The rape law revision in Denmark: Consent or voluntariness as the key criterion?

How to Cite

Vestergaard, J. (2021). The rape law revision in Denmark: Consent or voluntariness as the key criterion?. Bergen Journal of Criminal Law & Criminal Justice, 8(2), 28.


The adoption of a consent-based rape provision in the Danish Penal Code has gradually gained sufficient political support. The overall objective behind the law reform is to render better protection of the right to sexual self-determination and sexual integrity. However, in the recent run-up towards a political agreement, a sharp dividing line has separated the proponents of change due to a heated controversy with regard to the choice of the term to be used in the revised criminal law provision, i.e., ‘consent’ or ‘voluntariness’. The disagreement has caused a protracted deadlock in the reform process. This article examines the polarising opinions in the debate and compares the potential impacts of the debated models. It will be demonstrated that the demarcation line between the two opposing parties in the debate concerning the choice of the appropriate terminology has been drawn unnecessarily sharp. The reach of the amended rape legislation will not merely depend on the wording of the rape provision but will, at least in part, depend on the clarifications provided in the preparatory works. Ultimately, the courts will have to clarify the legal implications of an individual’s passivity in a sexual encounter and address the adequate assessment of sexual encounters taking place against the backdrop of psychological violence and abuse.

Copyright (c) 2021 Jørn Vestergaard

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