From consent to burden of proof: Belgium reforms sexual criminal law
Share article:
Share article:

From consent to burden of proof: Belgium reforms sexual criminal law

Credit: Unsplash

On Tuesday, the Justice Committee examined the government’s proposal for the reform and modernisation of Belgium’s sexual criminal law.

The most important part of the reformed sexual criminal law is the continuous stress on the consent of sex partners, says Federal Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne.

“That consent can be revoked at any time, and then it has to be stopped,” he explained on Flemish radio on Tuesday, adding that the notion of ‘consent’ should make discussions around possible rape “clearer and more transparent.”

With this, Van Quickenborne aims to put an end to the interpretation that used to prevail that there was no rape if there was no violence involved.

“We know that it is often he said-she said. If there is any doubt, it is still up to the judge to decide,” he said, while also pointing out that there are new techniques to prove rape more clearly.

Related News:


Additionally, the age of sexual consent (the age at which someone is allowed to have sex) remains at 16 years old in Belgium. However, the government chose to include one exception to that rule: sex is also allowed at 14, but only if the age difference with the partner is not greater than two years.

In practice, this means that a 14-year-old is legally allowed to have sex with a 16-year-old, but not with a 17-year-old. Some are also calling to raise that age range from two to four or five years, arguing that there is a big difference between a 14-year old having sex with an 18-year old or with a 40-year old.

Van Quickenborne stated that he realises that this discussion is ongoing, and emphasised that this is currently still a proposal that will be discussed in Parliament, where “experts will also come to explain things at the hearings.”

Another change being made is the maximum sentence for rape, which will be increased from five years in prison to ten years. On top of that, the judge can also impose mandatory counselling.

However, Van Quickenborne does not want to shift the burden of proof to the perpetrator. Some argue that it is not the victim who must prove that there was no consent, but the perpetrator who must prove that there was consent.

“That goes against all the rules of our criminal law. If there is any doubt, the presumption of innocence applies,” he stressed. “We are not going to reverse that for sexual penal code.”

The Brussels Times

Latest news

Limiting private contacts ‘needed to fight autumn wave’, expert warns
The Consultative Committee announced it is introducing a handful of measures in public spaces to control the quickening spread of the coronavirus, ...
After 5 rescues in 2 days, hundreds of migrants take shelter in Italy
After five rescues in less than two days, almost 400 migrants aboard the Geo Barents search and rescue ship in the Central Mediterranean, operated by ...
Belgian wind farm closed down to save migrants floating in sea
A wind farm near Zeebrugge had to be shut down on Wednesday morning as more than 25 migrants had been adrift in its vicinity off the Belgian coast ...
Cinemas will require Covid Safe Ticket from Friday
The Covid Safe Ticket (CST) will be required to attend cinemas across Belgium from Friday, which marks the start of the autumn holidays, the ...
UN issues strong warning ahead of climate change summit in Glasgow
New and updated climate commitments fall far short of what is needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, leaving the world on track for a ...
Disastrous year for Belgian beekeepers
Belgian beekeepers have experienced a disastrous year, with honey production 50 to 60 percent lower than last year due to heavy rainfall during ...
New measures for schools considered as situation becomes ‘untenable’
Belgium's various education partners met on Wednesday to discuss additional measures to implement in schools as the coronavirus situation worsens in ...
Belgium in Brief: Back To Masks
I really hope you didn't throw out all your masks. You'll be needing them again. Now I do appreciate that this isn't a huge change for ...
Belgium a climate slowcoach as EU reveals emissions progress
The European Union is on track to pass its first big climate test, according to new figures published this week. But Belgium has been singled out for ...
Belgium’s decision on possible third shot postponed until Saturday
The decision on how Belgium will proceed with the roll-out of third shots of the coronavirus vaccine has been postponed until Saturday.  The news ...
Experts and politicians respond to new coronavirus measures
The handful of measures (re-)introduced by Belgium's Consultative Committee on Tuesday in response to the worsening coronavirus situation have had a ...
New fraudulent e-mails circulating in Belgium
A warning has been put out about new phishing e-mails that have been circulating since last Saturday and are sent from what could appear to be an ...