VILNIUS – More than half of the Lithuanian population do not think that it is necessary to amend the law to make it a criminal offence to have sex without the other person's explicit consent, according to an opinion poll carried out by the pollster Vilmorus for BNS.
A group of MPs have registered an amendment to the Criminal Code to include a provision that consent to sexual activity has to be explicitly and freely communicated.
Some 56.6 percent of those polled said that the existing definition of sexual abuse was sufficient.
Another 12.5 percent thought that such an amendment to the Criminal Code was necessary, and 30.9 percent had no opinion.
Women, younger people and residents of Vilnius and other major cities and towns were more likely to support the amendment, and people living in smaller towns and villages were the most skeptical. As many as 54.8 percent of school and university students had no opinion on the matter.
Commenting on the results of the poll, Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson Birute Sabatauskaite says that the protection of victims of sexual violence should be stepped up irrespective of public opinion.
"Thirteen EU countries already have a regulation similar to the proposed one, because they realized over time that the existing protection was insufficient," Sabatauskaite told BNS.
"Changing the existing regulation would also contribute to changing public attitudes and reducing victim blaming," she added.
The amendments were met with ridicule from some politicians and other public figures, which had an impact on the results of the poll, according to the ombudsperson.
Saulius Verseckas, a top official at the Prosecutor General's Office, which has criticized the amendments, attributes the controversy surrounding the proposal to the vagueness of what "explicit and free" consent to sexual activity means.
"Apparently, what triggered the public discussion was that in normal relationships, everybody understands each other and they have no questions whether they want to do it or not, while all other cases, where a person has not expressed such consent and where such things are done against the person's will, are already criminalized," he told BNS.
The amendments on sexual consent were registered by the Freedom Party's Morgana Daniele and a group of MPs from different parliamentary groups.
The initiator says that the aim is to provide more effective protection for victims of sexual offences by broadening the definition of sexual abuse to include the requirement of consent.
The MPs propose to supplement the Criminal Code's Article 151 with a provision that compelling a person into sexual activity without his or her explicit and free consent would also qualify as sexual abuse.