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Consent – the basic requirement of new sexual offence legislation
The Government has presented a bill to the Riksdag containing a proposal concerning new sexual offence legislation that is based on consent. Sex must be voluntary – if it is not, then it is illegal. The Swedish Crime Victim Compensation and Support Authority has been tasked with informing young people about the new legislation.
The incidence of sexual offences is increasing in Sweden, with young women facing the greatest risk. At the same time, too few of these offences are reported. Reversing this negative trend requires both new legislation and changes in attitudes. The Government therefore proposes the introduction of sexual consent legislation that is based on the obvious; sex must be voluntary. Accordingly, a rape conviction will no longer require the use of violence or threats by the perpetrator, or that a victim's particularly vulnerable situation was exploited.
The proposal also involves introducing two new offences: 'negligent rape' and 'negligent sexual abuse'. Both carry a prison sentence of a maximum of four years. The negligence aspect focuses on the fact that one of the parties did not participate voluntarily. This means that it will be possible to convict more people of sexual abuse than at present, for example when someone should be aware of the risk that the other person is not participating voluntarily but still engages in a sexual act with that person.
The Government is also proposing the following:
- enhancing the protection provided under criminal law concerning sexual offences against children where the perpetrator displays negligence with regard to the child's age. The aim of these amendments is to avoid the previous problem of excessive emphasis being placed on the child's physical development; and
- providing early support to victims of sexual offences. When a preliminary investigation of a sexual offence is launched, a request for a counsel to represent the injured party is to be made immediately.
The proposals now being presented are based on proposals from a cross-party committee of inquiry in which all Riksdag parties were represented.
It is proposed that the legislative amendments enter into force on 1 July 2018.
To effect real change, the legislation must gain traction throughout society. The Government has therefore tasked the Swedish Crime Victim Compensation and Support Authority with producing information and running sexual offences education campaigns targeting primarily young people, as well as the adults who interact with them on a daily basis. The responsibility of men and boys must be clarified, while all victims must be aware of their rights and have the courage to report.
The task of the Swedish Crime Victim Compensation and Support Authority is to produce information material based on the content of the new legislation, together with an online training course and a teachers' guide. The task will run for three years and the Authority will receive an extra SEK 5 million per year to fund it.