Denmark: Cross-party agreement to amend rape law puts historic victory within reach

A cross-party agreement by Denmark’s government and coalition parties to introduce consent-based rape legislation is a step towards a historic victory for human rights, said Amnesty International.

Yesterday, after many years of campaigning by women’s rights and survivors’ groups, the government agreed to amend the Criminal Code to finally recognize in law that sex without consent is rape.

This is a historic victory, not just for the campaigners who have fought long and hard for this day, but for everyone in Denmark
Anna Blus, Amnesty International

“This is a historic victory, not just for the campaigners who have fought long and hard for this day, but for everyone in Denmark. A human rights-compliant consent law would position Denmark as an example for other countries in Europe that care about access to justice for rape survivors and true gender equality,” said Amnesty International’s Women’s Rights Researcher, Anna Błuś.

“The new legislation must recognize the simple truth that sex without consent is rape and make absolutely clear that physical violence is not required for the crime to be considered rape. Even in long-term relationships and marriages, consent can never be assumed.”

The new legislation must recognize the simple truth that sex without consent is rape
Anna Blus, Amnesty International

Yesterday, Danish Justice Minister, Nick Hækkerup, committed to “move away from a system where there had to be coercion and violence for this crime to be considered rape to a system of consent. It is rape if one does not agree on it.”

This recognition is of vital importance.

Changing outdated and dangerous rape laws is a major step towards ending pervasive stigma and endemic impunity for this crime. Law reform can also be a crucial starting point for changing behaviours and attitudes, but to do so it must be accompanied by concerted efforts to challenge widespread harmful myths and gender stereotypes.

Challenging rape myths and negative gender stereotypes will require institutional and social change, as well as comprehensive sexuality and relationships education
Anna Blus, Amnesty International

“Legislation reform has the potential to also influence mindset, so this commitment by the Danish government is a welcome step forward,” said Anna Błuś.

“We now look forward to seeing the text of the law, and hearing how the authorities intend to challenge rape myths and negative gender stereotypes at all levels of society. This will require institutional and social change, as well as comprehensive sexuality and relationships education, including on sexual consent. We are confident that, led by survivors, Denmark can forge a new path which other countries in Europe will follow.”

For more information or to arrange an interview

contact: stefan.simanowitz@amnesty.org / +447936766445 or +44 2030365599 

BACKGROUND

Shockingly, if the law is passed, Denmark will be only the tenth country in the European Economic Area to recognize that sex without consent is rape. Greece and Spain have recently announced that they will amend legislation to recognize this fact.

Rape in Denmark is hugely under-reported and even when women do go to the police, the chances of prosecution or conviction are very slim. Of the 24,000 women found by a recent study to have experienced rape or attempted rape in 2017, just 890 rapes were reported to the police. Of these, 535 resulted in prosecutions and only 94 in convictions.