Czech Senate passes bill defining rape as non-consensual sex

The amendment to the Criminal Code that newly defines rape as non-consensual sexual intercourse, not just forcibly coerced intercourse.

ČTK

Written by ČTK Published on 30.05.2024 10:00:00 (updated on 30.05.2024) Reading time: 2 minutes

The Czech Senate today passed an amendment to the Criminal Code that redefines rape as non-consensual sexual intercourse rather than just forcibly coerced intercourse. This introduces a stricter definition based on the “no means no” principle.

The draft, supported by 63 of the 68 members of the upper house present, will now be sent to President Petr Pavel for signing into law.

The amendment also modifies the treatment of sexual practices with children under 12 years of age. Justice Minister Pavel Blažek (Civic Democrats, ODS) summarized the change, saying, “Children are not touched until the age of 12.” Courts will now always consider such acts as rape or sexual assault rather than the lesser offense of sexual abuse.

According to the amendment, the victim’s disagreement no longer needs to be expressed only through words. A gesture, crying, or a defensive position would also be sufficient evidence. The proposal also takes into account the victim’s defenselessness, such as when they are unable to express or form their will due to illness, sleep, mental disorder, severe drunkenness, restraint, or disability.

Differing definitions of rape across Europe

In recent years, 16 European countries have moved to change the definition of rape, with some adopting the “yes means yes” concept and others the “no means no” concept. Malta, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Spain, and Slovenia apply the “yes means yes” definition, while Latvia, Denmark, Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany, and Sweden use the “no means no” concept. France and Austria stick to the definition of rape based on violence or threat.

The offense of rape will now only include intercourse and other penetrative acts, with less serious sexual practices covered by a new separate offense of sexual assault.

Senator and lawyer Daniela Kovářová (independent) questioned the effectiveness of the amendment, stating that the change in definition will not prevent rape. On the other hand, Miluše Horská, from the Christian Democrat group of senators, said the amendment was a positive step in improving the position of victims. She also credited non-profit organizations for their work in this regard.

Johanna Nejedlová, the director of the non-profit organization Konsent, which focuses on preventing sexual harassment and violence, considers the adoption of the amendment a success. “I am, of course, pleased about this, especially because of the 12,000 victims who experience rape in our country every year. From now on, they will have better representation in court and a better chance of a just punishment for the perpetrator,” she said.

According to Amnesty International Czech Republic (AI CR), the previous approach, which defined rape as the use of violence or abuse of defenselessness, has led to the majority of rapes not being reported or investigated. “Our goal is to change the so-called ‘rape culture’ that normalizes and even justifies rape in our society,” said AI CR’s expert on sexualized violence, Irena Hulova.

  • The offence of rape will now only include intercourse and other penetrative acts.
  • A new separate offence of sexual assault will cover less serious sexual practices.
  • Use of a weapon will result in a higher penalty for both sexual assault and rape.
  • Sexual coercion will be included among offenses for which failure to prevent is punishable, similar to sexual abuse.
  • The offense of sexual coercion will be expanded to include the abuse of someone's distress.
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