Other Approaches to Sexual Assault Law

last updated 10 February 2009

Some states have attempted unique approaches other than those used in the United States and the CEE/FSU region.

Canada has developed a sexual assault examination kit, which contains information about legal procedures, medical examinations, victim services and trial.  The kit also has instructions and receptacles for physical evidence collection.  The kit provides information in both French and English.  Malaysia has created a one-stop rape crisis centers in hospitals that allows both the complete medical examinations and initial police interview.  Doctors and police officers associated with the one-stop centers are well-trained in sexual assault evidence collection.  One-stop centers also call women’s advocates for support.  To improve relationships between criminal justice officials and victims, some states have tried to legislate behavior.  Some states have implemented laws to limit the number of people present during trial or testimony.  Laws that protect the victim’s identity and promote confidentiality have also been utilized by other nations. 

The Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women for the UN listed several examples of rape legislation to illustrate the wide varieties in nations around the world.  For example, the Indian Penal Code labels rape as a gender-specific crime committed by a man against a woman.  India has a long prison-sentence and does not allow bail to be granted to the defendant.  Police are given the power to investigate suspects without a warrant and judges are given the discretion to impose a fine on the convicted rapist.  Further, the law prohibits oral and anal rape as well as any words or gestures “intended to insult the modesty of a woman,” (sect. 377 of Indian Penal Code).  In Uganda, rape is punishable by the death penalty.  On the other hand, in Nepal, rape can only be committed against maids, widows or married women above 16 years.  Japan has adequate legislation that is inadequately enforced by judges, who focus on the victim’s level of resistance to determine the gravity of offense.   Judges in Japan have also upheld a 1959 precedent that sexual intercourse is normally performed under a certain degree of force, thereby raising the level of force that must be shown in order for rape to have occurred.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda calls for victim support for survivors of rape as well as witnesses.  Furthermore, the Tribunal has reasonable evidentiary requirements.  Witness and victim testimony does not need to be corroborated.  The defense of consent can only be used under certain circumstances and not if the victim has “a) has been subjected to or threatened with or has had reason to fear violence, duress, detention or psychological oppression, or b) reasonably believed that if the victim did not submit, another might be so subjected, threatened or put in fear.”  (Rule 96, section ii Rules of Procedure).  Furthermore, the victim’s prior sexual conduct cannot be admitted into evidence.  

Also see the United Nations expert group recommendations for a model sexual assault law in the report entitled "Good practices in legislation on violence against women".  For the Russian version of the report recommendations, click here.

Compiled from: United Nations Economic and Social Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Its Causes and Consequences, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, 53rd Sess., U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/1997/47 (12 February 1997).