Why should affirmative consent be in the law?
The current approach to consent in the UK perpetuates harmful gender stereotypes and places a disproportionate burden on women to communicate their lack of consent. This approach assumes that men are always the initiators of sexual activity and that women are passive recipients who must say “no.” This reinforces harmful gender stereotypes and perpetuates a culture of inequality.
At Right to Equality, we understand that changing laws will not eradicate rape, however adopting affirmative consent would help to create a culture of respect and understanding around sexual interactions. It sends a message that consent is not only necessary but also an active and ongoing process. It highlights the importance of communication and it promotes healthy and respectful sexual relationships.
Right to Equality believes adopting affirmative consent as law could increase prosecutions of rape. The current approach to consent in the UK makes it difficult to prove that a person did not consent to sexual activity. The burden of proof is often on the victim, who must demonstrate that they did not give consent. This approach to consent places an unfair burden on victims and it enables perpetrators to manipulate, coerce, and pressure their victims into sexual interactions without meaningful consent.
Finally, adopting affirmative consent would help to create a safer and more respectful environment for all individuals. It would help to promote healthy and respectful relationships and would send a clear message that sexual assault and rape are not acceptable. It would also help to create a culture of respect and understanding, which is essential for creating a safer and more equal society.
What do we do about it?
Right to Equality is engaging in research on affirmative consent laws and investigating the impacts of such legislation.
- Right to Equality has commissioned Oxford University to research the law of “consent” in other countries, in particular the affirmative consent model. Such nations include Australia and Canada. This research will shed light on the various ways that it is feasible to include affirmative consent in legislation.
- Armed with this evidence, we will advocate for the implementation of affirmative consent laws in the UK by engaging with policymakers, lawmakers, and relevant stakeholders.
Affirmative consent laws shift the paradigm by placing the responsibility on individuals engaging in sexual activity to obtain clear, enthusiastic, and ongoing consent from their partners. By advocating for affirmative consent laws, we can foster a culture of respect, reduce incidents of sexual assault, and empower survivors.