Terminology in sexual assault laws is legal and not moralistic. Sexual offences provisions should use neutral and precise legal terminology that is not moralistic and does not perpetuate discriminatory stereotypes.

Use of terms such as ‘defilement’, ‘insulting modesty’, ‘offences against morality’ or ‘honour’ and ‘indecent assault’ are used to describe sexual offences in the criminal laws of many Commonwealth countries. For example, the crime of ‘defilement’ is an archaic concept meaning ‘to pollute’ or ‘to sully’ and, in the context of sexual offences, usually refers to the sexual assault of girls. It is a discriminatory term as it indicates that girls are ‘spoilt’ or ‘damaged’ through the loss of their virginity. Properly viewed, the rape and sexual assault of any person are attacks against their physical and mental integrity and sexual autonomy. They are unrelated to the ‘modesty’ or ‘honour’ of the victim/survivor or their family.

GOOD PRACTICE IN HUMAN RIGHTS COMPLIANT SEXUAL OFFENCES LAWS

GOOD PRACTICE IN HUMAN RIGHTS COMPLIANT SEXUAL OFFENCES LAWS

This report lays out criteria for good practice human rights compliant laws across four areas of sexual offences legislation, namely rape/sexual assault, age of consent for sexual conduct, treatment of consensual same-sex sexual activity between adults, and sexual offences in relation to people with disability.

CHANGING LAWS, CHANGING LIVES

CHANGING LAWS, CHANGING LIVES

Since 2015, the Trust's legislative reform programme has been analysing the need for the reform of sexual offence laws and delivering technical assistance to support such reform. Find out more about our Changing Laws, Changing Lives programme.

NEXT STEPS TOWARDS REFORM: EUROPE

NEXT STEPS TOWARDS REFORM: EUROPE

This report examines the status of sexual offences legislation in the Commonwealth Caribbean and Americas, assessing good practice and identifying where there are gaps in protection, with a particular focus on women, children, LGBT+ people and people with disability.

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