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Thursday, 7 July 2016

Germany rape law: Will 'No' mean 'No'?

A flashmob gather in front of Hauptbahnhof main railway station to protest against the New Year's Eve sex attacks on 9 January 2016 in Cologne, GermanyImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Germany's lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, is expected to pass a new law expanding the legal definition of what constitutes rape - widely referred to as the "No" means "No" statute.
Critics believe Germany has long lagged behind other developed nations when it comes to its rape laws, but will this fix the problem?

What is the problem, anyway?

Under existing law, defined in Section 177 of the criminal code (in German), victims should have defended themselves for an act to constitute rape. Simply saying "no" is not sufficient to find the defendant guilty, and there is no attempt to define what constitutes consent.
The inadequacy of the law means many perpetrators are getting away with rape,according to a 2014 study of 107 cases by the German association of women's counselling centres and rape crisis centres (BFF).
The authors said that in every case, sexual assaults had been committed against the victim's unambiguous will, which had been communicated verbally to the perpetrator. However, they said, either charges were not filed or there was no court conviction.
The study went on to note that the law placed too much focus on whether the victim resisted and did not reflect real-life scenarios in which people are raped.
Only one in 10 rapes is reported in Germany currently, according to Germany's n-tv news website. And of those, the conviction rate is only 10%.

What would the new regulations do?

They would take into account both physical and verbal cues from the victim when assessing whether rape took place, meaning - in theory - that saying "no" could prove a lack of consent and, therefore, rape.

What's prompted this change?

Germany has long been backward when it comes to its rape laws, say campaigners - pointing out that marital rape became a criminal offence only in 1997.
A picture made available on 6 January 2016 shows crowds of people outside Cologne Main Station in Cologne, Germany, on 31 December 2015Image copyrightEPA
Image captionHundreds of women allege they were assaulted during New Year celebrations in Cologne - but few perpetrators have been convicted
A number of prominent cases have pushed the issue into the spotlight.
The wave of attacks on New Year's Eve in Cologne shocked Germans - though prosecutions have been minimal and many were aghast to learn that, once again, assault could only be proven under German law if the victim resisted.
The attacks prompted a campaign for reform under the hashtag "NeinHeisstNein" (No means No).
And, in a case that has sparked an outcry in Germany, two men were exonerated of drugging and raping German model Gina-Lisa Lohfink - despite having uploaded a video of what took place, in which she was reportedly heard saying, "Stop it, stop it" and "no".
Gina-Lisa Lohfink attends trial in Berlin in JuneImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionGina-Lisa Lohfink has appealed after receiving a fine for false testimony
Not only were the men cleared of wrongdoing, but Ms Lohfink was fined €24,000 (£21,000; $27,000) for falsely testifying.
She has appealed against the the charges. The case has been compared to theStanford University sexual assault furore in the United States.

Will the new law solve the problem?

Campaigners say the new law is a good start, but does not go far enough.
They have expressed concern that the law will not give adequate protection to victims who cannot clearly convey their lack of consent - such as those who have been drugged.
There are also plans to tighten the law governing sexual harassment and group assaults.
Activist Kristina Lunz said it was unacceptable that the vast majority of rapes were still going unpunished in Germany.

The next ambition?

"Of course it should be 'yes means yes'," says Ms Lunz, referring to a 2015 law passed in California making the legal standard for sex affirmative verbal consent.