Sex without consent is rape. Rape is a worldwide epidemic that disproportionately impacts women and girls, regardless of their ethnicity, religious or spiritual beliefs, physical or mental ability, or status.
Currently, only a handful of countries in the world have consent-based rape laws that enable prosecutors, juries, and judges to examine whether a case can be prosecuted on the absence of consent, rather than on the basis of force or violence.
In the fall of 2023, Equality Now launched its Consent Campaign to highlight how we’ve worked to change sexual violence laws around the world toward the adoption of a consent-based definition.
per day in South Africa
Rape in South Africa is systemic and endemic. There were 42,289 rapes reported in 2019/2020, as well as 7,749 sexual assaults. The actual number may be higher.
per day in India
Across South Asia, the average reported daily crime of rape perpetrated against women and girls is estimated to be 17 per day for Bangladesh, 7 per day for Nepal, and 124 rape per day for Sri Lanka.
15 million adolescent girls worldwide have experienced forced sex. Of 30 countries analyzed, only 1 percent of those impacted seek professional help.
What is Consent Under The Law?
Definitions of rape need to be based on voluntary, genuine, and willing consent and recognize a broad range of coercive circumstances where consent cannot be voluntary, genuine, or willing and where the victim is incapable of giving consent.
Coercive circumstances and those where consent cannot be voluntary, genuine, and willing include but are not limited to:
- An imbalance of power and authority dynamics/dependency
- Physical force
- Psychological force
- Emotional coercion or manipulation
- Being physically unable to escape from a situation (including through physical disability)
- Being unable to understand the situation/not having the capacity to consent
- Being incapacitated through drink or drugs
- Being asleep or unconscious
Any sexual activity without consent is sexual violence.
Understanding Consent in Rape Cases
Why are Consent-based Rape Laws Important?
Force-based definitions leave certain types of rape unpunished, contribute to rape myths and perceptions that it is the responsibility of victims to protect themselves from being raped, and gravely limit the extent to which crimes of rape can be successfully prosecuted.
Enabling significant impunity for perpetrators.
Even when a consent-based definition of rape is used in the law, stereotypes and myths are able to hinder many rape prosecutions where physical violence was not present, so it remains critical to clarify the law fully and ensure proper implementation.
Laws on sexual violence contain at least one of the following elements in order to obtain a successful prosecution.
- Additional violence or force
- Use of the victim’s physical helplessness, incapacity, or inability to resist
- Different types of penetrations
- Providing or not providing at all for different statutes of limitation for prosecution.
- Including or excluding marital rape
- Prescribing different aggravating and mitigating circumstances
Our Work on Consent
Equality Now has been working with local groups around the world to share information on international legal standards, including consent-based definitions of rape, so that they can make recommendations in their local context in order for survivors of sexual violence to better access the law and justice.
Navigating the Justice System as a Sexual Violence Survivor With Disabilities
Globally, people with disabilities are more likely to experience sexual violence in their lifetime.
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