Sexual Assault Law: Law Reform in a Comparative Perspective

Sexual Assault Laws

Traditional criminal laws defined sexual assault as a crime that required violence or threats of violence. Paradigms have shifted: present-day law reforms in various countries focus on lack of consent. There are, however, different approaches regarding how to transform this notion into offense definitions. The purpose of the project is to assess whether the new generation of criminal prohibitions reflects convincing concepts of sexual autonomy and consent. The methods applied are both criminal law theory and legal comparison. The first part of the project analyzes the notion of consent, the question of whether affirmative consent is needed to avoid criminal liability (“Only yes means yes”) or whether victims must have expressed their disapproval (“No means no”), and the conditions that might lead to the conclusion that the consent was invalid despite the victim’s factual approval of the sexual act. The second part of the project examines consent-based laws that have been passed in England/Wales, Sweden, and Germany and current reform proposals in Switzerland, Spain, the U.S., and Canada. The overall goal is to iden­tify best models and practices for present and future law reform.


Outcome: two workshops in 2021, book (Oxford University Press), 2023
Research focus: II. Regulating Intimate Relations
Project language: English
Project status: completed
Picture: © Oxford University Press


Hörnle, T. (Ed.). (2023). Sexual Assault: Law Reform in a Comparative Perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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