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New Sexual Offenses Approach Act effective July 1, 2024

New Sexual Offenses Approach Act effective July 1, 2024

The summer of 2024 is not only about sunny beach days, parties and BBQs, but also about a major shake-up in Dutch law. From July 1, 2024, the new Sexual Offenses Approach Act will take effect. This law is designed to improve protection for victims of sex crimes and to prosecute offenders more effectively. Below is a summary of the main changes and their implications.

– Expanding the definition of rape

The new law expands the definition of rape to better encompass situations where no explicit physical force has been used, but where there is coercion or an abuse of power. This means that more forms of unwanted sexual acts such as rape can be prosecuted.

– Emphasis on consent

Sex without clear, mutual consent becomes punishable even if there is no violence or coercion. This means that silence or lack of opposition can no longer be interpreted as consent. The new law places greater emphasis on obtaining explicit consent for sexual acts. This means that it must be clear both verbally and nonverbally that both parties agree. This is intended to better protect victims and make it clearer when a crime has been committed. Especially now that in vice cases, in most cases only two people have been present; the declarant and the accused.

– Increased focus on sexual harassment

Sexual harassment will be dealt with more severely starting July 1, 2024. This includes not only physical actions, but also verbal and nonverbal behaviors that may be perceived as intimidating or unwelcome. This occurs when a person is publicly approached as a sexual object. It also includes online harassment, such as sending unsolicited sexually explicit messages. Around this, employers are given greater responsibility to ensure a safe work environment.

– Stiffer penalties for sex crimes

Legal maximum penalties for rape and other sex crimes are increased. This not only better reflects the seriousness of the crime, but also sends a stronger deterrent message to potential offenders.

– Protecting vulnerable groups

Specific provisions are included to better protect vulnerable groups, such as minors and people with intellectual disabilities. This includes stricter rules for sexual acts with persons who are unable to give consent due to their vulnerability. This criminalizes the sexual solicitation of children under 16, including digitally.

Implications of the new law

These changes have significantimplications for both victims and perpetrators of sex crimes. Victims are given more protection and clearer pathways in the criminal process, while offenders must be aware of stiffer penalties and expanded definitions of offenses.

These are obviously positive developments. However, there are also adverse consequences for innocent suspects. The strict emphasis on consent can lead to situations where the burden of proof becomes problematic, especially in cases without physical evidence or witnesses. Should a person be found innocent as a suspect, it is quite difficult – if not impossible – to prove mutual (written?) consent afterwards. This problematic burden of proof is not amiss, even considering the far-reaching consequences of such an accusation. We will see in practice how this is handled.


The introduction of the new Sexual Offenses Approach Act is an important step forward in protecting victims and combating sexual offenses in the Netherlands. It is therefore important to be aware of these changes and what they mean for society.

For more information on the specific changes, please contact us.

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