March 20, 2018 / 3:22 PM / a month ago

Sweden to tighten rape legislation, outlawing non-consensual sex

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - The Swedish government on Tuesday sent a bill that would outlaw sex not based on mutual consent to parliament for approval, widening the circumstances that could constitute rape or other sex crimes.

With the new law, Sweden will join a small number of countries, including Britain and Canada, where the lack of consent, even without violence, is enough to constitute a crime.

Sweden has had a relatively wide definition of rape in an international context and its laws on sex crimes came into the spotlight when the country put out an arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange over rape allegations.

Sweden has since dropped that investigation but Assange is remains holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy where he took refuge since 2012 for allegedly jumping bail in Britain.

To obtain a rape conviction, the draft Swedish law would no longer require violence or the threat of violence or that the perpetrator had exploited a victim’s vulnerable situation.

“Sex should be voluntary. Everything else is abuse,” tweeted Morgan Johansson, Minister for Justice and Home Affairs.

The government stopped short of making expressed consent a condition for consensual sex. But the bill states that “in the judgment of whether participation is voluntary, it should be taken into special consideration whether consent has been expressed in words or action”.

“If a person wants to engage in sexual activities with someone who remains inactive or gives ambiguous signals, he or she will therefore have to find out if the other person is willing,” the bill reads.

The proposal is likely to pass parliament and come into force on July 1 this year.

Assange took refuge in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden after two women made rape and sexual molestation allegations against him, which he denied.

Reporting by Daniel Dickson; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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