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Swedish Law Now Recognizes Sex Without Consent as Rape

Among those that have, Iceland changed its law earlier this year. Other countries that have consent-based legislation include England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Belgium, and Germany. Finland and Denmark are also considering similar proposals. Norway’s Parliament rejected similar changes to its own laws last month.

The biggest impact of the new Swedish law might be a change in the country’s mind-set about what constitutes rape, but it could also lead to more attackers being prosecuted, said Anna Blus, who monitors rape legislation in Europe for Amnesty International in London.

“In an ideal world, this will lead to more prosecutions and fewer rapes,” said Ms. Blus. “This will take time and training.”

Swedish Law Now Recognizes Sex Without Consent as Rape
Swedish Law Now Recognizes Sex Without Consent as Rape

That time and training is key, experts say. A recent Europe-wide survey on gender-based violence revealed widespread victim blaming and problematic views on consent. Nearly one-third of respondents said they believed that sex without consent is sometimes justified.

Part of the problem, Ms. Blus said, is that people still see rape as an attack carried out by a person who jumps out of the bushes and leaves signs of physical violence on a victim. In reality, the majority of rapes occur within relationships or are so-called date rapes.

Elin Sundin, the director of Fatta (“Get It”), an organization that has promoted the passing of consent-based legislation for years, said the new law would change attitudes about sex. But she said education needed to be done for the police, in schools, in workplaces and in the care sector.

“We need men to understand that if he is unsure, he should either ask or just not go there,” she said. “We have a saying in Sweden: ‘If she is lying still, it is not her will.’”

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