From Iceland — Human Rights Office Recommends Change To Rape Law

Human Rights Office Recommends Change To Rape Law

Published February 4, 2016

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

The Icelandic Human Rights Office contends Iceland’s existing laws on rape should be changed to place greater emphasis on consent rather than how the act was committed.

RÚV reports that the recommendation was sent to Minister of the Interior Ólöf Nordal, in response to her bill, which would add a special article about domestic violence to the General Penal Code.

The Icelandic Human Rights Office points out Article 194 of the Code, which states:

Any person who has sexual intercourse or other sexual relations with a person by means of using violence, threats or other unlawful coercion shall be guilty of rape and shall be imprisoned for a minimum of 1 year and a maximum of 16 years. ‘Violence’ here refers to the deprivation of independence by means of confinement, drugs or other comparable means.

Exploiting a person’s psychiatric disorder or other mental handicap, or the fact that, for other reasons, he or she is not in a condition to be able to resist the action or to understand its significance, in order to have sexual intercourse or other sexual relations with him or her, shall also be considered as rape, and shall result in the same punishment as specified in the first paragraph of this article.

The Icelandic Human Rights Office contends that the law as currently written puts a greater emphasis on how the rape was committed than on the issue of consent. While taking advantage of someone whose consent is or has been impaired is clearly illegal, the Office argues that the law still lacks the clarity of language needed to make it plain that clear and informed consent is a necessary precursor to consensual sex, and the lack of said consent constitutes rape.

The Office points out that the Istanbul Convention, which will be fully ratified in Iceland if the Minister’s bill passes, specifically recommends that sexual assault laws emphasise that “consent must be given voluntarily as the result of the person’s free will assessed in the context of the surrounding circumstances.”

Overall, though, the Office considers the Minister’s bill a good thing, saying it “goes farther away from the antiquated notion that domestic violence is a personal family matter.”

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