Sexual criminal law - is the reform finally coming?
"We will do everything we can to better protect women from sexual violence"
It is finally good news for victims of sexual violence: Federal Minister of Justice Heiko Maas (SPD) has announced that it will tighten the sexual criminal law. At first he had long opposed a reform, but now he changed his mind, probably also on pressure from women's organizations and Federal Minister of Women Manuela Schwesig.
"We will do everything we can to better protect women from sexual violence," Maas told Bild am Sonntag. "Too often, rape can not be punished because the sexual criminal law has gaps." And the Federal Ministry of Justice wants to close these "protection gaps" now, still in the first half of 2015, a bill is to be submitted.
A "No" is not enough
Specifically, it deals with the Criminal Law Paragraph 177. This currently provides that criminally only in the following cases, there is a rape: If the perpetrator has demonstrably used force, the victim has threatened with danger to life and limb (such as: "I kill you ! ") or the victim was in a vulnerable position - for example, traveling alone in the park at night. A clear "no" of the victim is therefore not enough. Other threats - such as the termination of the job - are criminally so far not relevant.
Women's organizations have been criticizing sexual criminal law for a long time. According to §177, a large proportion of the rapes would not be condemned, so the accusation. This is especially true in cases where the victims knew the offender. Katja Grieger from the Federal Association of Women's Counseling Centers and Women's Emergency Services (BFF) said in an interview with ChroniquesDuVasteMonde: "Most sexual assaults happen in the immediate vicinity, so the perpetrator is either a good buddy of whom I would never have thought it or my own partner." Many women fell there first in a state of shock. "But this situation is not covered by the law."
This could change now. The BFF, who had launched a major campaign to change §177 in the summer, welcomed the announcement by Heiko Maas. "The turnaround that has now been carried out gives hope that the protective gaps will actually be closed with a reform of sexual criminal law." So that a "no" soon also means "no".
Why are so few rapists convicted? Read more about §177 and its consequences in our interview with Katja Grieger vom bff.