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‘No means no’ consent law passed in Germany

The law will cover "the actual situations in which most attacks occur" according to the justice minister

A new law broadening the definition of sex crimes and zoning in on consent has been passed by the German parliament.

What’s being called the ‘no means no’ law will seek to protect assault survivors who withhold consent but do not physically fight back, which German law has up to this point failed to recognise in cases reported to the police. Legislation also details cases in which a victim is intimidated, threatened with violence, in an abusive relationship or taken by surprise, covering “the actual situations in which most attacks occur,” Justice minister Heiko Maas said.

“It is crucial that we finally embed the principle ‘no means no’ in criminal law and make every non-consensual sexual act a punishable offence," Eva Hoegl, a Social Democrats MP and an advocate for the new law, related to the AFP news agency. 

Groping with also be classified as a sex crime, incurring a possible two-year sentence or fine. It’s also now illegal to be a part of a group committing assaults within a crowd, whether there’s individual proof of attack or not. Foreign nationals indicted for sexual offences will also be more likely to receive deportation orders.

“In the past there were cases where women were raped but the perpetrators couldn’t be punished,” said Germany’s minister for women, Manuela Schwesig.

“The change in the law will help increase the number of victims who choose to press charges, lower the number of criminal prosecutions that are shelved and ensure sexual assaults are properly punished.”

A revision of laws surrounding sex crimes has been ongoing since 2011, when a Council of Europe convention on violence against women asked parliamentarians to tighten rules surrounding non-consensual sex acts. Mass attacks on over 1,000 women in Cologne last New Year’s Eve spurred on the latest legislation change.

The attacks were largely blamed by the German conservatives on “foreigners” at a time when Germany’s refugee crisis was strained. German Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed stricter laws back in January to allow the expulsion of asylum seekers fund to have committed crimes in Germany, off the back of the assaults.

According to the German DPA news agency, 8,000 rapes were reported in each year in the country, but only one in 10 victims filed charges. From that, one in 10 led to convictions.

The law won’t be properly implemented until the autumn, despite mounting pressure from within and outside of the government. Legislation still has to be passed by the upper house, the Bundesrat, which won’t be completed until after the summer recess. Despite being triggered by an awful event last New Year’s Eve, the bill characterises a much-needed change in perspective towards sex crimes and consent.

H/t Al Jazeera