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Sweden: a new sexual consent law comes into effect

A new law on sexual consent came into effect in Sweden on Sunday. It defines all sexual acts performed without explicit consent as rape, meaning the legal definition no longer includes violence or  threats. The bill defines rape as a sexual act where one person did not participate “freely”. 

Sweden has been rocked by the #MeToo campaign. Until now, the legal definition of rape only applied to sexual acts committed with violence or threats. 

“There’s no obligation to say yes officially, to click on a button in an application or anything like that. Simply participating physically is a sign of consent”, says Anna Hannell, a judge who helped to write the bill. She was talking to local media agency TT. 

Courts will have to pay particular attention to whether “consent was expressed through words, gestures or in another way”. The judges will then have to make a ruling. 

The bill was voted in through a Social democrat and Green majority at the end of May. It was heavily criticised by lawyers and the Law Council, who are questioning how it could be applied. 

The Law Council rules on proposed bills and has said the new legislation will require an arbitrary evaluation on whether there was consent or not. 

The aim is to change behaviour, although equality between men and women in Sweden is considered among the best in the world. 

The #MeToo movement against sexual violence was inspired by a series of accusations against Hollywood magnate Harvey Weinstein, which rocked Swedish society. 

In the Autumn, more than 10,000 professional Swedish women – especially women working in construction, culture, media and law – spoke out and campaigned against harassment. 

“In my opinion, it is important for society to clearly define what is ok and what isn’t”, says Erik Moberg (a Swedish man in his thirties). “It makes you think about our own behaviour and that of those around you”. 

The most recent statistics (from 2017) show more than 7,000 rapes were reported in Sweden that year, a 10% increase from the year before.  

A rape conviction means six years in prison. If the victim is a minor, the maximum sentence is ten years

The Brussels Times