Volume XXII

Towards a Legal Reform of Rape Laws Under International Human Rights Law

by Maria Alejandra Gómez Duque

This Article studies the history and evolution of rape laws around the world and recommends prospective legal reforms to adequately punish sexual violence. Currently, there is a high rate of impunity in rape and sexual violence trials. This Article analyzes how current laws around the world hinder rape survivors’ access to justice, due to cultural beliefs and gender stereotypes inherited from ancient laws that permitted rape. This Article also proposes ways in which international human rights law can serve as a legal tool to reform these deficient laws.

This study proposes two original recommendations. The first recommendation relates to the framework of International Human Rights Law and proposes that the international community create an international instrument that contemplates unifying standards on sexual violence and sets the obligations of the states to effectively prevent, prosecute and punish sexual violence. In particular, this instrument should redefine “consent” and the standards for enacting domestic laws and prosecuting rape and sexual violence. The second recommendation proposes the creation of a new legal presumption under domestic rape laws to credit sexual violence survivors’ declarations on consent under specific circumstances.

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