Czechia reverses plans to introduce financial punishment for rape

The new law will mean that convicted rapists must receive a prison sentence rather than only a financial penalty, which the state considered introducing. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 28.06.2023 12:13:00 (updated on 28.06.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Justice Minister Pavel Blažek announced today that financial punishment will not be imposed for rape in Czechia, leaving jail sentences as the only possible punishment.

In its original plan, the government drafted the introduction of financial penalties for rape. This caused public concern about possibly increasing instances of rape, especially for wealthy individuals who would be able to easily pay any criminal fines.

Changing the definition of rape

The amendments are part of the government’s upcoming changes to the law on rape, in which the state is also planning to change the country’s legal definition of the act. Currently, it does not explicitly include the absence of consent. The government is broadly in favor of making sex without consent always equivalent to rape without ambiguity. Thirteen European countries currently recognize this.

The Justice Ministry has also decided that any sexual criminal offenses against children under 12 years old would always be classified as rape. 

"We will introduce a legislative change stipulating that sexual intercourse against the will of the victim will be punishable. The victim can express their non-consent verbally or non-verbally. We will provide a specific explanation of what defenselessness entails. Additionally, we are enacting a provision that criminalizes any sexual activity performed on individuals under 12 years of age [as rape].” Minister Blažek said. 

During a meeting today to discuss the draft bill, representatives from all parties' deputy groups – except for the junior opposition right-wing Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) – were in attendance. They unanimously agreed to raise the age of defenselessness to 12 years and rejected the possibility of continuing financial punishment for rape.

Furthermore, the parties also agreed to explicitly include the state of "freezing," or paralysis, of the rape victim in the definition of defenselessness. 

A final draft of the bill will be submitted by the end of July, and will then be debated by the government before Sept. 30. 

Struggles with safeguarding women's rights

Activists have long called for the government to change its definition of rape: Czech non-governmental organization Konsent and the Czech division of Amnesty International have for years lobbied for the change to improve women’s rights nationwide. 

Data from 2022 shows that there are around 34 cases of rape in Czechia every day, and over half of all adults in Czech society view it as “common in society.”

Women’s-rights and other groups have also criticized the government for its failure to ratify the Istanbul Convention, which aims to protect women against violence. In the past, the government had repeatedly delayed discussions on ratification.

Just last week, the government announced that it approved the ratification of the convention, putting it on the path toward better-protecting women in society.

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