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Sweden proposes tougher rape laws after #MeToo wave

The Swedish government proposed on Thursday a law that would make any involuntary sex rape, even without explicit threats or violence, after the country was rocked by the #MeToo campaign denouncing sexual harassment and assault.

“The incidence of sexual offences is increasing in Sweden, with younger women facing the greatest risk,” the government said in a statement on the proposed legislation.

“Convicting a perpetrator of rape will no longer require that violence or threats were used, or that the victim’s particularly vulnerable situation was exploited,” the government said, adding the proposed law is based on “the obvious: sex must be voluntary.”

The bill, which must be approved by the parliament, also introduces two new offences: “negligent rape” and “negligent sexual abuse”, with a maximum four-year prison sentence.

“This means that it will be possible to convict more people of abuse than at present, for example when someone should be aware of the risk that the other person is not participating voluntarily but still engages in a sexual act with that person,” the government said.

The law, expected to enter into force in July, would also raise the minimum punishment for rape or child rape to five years in prison from four.

The #MeToo campaign exposing alleged sexual misconduct, which began with the series of claims against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, has shaken up nearly every sector in Sweden, one of the most gender-equal countries in the world.

More than 10,000 women — including actresses, journalists, lawyers, musicians, doctors and construction workers — have spoken up and campaigned against harassment.

“We’ve heard way too many stories in the fall about women being exposed to sexual harassment and abuse and we need to do something,” Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told the TT news agency on Sunday.

“I think this will have a strong normative effect, especially in the context of the #MeToo movement,” Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lovin told TT.


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