A few minutes before midnight on Thursday, Belgium's Federal Parliament finally approved a complete reform of the country's sexual criminal law.
The country's previous sexual criminal law was based on a code from 1867, and more importantly, was "insufficiently adapted to today’s standards," according to Federal Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne, who made it his mission to modernise Belgium's penal code.
"From now on, consent is the central principle and we have provided for heavier penalties," he said.
By focusing on consent, the definition of sexual violence, especially rape, has been redefined. In essence, the judicial definition of rape no also includes situations in which penetration no longer has to be complete (but can also be partial), when consent is withdrawn, or when the perpetrator takes advantage of the victim’s vulnerable state.
The new law specifies that a minor under the age of 16 cannot consent to sexual acts, doubles the prison sentences for perpetrators, and – after a nearly year-long battle – makes Belgium the first country in Europe to officially decriminalise sex work.
While the work is still far from done, this "historic reform" is a huge step forward for Belgium, as the country finally anchored the principles of safe, sane and consensual sex in law.
Or, how Belgium finally started listening to the wise words of Salt-N-Pepa: "Let's talk about all the good things, and the bad things that may be."
What does this mean for you? Let @maajtee know.
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