A pivotal moment was written in Germany’s legal history when the Parliament unanimously passed a “no means no” law defining rape as any form of non-consensual sexual contact on Thursday.
The new law will perceive all forms of non-consent exchange provided by the harassed sufficient enough to go to court, whether it’s physical or verbal abuse. The bill also recommends longer sentences for crimes committed by large groups. In the previous sexual harassment law, the notion of consent was unclear and almost non-existent. Saying ‘no’ was not enough to prove a defendant guilty and therefore have constituted an act of rape, the survivor were required to have defended themselves physically.
For the first time, the will of the harassed alone determines the point of departure from sexual act to sexual harassment. This new law finally shows progress for the rights and liberties of women in the country where such issues previously were not granted the same amount of importance. For instance, Germany only criminalized marital rape in 1997.
According to the Washington Post, many countries in Europe and North America offer women protection against violence, whereas countries in Western Asia provide the less efficient protection services regarding sexual harassment.
— Driton Smakaj (@dsmakaj) July 7, 2016
The mass attacks in Cologne were close to a thousand women said they were groped, assaulted, or robbed, acted as a catalyst for the law to be developed and become official. The main reason behind this is because the previous law stipulated that victims needed to have physically resisted; however in the case of the mass attacks, this was impossible to prove and as a result, most of the harassers were unprosecuted.
As much as the new law is other evidence women are getting things done, activist Kristina Lunz made an important point to BBC that instead of the emphasis placed on ‘no means no,’ the slogan should be ‘yes means yes.’ In incidents where explicit consent cannot be given, for example: when a person is asleep or incapacitated by drugs and alcohol, sexual harassers will use that as an opportunity to take advantage of their victims.
This was the case for Germany’s Next Top Model Gina-Lisa Lohfink, who was in court appealing a nearly $27,000 penalty for “falsely testifying” by accusing two men of drugging and raping her in 2012. She had told police that she had blacked out from her spiked drink and did not recall the attack. The complaint was filed after she found the video uploaded online, which demonstrated the men were ignoring her non-consent.
— Sarah Alice (@Sarah_ALICE13) July 7, 2016
Schwesig feels that the NeinHeisstNein (No means No) law will see an increase in the number of survivors who press charges, decrease the number of criminal prosecutions that are dismissed and ensure that sexual assault is punished accordingly.
It is important that this new law not only makes a difference on paper but in the lives of many women who are survivors of sexual assault and harassment but have received no justice. Furthermore, hopefully, the law will conscience people to have greater respect for women, their bodies, and their will.