In November 2020, reforms were introduced to the Criminal Code CAP.154.The legal framework of sexual assault by penetration and rape before November 2020, could be characterized as deficient, outdated and potentially inadequate for the needs of the 21st century society. The definition of rape has been reformed and expanded so as to effectively tackle any action that should have been criminalized, but also specific provisions have been introduced which address sexual assault by penetration.
The essence of these amendments lies in the fact that it has removed numerous ‘conditions' that previously had to be satisfied prior to assigning liability to perpetrators. The classes of people being able to take an action to the court have been broadened. Today, the Criminal Code CAP.154 separates and divides the offence of rape and sexual assault by penetration into 7 different categories: rape, attempted- rape, sexual assault by penetration, attempted sexual assault by penetration, coercion of another person to commit rape against a third person, coercion of another person to commit sexual assault by penetration against a third person and coercion of another person to commit sexual intercourse or other sexual actions. All provisions require the lack of consent of the other person or obtaining consent through intimidation, violence, threats or fear.
Firstly, until November 2020, the Criminal Code CAP.154 only recognized women as victims of rape, thereby excluding the right of action for rape for men. Also, it only provided for men perpetrators of rape, excluding women perpetrators. In particular, the definition in Article 144 provided that the offence of rape was only defined in circumstances where a man penetrated the vagina of a woman with his penis, without her consent. With the new legal framework in force, the distinction between women and men has been lifted and the eligibility is open for all genders by removing – words relating only to women. Additionally, the reform has altered the limitation to the ‘penetration of vagina' in that now the Criminal Code CAP.154 defines rape as the illegal intercourse by ‘penetration of vagina, anus and mouth with the penis'.
Sexual assault by penetration
The reforms introduced have not only reformed Article 144, but also new provisions were incorporated into the Code regarding sexual assault by penetration, namely: Articles 146 - Α, 146 - Β, 146 - C, 146 - D and 146 - E. The newly introduced provisions have no gender restrictions. Moreover, Article 146A criminalizes situations of ‘penetration of the vagina, anus and mouth with the penis' but also situations of penetration on the body of another person when using any part of the body in a sexual way and/or using an object. The seriousness of these offences is now recognized, and they receive equal treatment as with rape.
The sentence of the particular offences has also been reformed. Today, the coercion of another person to commit sexual intercourse or other sexual actions (146 E) and attempted rape (Article 146) carries a sentence of 10 years imprisonment. Furthermore, and significantly, offenders of rape and sexual assault by penetration are sentenced to life imprisonment.
The significance of changing the rape legal framework
Changing laws is a fundamental starting point. The reforms introduced are a crucial step forward since they have provided a strong legal instrument to secure justice. Undoubtedly, everyone's sexual autonomy and bodily integrity should be safeguarded and valued. The reforms could mark the end of an era of victim blaming and gender stereotypes in legal proceedings so as to ensure that sex without consent constitutes an offence of rape.
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