Following the events on New Year’s Eve in Cologne and in other German cities, when groups of men sexually harassed women in the middle of the city and at central rail stations, the German Bundestag has yesterday, July 7, 2016 passed a new sexual offense law. The “No Means No” (German: “nein heißt nein”) law was passed by unanimous vote and under the MP’s applause. The law tightens rules on consent, makes groping a sex crime and enables prosecution of groups, even bystanders.
The law covers cases in which a victim withheld consent but did not physically resist the sexual attack. Under the new law, courts should take into account circumstances in which victims did not resist because they were incapacitated, taken by surprise or threatened with greater violence if they objected sexual contact. Previously, the law required victims to prove that they not only objected to the offender’s advances but also physically resisted an assault before any charges for sex crimes could be brought. According to advocates of the new law, such a situation led to the underreporting of sex assaults in Germany, rt.com reports.
“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 and continued: “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.”
The law will not to come into force until this autumn, even though there is pressure for a speedier process, because it also has to be passed by the upper house, Bundesrat, which will vote after summer recess.