Scotland has one of the narrowest definitions of rape in the world. Currently, rape is defined as penetration of a woman’s vagina by a man’s penis (to however small a degree) without the woman’s consent.
The Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009, which will come into force in October 2010, will broaden this definition to include penile penetration of someone’s vagina, anus or mouth without their consent. This means that for the first time male rape will be included in the Scottish definition of rape. Penetration by an object will be a separate offence, equivalent in seriousness to rape.
The new Act will also define for the first time what consent actually means – the Act defines consent as ‘free agreement’.
The Act makes it clear that consent to one form of sexual activity (i.e. kissing or touching) does not mean that consent has been given to any other sexual act. The Act is also explicit that consent can be withdrawn at any time.
The Act sets out situations where there can be no free agreement – this includes situations where someone is so drunk that they are unable to give any meaningful consent to sexual activity.
A recent postcard campaign by Lothian & Borders Police tackled in a very direct way the idea that women who have been drinking are in some way responsible if they are raped:
The message is clear – if there is any doubt about whether or not someone is too drunk to consent to sex, assume that they are unable to give consent.
For more information read the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act