To: Ministers of Justice of the member states of the Council of Europe
In Europe, it’s estimated that about 9 million women, or one in 20, have been raped (1). One in 10 has been sexually assaulted. The statistics for women of colour, queer and trans women and disabled women are often even worse. And laws across Europe are leaving women completely vulnerable to these kinds of attacks. We need to change these laws, and we need more and better statistics about the scope of this injustice.
In many European countries, outdated laws force victims to prove the presence or threat of violence, or an element of surprise, rather than the absence of active consent to condemn perpetrators of rape. If there’s no evidence of resistance, it might not be qualified as rape.
Under that definition, if someone was raped who was unconscious or who froze up - a normal biological response to fear - they would not legally be considered a rape victim, because they didn’t resist.
Some countries, like Sweden, have amended their criminal codes to define rape as lack of consent, in line with the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
But a lot remains to be done. Change in the definition of rape that fully complies with the Istanbul Convention has to become reality all over Europe.
Only yes means yes. It’s time for all European countries to ratify and implement the Istanbul Convention, a pan-European treaty on the best ways to prevent sexualised violence. A petition calling for action will show decision-makers how important this is to us. Will you add your name now and demand justice for victims of sexualised violence and rape?