"No means no!"- according to this principle, the Bundestag has now tightened the sexual criminal law. In an interview, the Catholic Women's Community of Germany describes this step as "necessary for a long time".
Interviewer: The change in the law is a direct consequence of the assaults on New Year's Eve in Cologne. Have the deputies now drawn the right conclusion in your eyes?
Dr. Heide Mertens (Head of the Department of Politics and Society at the Federal Association of the Catholic Women's Community of Germany): It was now possible, against the background of these events, the great media echo and the consideration that something must happen, to do something that had been necessary before for a long time. At the latest since the Istanbul Convention of the Council of Europe there was a requirement for action, which was already decided in 2014. Strictly speaking, this paradigm shift in sexual criminal law, which was passed in the Bundestag, is only partially related to New Year's Eve. First of all, it was about a paradigm shift in the understanding of sexual interaction between the sexes in our society, which ames that sexual acts may only ever take place with mutual consent. From kissing, to touching, to coitus. Before that, we had a view that certainly corresponds to our traditions and is possibly still practiced in other countries, that women have to defend themselves and protect themselves against attacks by men. We are a long way away from that. Now we have the understanding that any sexual act requires the consent of both parties involved.
Interviewer: Isn't it sad that such serious things as in the Cologne New Year's Eve had to happen before something moved there?? After all, you have been calling for a very long time for the gaps in the criminal law on sexual offences to be closed, haven't you??
Mertens: Such things as in the New Year's Eve happen in other contexts again and again. What I find sad about the Cologne story is that it involves perpetrators with an immigrant background and it took this circumstance to move. The fact that the events of New Year's Eve have led people to vehemently support the reform of the law on sexual offences who would not have thought of it in the slightest before has given it a new twist. There was a bill from the Justice Department beforehand, but it wasn't as far-reaching. However, this was not further transferred into a procedural process, but was only processed after the Cologne night.
Interviewer: Also the so-called "Grapschen" will be punishable in the future. That's a good thing, right??
Mertens: That's good, and of course it addresses things that obviously happened on New Year's Eve. It is about the fact that in groups, in crowds, at carnivals or at shooting festivals, indecent touching takes place and that up to now this could not actually be punished by criminal law. Now it is clear that it is also an offense, no matter who does it at what time and in what situation. We have very much welcomed this modification and also demanded it in advance. This was also demanded by many of our women, who were horrified when we had to say that many of the things that happened were not really punishable under our law.
Interviewer: Of course, there is also criticism of the new law. Some women's rights activists say that the role of women as victims and beings to be placed under special protection is cemented. What would you say to that??
Mertens: I think you have to distinguish two things there. One is that it already corresponds to a very emancipated understanding if two individuals must agree when sexual acts happen. The other thing is the question of how this is implemented in terms of criminal law. You certainly have to watch that closely to see how it works. What happens if charges are now brought? Can it now be better proven that something actually happened? That was difficult in the past. Do charges come up that aren't justified? Socially, I can't see it that the woman is always portrayed as a victim. Socially, it is a question of once again considering the framework that sexual acts must take place consensually. We as the Catholic Women's Community of Germany have a special view on this. I also feel this is a call to think about what we want to teach our children and tell them. What should be the standard?
Interviewer: To the point: What do you hope for from the new law??
Mertens: Women are by no means fair game or mere objects of sexual desire. Men and women are individuals who need to learn how to deal with sexuality and take personal responsibility for it. Of course, they must practice sexuality with respect for the other person.
The interview was conducted by Hilde Regeniter.