‘Too many women and girls suffer from rape, harrasment or abuse. There is no place for this in modern Europe.’ – Vera Jourova, European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency.
Right now there’s only 14 countries in Europe that use the lack of consent when convicting sex crimes. Spain being the newest addition with the ‘solo si es si’ (only yes is yes) law. The Netherlands want to make a similar change, but the law won’t take effect until 2024. That’s why Amnesty International started their ‘Lets Talk About Yes’ campaign in the hopes of speeding up the process. It’s not surprising that they’d want this change to happen before 2024, considering one in twenty women in the EU have been victims of rape according to the European Fundamental Rights Agency. About 70% of the victims of sex crimes freeze and don’t explicitly say ‘no’, making conviction very difficult according to A. Möller. But what will the addition of consent mean for conviction and most of all: the victims?
Why this change?
This legislative change is partly owed to the European Commision, who proposed EU-wide rules to combat and prevent violence against women. Reuters said all 27 countries will have to criminalize rape, based purely on the lack of consent.
The proposal comes in the wake of the continuing failure of the 2011 Istanbul Convention – an international treaty to protect women from violence. A number of European countries signed the treaty, but are failing to implement the requirements. In many of these countries, it’s still required to use force, threats or coercion for a sex crime to be punished and convicted. That’s why the European Commission is calling for tighter legislation.
Rape is defined in article 242 of the criminal law, but the use of force, threats or coercion are still a necessity for it to be considered rape. According to Amnesty International the current Dutch criminal law goes against international human rights.
The past few years the mentality on sexually inappropriate behavior has changed. It’s been five years since the #MeToo movement took the world by storm and earlier this year the Netherlands got shaken up by the scandals on The Voice of Holland set. It makes sense that a change is not only demanded by the European Commission, but also the people. The expansion of the Dutch law will be called ‘sex without consent’ and is supposed to make it easier to prosecute perpatrators and protect victims. Supposedly this would have to make it easier to report unwanted sex according to the Ministry of Justice and Safety.
‘Convicting a sex crime is hard nontheless. A conviction is usually achieved based on witnesses or evidence showing the body was invaded’ – Danique Debets, lawyer at the court in The Hague. The challenge with this new law will be proving the lack of consent. In Spain there were people going onto the streets with contracts, after the news broke of the passed bill, only yes is yes. A contract before having sex won’t be necessary, but it does leave some questions up in the air: How do victims prove this lack of consent? Will there even be more reports of sex crimes considering the stigma around it?
Victims and conviction
Based on a report from the Police and Public Prosecution Service (OM) in the Netherlands, rape victims have slim chances of seeing a conviction. Perpetrators are only convicted in less than 10% of the cases. The cases that do end up in court have an average wait of two years for completion. In 2021 the Netherlands recorded 2,168 rapes and 2,144 sexual assaults with only 195 and 234 convictions respectively.
On top of that the two year wait is psychologically very heavy for victims. In the meantime the perpetrator gets to walk around freely and their chances of getting away with it are very big. Therefore the Dutch government should make it a priority to implement the consent law before 2024.