De Standaard (Flemisch newspaper) April 2, 2021
Original text in Flemisch by journalist Matthias Verbergt.
Translated by Gino d'Artali
<Imprisonment for rape doubles
The De Croo government approved a tighter penalties for sex crimes. The
sexual age of consent remains at 16 for the time being.It was an
important spearhead from the start of the government in October:
bringing sexual criminal law up to date. Due to the fall of the previous
government, the new criminal code had been shelved. Minister of Justice
Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VLD) extracted the sexual crimes and
today the government found an initial agreement on the texts. They still
have to go to the Council of State and other advisory bodies, and then
parliament. But the principles will probably remain intact.
1. Consent central
For many crimes such as indecent assault, violence or coercion is
sometimes a necessary condition. The reform will involve a sexual
offense as soon as consent is lacking. There is no consent if the victim
is in a vulnerable state as a result of, for example, sleep or alcohol,
affecting free will. Consent can still be withdrawn during the sexual
2. Strict for Rape
Rape should normally appear before an assize jury. However, the length
of such trials means that rape is almost always <corrected>, allowing
the maximum prison sentence to be five years - half the normal maximum
sentence. That will be doubled to ten years.
<Higher prison sentences are not always the best signal for
New aggravating circumstances are emerging. The penalties in these
circumstances , for example, if the victim is young, is threatened or
the offender has a position of authority, will also increase, with a
maximum sentence of at least five years. The definition of rape is also
being changed, so that penetration no longer has to be complete but can
also be partial.
3. Voyeurism and incest
A man was recently acquitted for voyeurism because
the victims he was spying on were not exposed to their intimate parts.
Exposure is no longer a requirement from now on. Another adjustment is
that indecent assault will henceforth becomes a violation of sexual
Incest and sexual violence by a partner become aggravating circumstances
in sexual crimes, the latter 'in order to also explicitly recognize that
sexual acts can take place without consent by a partner or ex-partner'.
Exactly how much incest increases the punishment remains to be
4. Sexual age of consent
The previous government also approved the reduction of the age of sexual
consent from sixteen to fourteen, at least if the partner was not more
than five years older. But that cut was no longer approved in parliament
and never became law.
The current government has not yet reached an agreement on the
adjustment of the age of sexual consent. The issue will be discussed
again at a later stage of the legislative process, with input from,
among others, the committee of experts guiding the government in the
approximation of criminal law.>