After years of debate on the need for tougher treatment of rape by the criminal justice system, the new legislation finally came together following a rash of sexual assaults in crowds on New Year’s Eve in the western city of Cologne.
Dubbed the “No means No” law by the media, it explicitly covers cases in which a victim withheld consent but did not physically fight back.
The legislation, entitled “improving the protection of sexual self-determination”, also lowers the bar for deporting sexual offenders, classifies groping as a sex crime and targets assaults committed by large groups.
“It is crucial that we finally embed the principle ‘No means No’ in criminal law and make every non-consensual sexual act a punishable offence,” said deputy Eva Hoegl of the Social Democrats, one of the law’s sponsors.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet signed off on the measure in March after the attacks in Cologne, where more than 1,000 women reported sexual assaults and robberies on New Year’s Eve.
The attacks were blamed largely on Arab and North African men.