Article 336 of the new Penal Code, voted yesterday by the Greek parliament, now incorporates the absence of consent into the legal definition of rape. Greece is only the 9th country in the EU to recognize that sex without consent is rape.
This is a historic victory for the feminist movement in Greece. A milestone day for the rights of women, but also of any other group of people who, because of their gender or sexual orientation, are affected by a heinous form of gender-based violence, sexual violence. And this is a historic victory because it is legally recognized that rape affects both the physical integrity and the sexual self-determination of each person.
The final amendment to Article 336 was presented yesterday by the Minister of Justice, following the strong reactions caused by women’s and humanitarian organizations, feminist and activist groups and assemblies, bodies responsible for gender equality, and even voices within the parliament, against the proposed definition, as submitted – in both versions – by the legislative committee.
Already during the public consultation, the Diotima Center had emphasized that the initial definition “completely ignores the Istanbul Convention, which has entered into force in our country, in which there is mention of the voluntary consent of individuals in any sexual act or behavior, which should be a product of free will”.
In fact, the Legal Service of the organization had pointed out that the proposed definition leaves out a number of cases of rape, which are not carried out with the use of force or threat of physical integrity, while the relegation to a misdemeanor of rape carried out by other extortionate means (“threat of an illegal act”), “unduly limited the protection provided to the victims”, perpetuating the impunity of the perpetrators.
In this context, we welcome the decision of the Ministry of Justice, even at the last minute. However, we point out that this provision needs further legal improvements, due to its hasty introduction. In particular, we consider it necessary to clarify the definition of the act of rape. Its limitation to the narrow concept of “genital act” is particularly problematic, since it does not include impure acts that do not require penetration. Improvements are also required in the article regarding rape resulting in the death of the victim.
At the same time, we emphasize that in addition to a modern definition of rape, it is deemed necessary for the ministry to take initiatives for the training of judicial officials, prosecutors, lawyers, and all competent bodies for the consolidation of this substantial change in the standardization of the crime of rape. We also believe that it is necessary to take care of the speedy conclusion of the cases and to protect the victims so that they are not re-traumatized in the courtrooms.
Finally, we would like to note that the new definition of rape is an important achievement for the protection of the victims and the punishment of the perpetrators, but it will not be enough if the efforts and struggles to eliminate sexual violence don’t continue unabated and from all sides, to end the pervasive culture of rape and sexism in Greek society.