German justice minister announces harsher punishment against sexual assault | News | DW | 20.07.2015
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German justice minister announces harsher punishment against sexual assault

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas plans to amend Germany's penal code on sexual assault. The reform will punish abuse which exploits a victim's fear of a "perceived menace" and tighten sentences in rape cases.

German newspapers including Berlin's "tageszeitung" and the "Hannover Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on Monday that sexual abuse "by taking advantage of special circumstances" will be condemned under an alteration of paragraph 179 of Germany's penal code.

More specifically, the draft legislation will address sexual abuse which exploits a victim's fear of a "perceived menace."

According to media reports the bill will cover cases, for example, in which a victim is afraid of regular violence by their partner and therefore endures the discernibly rejected intercourse.

Prison sentences will be between six months and 10 years, and in "less serious" cases three months.

Pressure from Istanbul Convention

Sentencing in rape cases will also be stepped up as a result of the amendment. Under Germany's current law, sexual assault is only classified as rape if sex is forced by violence, specific threats or if the perpetrator exploits the vulnerability of the victim. Until now, it has been insufficient for the victim to have said "no."

The current discussion regarding sexual assault in Germany was prompted by the Istanbul Convention of the Europe. The convention of 47 states ruled in 2011 that any "non-consensual, conduct of a sexual nature" is punishable. Germany signed the international treaty and must now implement the legislation.

Despite Maas' reform, the justice minister still faces criticism from Germany's women's movement, whose central demand is to punish any sexual act carried out against the victim's will.

ksb/kms (AFP, epd)

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