Tough Question About Germany’s "No Means No" Rape Reform

What is rape? The German Bundestag wants to put in place stricter rules. Critics now fear a wave of false reports and problems in court. But the victims' suffering should not be silenced, again.

Tough Question About Germany’s "No Means No" Rape Reform
Constanze von Bullion


BERLIN â€" "No means no," for some it might sound like a battle cry from the 1980s: grumpy, outdated and perhaps a little too naive. But reality tells us that it is very much a reality that still needs to be confronted, once and for all. Sex simply must be something that all parties involved want to happen. And if not, what is happening is nothing short of rape.

Germany's parliament, the Bundestag, has voted to inscribe the "no-means-no" principle in the nation's criminal code. And that is neither a simple nor trivial matter. Once such tightening of legislation is activated (the upper house Bundesrat must still approve it) not only those who force people into sex under threat of a knife, gun or other forms of violence will be considered rapists.

Even if the victim does not resist, but disagrees, perhaps starting to cry, or making it clear in any other way that she or he does not agree with what's happening, it would count as rape. Being surprised in one's sleep or choosing not to resist in order to not wake the children might lead to the filing of criminal charges.

A person's body, man or woman, belongs to him or her; and if someone wants that body, he or she needs to get the person's approval. If it's not given, or given first and then withdrawn, this might be annoying, but sexual self-determination comes first.

And that's just fine. The Minister of Justice on the other hand might still have some doubts. He fears a wave of false reports triggered by such a "no-means-no" principle. But those who know what's really going on in court, also know: The victims' suffering should be of much bigger concern. Shame and violation are added to the bitter déjà-vu feeling of total powerlessness. Proving rape is tough enough, most of the time there is neither evidence nor witnesses in the face of a standard of proof with a presumption of innocence.

"No means No" graffiti â€" Photo: Max Pfandl

There is also the section of the proposed legislation about groping. Women have too long been mocked for not accepting a pinch of their butt as a compliment. The night of New Year's Eve in Cologne has changed things. In the future sexual harassment shall be punished with a fine or a prison sentence of up to two years.

Group liability

Those who now fear the state might forbid touching when dancing, kissing and flirting can relax. "Hitting on" someone if all parties approve is by no means comprised in this legislation.

The reform's third element refers to criminal acts of sexual attacks perpetrated by "groups." Legislators want to include prosecution of anyone who "participates in the grouping together of people who sexually attack someone." Here is a clear reference to the attacks in Cologne, where women were surrounded, touched and robbed. According to the new law, any member of the group could now be punished for sexual harassment, even if he had "only" robbed someone.

There are constitutional doubts about this paragraph. "Someone who has not committed the crime, cannot and must not be punished for sexual offense," says legal expert Renate Künast. "It contradicts the principle of liability upon which our whole criminal law system is built."

The law, even in such highly charged cases, is the law.

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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