On A Stern ‘Yes’ Or ‘No’
“No Means No…!” Well, the consent of both the parties is equally important in case of physical relationship; else the act could be considered as a crime. The echoes of this concept have recently been heard in the Swiss Parliament.
Switzerland has decided to update the definition of rape, and to tighten the law related to this particular crime. The landlocked country, located at the confluence of Western, Central and Southern Europe, has long been divided over defining the scope of rape by legal criteria. In view of the existing law, the Lower House of the Parliament voted in favour of further expanding the scope of rape on December 5, 2022. Majority of the parliamentarians wanted to term all non-consensual sexual relations as rape. During the voting, the parliamentarians had another option: Only Yes Means Yes. While 99 members of the Lower House cast votes in favour of this motion, 88 voted against it, and three abstained from the voting.
Currently, forced sexual intercourse is considered as rape in Switzerland. It is also being considered whether the (female) victim would have made any attempt to prevent the act (of the accused). Meanwhile, Women’s Rights activists are of the opinion that not only forced physical relationships, but any form of non-consensual physical intimacy should be brought under the category of rape. Furthermore, whether the victim is a female or a male or a third gender should not matter. In other words, it has been widely agreed that the definition of rape should be broadened to include all non-consensual penetration, regardless of the gender of the victim, and regardless of whether they fought back.
Ahead of the voting, the parliamentarians held a heated debate on this issue. During the debate, Socialist member of Parliament Tamara Funiciello told the House: “It is obvious that you don’t take money out of your neighbour’s wallet without asking. It is obvious that you don’t enter someone’s home without ringing the bell.” “Why should my wallet and my home be better protected than my body?” she enquired. Greens parliamentarian Raphael Mahaim backed Funiciello’s argument, stressing: “The other person’s body is never an open bar.“
Meanwhile, a number of the Right-leaning members of Parliament opposed the move, saying that changing the definition of rape would create confusion and would be difficult to put into practice. Earlier, the members of the Council of States or the Upper House of the Parliament had given their opinion on this issue. Now, both the Houses have to agree on this matter. As Direct Democracy exists in Switzerland, the common people will participate in the voting process later, in order to determine the fate of the move.
As it is being observed now that only the people of Switzerland have arranged to change the legal definition of rape, the scope to settling this controversy is still open. The fact is that the December 5 voting in the Lower House can be considered as a huge victory for Women’s Rights activists, as well as victims of sexual offences. Amnesty International has hailed the vote as “a huge success after years of activist activity for the Rights of Women, of sexual abuse victims.“
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