News In Focus

Charity calls for changes to definition of rape

4 March 2008

Rape Crisis Scotland wants Scottish ministers to change the definition of rape so that it includes sex with prostitutes who are the victims of human trafficking.

The Scottish Government is expected to publish a new bill this spring which will set out reforms of sex offences in Scotland, based on proposals put forward by the Scottish Law Commission. They will include a clear definition of consent.

The proposals are currently out for consultation and Rape Crisis Scotland has called for a widening of the definition of rape. The charity says that if rape is defined as an absence of the free agreement to sex, as proposed by the Commission, those forced to work in the sex industry, such as women who have been trafficked for that reason, should be included.

However, questions have been raised over whether such a law would be workable, or would help British women forced to work in similar violent situations. Men could also claim to be unaware that the women were working against their will.

Margo MacDonald, MSP for Lothian, said some women coming into Britain to work knew they were coming in to work in the sex industry.

The charity's call came as the Scottish Government announced funding of £200,000 to support a campaign by Rape Crisis Scotland, designed to change public attitudes that it is often a woman's fault if she is raped, for example if she is drinking alone or wears revealing clothing. The "This is not an invitation to rape me" campaign will be launched later this year.

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