German MPs have passed a bill that will make it easier for victims of sex crimes to file criminal complaints if they rejected their attacker’s advances with a clear “no”.
The law currently requires victims to show that they physically resisted attack before charges for rape and other sexual assaults can be brought.
Germany’s minister for women, Manuela Schwesig, said: “In the past there were cases where women were raped but the perpetrators couldn’t be punished.
“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 bill was passed easily thanks to the government’s large parliamentary majority.
Opposition parties welcomed the lowering of the threshold for prosecutions, but criticised two measures in the bill that could see people who are not directly involved in the assault punished and foreigners deported for sexual harassment.
Campaigners have long argued that Germany’s law on sexual assault lags behind other countries where the principle of “no means no” has been adopted, leading to low reporting and conviction rates for rape.
A string of attacks in Cologne at New Year — blamed largely on asylum-seekers — sparked a fresh debate about sexual violence in Germany.
Under the new law, attackers could also be convicted if they surprise their victims or exploit the fact that victims fear greater violence if they resist.
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