Image: Brandenburg Gate / Thomas Wolf / Wikimedia Commons
No means no. Always.
Simple right? It’s one of the keys to consent – but is something the law has been inexplicably slow to recognise.
Even in Europe, the idea is a relatively new one, legally speaking. And in the home of Oktoberfest, it’s more recent than Hiddleswift.
But no more.
Earlier this past July, Germany’s parliament (known as the Bundestag) passed a new “no means no” rape law, expanding the definition of what constitutes a rape or sexual assault. MPs stood and cheered when it was announced it has passed, and with good reason. Believe me: as someone who lived in Germany for nearly three years, it’s a pretty big deal.
Despite having one of the world’s largest economies and being ubiquitous with technological innovation, Germany’s previous rape laws were incredibly draconian. The previous law, as outlined in Section 177 of the criminal code, stated that for an act to be considered rape, the victim had to have attempted to defend themselves.
The new law is light-years ahead of the old one because it recognises things such as the “freeze” response and that “no” means just that – no. Meaning not ok. Meaning not yes. Meaning stop. Now.
Groping is now also a sex crime in Germany, no matter where the person is groped. That’s a big step up from the old law, which only considered groping a crime if it was done in someone’s genital area and only if the victim tried to physically resist.
Of course, things still aren’t perfect. Even with the new law, there’s confusion over how inebriated a person has to be for them to be considered unable to give consent. And of course the fact it took until 2016 for a law like this to be passed is ridiculous.
But in a country in which only about 10 per cent of rapes are reported (of which only about 10 per cent result in convictions – meaning only one out of one hundred fucking rapes actually results in a rapist being punished), it’s a massive step in the right direction. With Germany’s outsized influence on both European and worldwide politics and culture, there’s hope, too, that the law could be something other countries adopt.
And perhaps most importantly of all, the law is significant because it changes the perception about rape. The new law doesn’t blame the victim. It blames the rapist.
As we all fucking should.