Czech Republic set to redefine rape based on 'no means no' principle

If passed by parliament and enacted, courts would always consider sexual acts with children under 12 to be rape or sexual assault, not sexual abuse.


Written by ČTK Published on 20.12.2023 16:00:00 (updated on 20.12.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

The Czech cabinet has approved changing the legal definition of rape from forcible sexual intercourse to non-consensual intercourse. The draft amendment to the Penal Code would also change courts' approach to sexual acts with children under 12, according to the Pirates party.

If passed by the Senate and enacted, courts would always consider sexual acts with children under 12 to be rape or sexual assault, not the lesser offense of sexual abuse.

Unambiguous consent needed

The amendment is based on the "no means no" principle. Disapproval can be indicated non-verbally through gestures, crying or defensive posturing. It also accounts for a victim's inability to consent due to factors like illness, sleep, mental incapacity, heavy intoxication, restraint or disability.

"This concept seems more appropriate criminally as it does not criminalize those who did not actively determine a victim's attitude toward the sexual act," the ministry said, explaining its decision against the stricter "yes means yes" standard.

The changes came after lengthy expert discussion and political debate, according to Justice Minister Pavel Blažek.

Following other EU countries

"This is a step in the right direction, not a hasty leap," Blažek said. "I thank representatives from the coalition and opposition and many others for listening to each other and agreeing on the proposal."

The Pirates initially pushed for a consent-based definition, following 13 other European countries. Pirates member of parliament Klára Kocmanová said: "A consent standard would be simpler, without having to list defensive situations. But the approved proposal, based on non-consent with clear defensiveness, is an acceptable compromise with cross-party support that will mainly help victims."

Rape will now only include intercourse and other penetrative acts. Less serious sexual acts have been separated into a new offense of sexual assault.

"The change will help police better prosecute and courts better punish sexual violence, mainly helping victims," said Interior Minister Vít Rakušan.

Following additional debate, revisions included expanded definitions of inability to consent and defensive freezing. Sixteen European nations have changed rape definitions recently with standards ranging from consent to violence.

Would you like us to write about your business? Find out more