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WHAT IS AFFIRMATIVE CONSENT?

Affirmative consent must be an active, voluntary, informed, and mutual decision to engage in sexual activity. Consent can be given through clear words or actions through which a person has indicated permission to engage in sexual activity. Affirmative Consent should be clear and enthusiastic, rather than simply the absence of a “no”. Affirmative consent can be withdrawn at any time, and cannot be obtained by expressed or implied force, threats, or coercion.

The Law in England and Wales is currently consent-based, but it is not ‘affirmative consent’ based. We are appalled by the low conviction rates for rape, which has resulted in a society where rape has become almost decriminalised. Less than 2% of reported rapes result in a charge. We believe the law in the UK, which is 20 years old, is lagging behind other jurisdictions and in family court, there is no definition of rape or consent.

 

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.

We want to raise awareness of the need for legal change. Many of us have heard about England’s appalling conviction rates for rape and sexual assault (on average less than 2% of reported rape cases result in someone being charged, let alone convicted). But do we understand that our current legal definitions of consent are contributing to those staggering figures?

 

Additional Research

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 sheds light on the various ways that it is feasible to include affirmative consent in legislation. The completed research is available here!
  • Right to Equality has commissioned Berkeley Law to compile a policy paper on affirmative consent, building on Oxford’s research. They’ve examined a workable and clear definition of affirmative consent and argued why it serves as the ideal model in criminal law. The research is available here: Policy Paper on Affirmative Consent
  • Armed with this evidence, we are advocating for the implementation of affirmative consent laws in the UK by engaging with policymakers, lawmakers, and relevant stakeholders.

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.

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.

 

SIGN THE PETITION HERE!

 

Right to Equality and CPB teamed up with Emily Atack to campaign for affirmative consent to sex. Learn more about our partnership here. The creators of this initiative are survivors of male violence, choosing to transform their trauma into efforts for legal reform. Collaborating closely with survivors, we crafted a campaign slogan. We recognise that the initial slogan had varied reactions. We were saddened and deeply sorry that it hurt some of the very women whose experiences of violence have led us to take on this campaign. In response, we’ve published alternative slogans and will unveil more new visuals as the campaign progresses in the upcoming months. Your support would be greatly appreciated as we work together to achieve the campaign’s goals.

Over the last 12 months, we have worked with Oxford University and Berkeley Law School to research the law on consent and rape in other jurisdictions. There has been a 75% increase in convictions in Sweden following the introduction of such a model.

Rather than consent being implied because there is an absence of ’no’, we want to see a move towards a clear yes (which means a yes given verbally or through clear physical signals such as nodding yes or signing) with enthusiastic consent being asked for and given in consensual sexual relationships. We want to see real, meaningful societal change in how we understand our sexual relationships.

Our focus is on women and girls who suffer rape and rarely see justice, as well as the myths around consent, which persist despite campaigns on consent education. This campaign is a vital first step towards opening up much-needed discussion and changing the law. The petition reached 10,000 signatures and we await a forthcoming reply from the government.

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