Sexual assault laws to get tougher in NL: You must be certain that the person has consented

Having sex with someone if you know that the other person doesn’t want to will soon become punishable in the Netherlands. Violence no longer needs to be present for a conviction. 

Minister Grapperhaus has announced today that the laws around sex and consent will be tougher. (Now we all breathe a sigh of relief and wonder why on earth it has taken so long). Often victims ‘freeze up’ and so it makes it impossible to get it through the courts in the Netherlands. So, what is the previous law and how has it now changed?

What’s the law on rape and assault in the Netherlands?

Rape and assault have always been illegal in the Netherlands, however, there was quite a bit of a grey area when it came to proving guilt. If you say no, then this is seen as resisting. If there is violence involved, it proves that they also resisted. If you don’t actively resist, but you clearly don’t want sex, it has hard to prove. This new law means that if you know that the other person doesn’t want sex, then that is enough to be a criminal act.

If you’re unsure, you must ask the person you are having sex with if they are okay with what’s happening – which is something that should naturally be done anyway. According to NOS, this new law means that “the Public Prosecution Service no longer has to prove that the victim has resisted or could not evade sexual acts.”

What is the punishment for rape or assault in the Netherlands?

Touching the private parts of another person against their will carries a max sentence of four years.

Penetrative sex against their will carries a max sentence of six years.

This new law means that people can be charged with either of these offences, if, for example, the victim shows signs that they do not look comfortable and you have not bothered to ask that person for clear consent. Clear consent should always be given with any sexual act, with any person (even your partner!)

According to NOS, the final bill is likely to be submitted at the end of this year, once they have figured out how the new law will be best implemented.

#MeToo has been extremely powerful in shifting the way in which sexual assault cases are dealt with and are made punishable. We still have a way to go, but this is a huge (and much-needed) leap for the Netherlands.

Any thoughts? Let us know in the comments!

Emma Brown
A familiar face at DutchRevew. Emma arrived in Holland in 2016 for a few weeks, fell in love with the place and never left. Here she rekindled her love of writing and travelling. Now you'll find her eating stroopwafels in the DutchReview office since 2017.

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