Tackle Rape Culture globally by Defining Consent in Law

Tackle Rape Culture globally by Defining Consent in Law

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Conversations on Consent started this petition to UK Parliament and

IT’S TIME TO PUT A STOP TO RAPE CULTURE.

According to the UN, almost one in three women globally have been raped or suffered sexual violence at least once in their life. “Millions of people are denied their right to say no to sex [...] many are denied this right because of race, sex, sexual orientation, age or ability,” a recent report said

In the UK alone, 1.6 million adults have been raped, and almost 50% of them more than once, according to the 2020 crime survey. Yet fewer than one in six report the crime because many believe nothing can be done. 

In South Africa, which has the highest rate of reported sexual assault, one survey found that approximately one in four men admitted to committing rape, while in India a woman is raped every 20 minutes.

Transgender people and those with disabilities are twice as likely to be victims of sexual assault or rape and, in the US, 70% of rape is committed by someone the victim knows.

To make matters worse, calls to helplines have increased five-fold in some countries due to an uptick in violence during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Social and cultural norms have created an environment that normalises sexual and gender-based violence and makes excuses for those who commit it, while victims are blamed for their own assaults. This is rape culture and it’s time for this toxic behaviour to end. 

We believe that the heart of this issue is consent – a clear and sustainable definition of it - that is still missing from sexual violence laws all around the world. In Europe alone, only 13 countries have laws that state that sex without consent is rape. No country in the world currently defines consent in law. 


We demand that countries around the world introduce laws that clearly define “consent” and “coercion” to facilitate the prosecution of non-consensual sexual acts. 


It should never be a survivor’s responsibility to prove they did not consent to sexual relations. It is instead on the perpetrator, whatever their gender, to prove they obtained it. 

Going beyond the already impressive “no means no” and “yes means yes” campaigns, we want the law to take into consideration that “yes” does not mean yes if coercion is involved, and that saying “no” can put you in real danger. If there is coercion there is no consent. 

We are an international group of professionals of all backgrounds and genders who believe everyone has the right to bodily integrity and healthy relationships defined by consent. Many of us are survivors of sexual assault. 


We need a standard definition of consent that can be rolled out to offer protection in countries around the world – from the UK to Ghana, and Pakistan to Mexico. Only with this clarity can acts of sexual violence be identified properly and prosecuted as criminal offences. Only then can rape culture truly be addressed. 


OUR PROPOSAL

Our Legal Council of Criminal Lawyers from around the world, from Turkey to Malta and the UK’s Oxford University, has drafted the following definition of consent. We propose that sexual offence legislation should include:

An individual with capacity consents where they give free informed approval. Consent is for all - regardless of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. To decide if there is consent it is necessary to look at all the circumstances and the context of the relationship between the parties. A person who is agreeing while experiencing fear or coercion is not consenting.  

Regarding sexual touching between A and B, A cannot rely on B’s consent as a defence to a criminal charge in connection with that touching if they have used compulsion, threats, coercion (including by abusing a position of trust, vulnerability, power or authority), deception, concealment or artifice in order to enable the touching to take place. 

A can only rely on B’s consent if A reasonably believes that B has consented. In deciding whether A has reasonable grounds, the court should pay attention to what steps, if any, A took to ascertain if B consented. B can not rely on her/his own assumptions as a reasonable ground of belief. Silence can never be reasonable grounds for believing there is consent.

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