The prolonged highway to a consent-centered rape regulation in Denmark

hafiz caem

As a human rights activist there are moments exactly where we truly feel points shift.

A single of those times arrived final yr during a conference with Denmark’s then Justice Minister, Søren Pape Poulsen.

I was there to discuss with him our Amnesty International’s Let’s Converse About Yes campaign to urge the authorities to change Denmark’s antiquated rape regulations. These laws have remaining 1000’s of gals not able to obtain justice – gals like the two survivor activists who were being with me at the assembly. 

I don’t forget viewing the Minister’s experience as a single of the survivors explained in coronary heart-rending detail how she was unsuccessful at every single stage of the Danish justice procedure soon after she documented remaining raped by a good friend in 2018.

The Minister listened to her in silence.

I remember looking at his confront. He was visibly moved. When he spoke, there was tremor in his voice. He admitted that he experienced been incorrect to argue that the proposed consent-dependent rape legislation was not realistic.

Right until now, Danish regulation has not described rape on the foundation of lack of consent. In its place, it utilized a definition dependent on no matter if actual physical violence, danger or coercion was involved or if the sufferer was discovered to have been ‘unable to resist’. The assumption that a target presents consent due to the fact they have not physically resisted is mistaken. “Involuntary paralysis” or “freezing” has been acknowledged by specialists as a very popular physiological and psychological response to sexual assault.

How the regulation defines rape is a important choosing variable in no matter whether survivors are able to access to justice.

Just after that assembly, the Minister of Justice started to overtly guidance switching the rape regulation. By indicating publicly that he had transformed his head, he gave other people the probability to transform their minds way too. Currently, Danish parliamentarians voted by way of a new consent-centered legislation with a significant bulk.

This historic working day did not appear about by probability. It is the outcome of yrs of campaigning by survivor teams. Amnesty International has been proud to be part of a broad coalition of women’s rights organisations, movements like Black Lives Make a difference Denmark, survivor activists and youth activists, who collectively, have held calls to alter the legislation on the agenda. Below the banners of the #LetsTalkAboutYes campaign, thousands of men and women took portion in demonstrations all about Denmark and campaigners satisfied with parliamentarians and authorities officials numerous periods.  

This victory is also the final result of persistent operate inside of the Danish Parliament, specially of the Pink Eco-friendly Alliance get together who have set forward many proposed variations to the rape law more than the a long time. The changes were being voted down yet again and yet again – but they did not give up. 

Amnesty International’s 2019 report

on entry to justice for rape survivors exposed the extent to which ladies and ladies in Denmark continue to be betrayed by outdated rape laws. It documented that impunity and hazardous gender stereotypes at each individual stage of the legal method stand in the way of justice.

The report obtained lots of interest and we have been satisfied with robust conservative forces in modern society, who opposed the change of law. But it also had one more affect – quite a few women came ahead to speak about their experiences with the lawful procedure. They described the obstacles which prevented them getting justice, or talked about why they did not feel they could report their rape. The women of all ages also gave insights into the persistent gender stereotypes and old-fashioned sights on male and female sexuality which are nonetheless a truth in Denmark.

It is became harder for any politicians with hearts and ears to keep justifying the status quo.

On 17 December, Danish parliamentarians voted for the definition of rape to be adjusted from a force-based a single to underlining that intercourse devoid of consent is rape, meaning Denmark’s lawful definition of rape will ultimately align with worldwide human rights benchmarks this kind of as the Istanbul Convention.

“The new law falls quick of becoming crystal very clear in its commentary that passivity cannot be taken to suggest consent but in spite of this weakness, it is even so a big stage forwards for Denmark”.

“It has been a historic and important combat, but it has not been without having outcomes for a good deal of us who have employed our personal situation to adjust the legislation,” Kirstine Holst, a consent activists advised me. “The resistance has been predicted and difficult and it has arrive from a whole lot of sites. In my individual situation it was the particular person I claimed to the law enforcement as very well as associates of the group of judges who attacked me in general public. I am joyful the law is now adjusted, but the battle is not about.”

This is a milestone for women’s legal rights. Today we are celebrate, but tomorrow we will go back again to operate. The legislation is just the very first essential phase. The next endeavor is to continue functioning on switching the society in Danish culture and among the industry experts in the authorized program. Only then will we be in a scenario exactly where tales – like the a single told so bravely by the survivor of rape to the Minister of Justice – grow to be considerably less and a lot less typical.

Helle Jacobsen is the senior plan advisor and researcher on gender for Amnesty International, Denmark

This article was initial printed below by Newsweek 

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