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Denmark’s sexual consent law ‘used as intended’ in first two years

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Ritzau/The Local - [email protected]
Denmark’s sexual consent law ‘used as intended’ in first two years
A review of Denmark’s new sexual consent law by the country’s Director of Public Prosecutions (Rigsadvokaten) has concluded that it has been used as intended. Photo: Ida Marie Odgaard/Ritzau Scanpix

A review of Denmark’s new sexual consent law by the country’s Director of Public Prosecutions (Rigsadvokat) has concluded that it has been used as intended in the two years since it was brought into the statutes. 

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The law, which requires both parties to give their consent before sexual intercourse takes place, came into force on January 1st, 2021.

It means that sex with a person who has not given consent will automatically be considered rape in legal trials.

READ ALSO: Danish parliament passes landmark bill to reform law around rape (2020)

“During the past two years, we have seen convictions in cases where the victim has been passive during a sexual assault, which is within the newly criminalized area, where the starting point for the punishment level is one year and two months,”  Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Jessika Auken said in a press statement.

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In other cases, courts have found that the accused was not aware that consent had not been given. In those cases, the accused was acquitted, Auken said.

“Our review of case law shows that the law has been applied as intended,” she said.

Under the previous law, conviction under rape laws required the victim to have been subjected to force, violence or threats or to have been in a state of defencelessness.

The number of rape convictions has increased since the new law took effect, as has the number of reports of rape and charges pressed. There were 1,396 reports of rape filed with police in 2020, the last year under the old law, compared to 2,172 in 2021. Charges increased from 1,079 to 1,695 in the same period.

The number of convictions was between 178 and 255 per year in the period 2018-2020 according to newspaper Politiken, rising to 309 in the first half of 2022 alone.

The law has not been universally welcomed, with sceptics having expressed concern that it could lead to false accusations.

These concerns are not backed by research, an expert from the University of Copenhagen has said.

“It could of course occur that somebody regrets having sex with somebody, but research does not support that this should be a cause of false police reports,” law professor Trine Baumbech said in a news article on the University of Copenhagen website in February.

The chairperson of the National Association of Defence Lawyers (Landsforeningen for Forsvarsadvokater), Kristian Mølgard, said in previous comments to broadcaster DR that the law could be a problem if it moves the burden of proof to the accused.

“You risk convicting someone who objectively shouldn’t be convicted because they were unable demonstrate in a sufficiently convincing way that they did nothing wrong in a situation,” he said.

The Public Prosecutions office focused on the new law until the end of 2022 with the objective of observing how it is used in practice and the extent of sentencing. This can give prosecutors a better understanding of how the concept of consent is applied under the law, Auken said.

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