association’s general secretary. “The new legislation has not lowered the level of evidence needed to establish the crime, because the prosecution must prove intent,” Ramberg said.
Sweden is the tenth country in Western Europe to base the definition of rape on the concept of explicit consent, according to Amnesty International.