A law that allows sex without explicit consent to be prosecuted as rape has gone into effect in Sweden. Previously, a person could be prosecuted for rape in Sweden only if there was evidence of threats or violence. Under the new law, sexual activity not preceded by a partner’s spoken agreement or other clear demonstration of consent could be considered rape. The law does not permit passivity as a sign of voluntary participation or as a defence. The law stipulates that a person has committed rape if they have been part of a sexual act in which the other person has not participated “freely”. Rape had previously been defined as a sexual act carried out with the use of violence or threat.
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven’s government initiated the bill last year in the wake of the worldwide #MeToo campaign exposing sexual misconduct. More than 7,000 rapes were reported in Sweden last year, a 10 per cent increase compared to 2016.
Rape is punishable by up to six years imprisonment, with a maximum penalty of 10 years if the victim is a minor. The law is backed by the ruling Social Democrat-Green coalition, the law has drawn criticism from several quarters including the Swedish lawyers’ association and the national law council. In May, the Swedish Academy announced there would be no Nobel Literature Prize this year following a major sexual assault scandal.