Germany passes ‘no means no’ law in wake of Cologne sex attacks

by WorldTribune Staff, July 8, 2016

Germany has strengthened its laws on rape in a move that was spurred by the New Year’s sex assaults in Cologne.

The “no means no” law, passed unanimously no July 7 in Germany’s lower house, no longer requires that victims physically resist sexual assault in order to pursue rape charges against their assailants.

Women at a protest in support of broadening Germany's definition of rape.
Women at a protest in support of broadening Germany’s definition of rape.

German lawmakers said the legislation improves “the protection of sexual self-determination” that makes it easier for victims of sexual assault to file criminal complaints.

Five rapes were reported in Cologne on New Year’s and some 1,900 women were assaulted by a group of up to 1,000 mostly Arab refugees

Many in Germany were outraged when two men, an Iraqi and an Algerian, who were part of the sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year’s Eve grinned and cheered outside court after only being handed suspended sentences.

“It is crucial that we finally embed the principle of ‘no means no’ in criminal law and make every non-consensual sexual act a punishable offense,” Social Democratic Party lawmaker Eva Hogl said ahead of the parliamentary vote.

Under the new legislation, individuals involved in a group carrying out acts of sexual violence are liable to face criminal charges, even if they did not commit the acts themselves.

According to Germany’s DPA news agency, some 8,000 rapes are reported annually. However, only 8 percent of court trials concerning rape result in a conviction, said German Justice Minister Heiko Maas.

The new legislation closes “blatant loopholes” in Germany’s rape laws by widening the definition of rape to include sexual activity that goes against the “discernible will” of the victim, Maas said. If “a defenseless state is used to commit sexual attacks, the culprits can be punished for that accordingly in the future. When perpetrators cannot be punished, it is a second bitter humiliation for the victims.”

Previous legislation stipulated that rape could only be punishable if the victim showed physical signs of resisting the assailant.

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