Germany: Parliament Unanimously Approves Tougher Laws Against Sexual Assault
Monday, July 11, 2016 11:50 AM

Germany’s Lower House of Parliament has approved new laws against sexual violence that will make it easier for women to press charges in cases of sexual assault and more likely that perpetrators will be convicted. Under the new legislation, which supporters are calling the “No means No” bill, perpetrators can be prosecuted for sexual violence if the assault occurred against a woman's will (“no means no”). Women no longer have to submit evidence that the perpetrator used force or threats. Under the old system, which many experts considered outdated, less than ten percent of rapes in Germany were ever reported and few of those cases (eight percent) were successfully prosecuted.

Women’s organizations and others have long advocated for changes to Germany’s rape laws; however, Parliament approved the tougher law on sexual violence only after the mass sexual assaults that occurred in multiple German cities during last year’s New Year’s Eve celebrations, most notably in Cologne. After those assaults, women filed “hundreds of complaints of sexual violence”, but according to the New York Times, many of these cases were dismissed due to a “lack of evidence.” In direct response to the New Year’s Eve attacks, which were allegedly carried out by gangs of men targeting women in public, the new law also makes it a crime for anyone to participate in a group that sexually harasses or assaults another person.

The “No Means No” bill is expected to pass Germany’s upper house of Parliament and enter into force by September 2016. However, some have expressed concern that the bill will be used to target immigrants and refugees, particularly the provisions outlawing participation in a group that is harassing women and the provisions allowing deportation of foreigners convicted under the new laws.

Compiled from: Eddy, Melissa, Germany Passes ‘No Means No’ Law after Cologne Attacks, N.Y. Times (July 7, 2016); Kirchner, Stephanie and Noack, Rick, New stricter sexual-assault laws in Germany are making refugee activists uneasy, The Washington Post (July 7, 2016).