THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The Dutch Supreme Court narrowed its definition of rape Tuesday, saying that a "forced tongue kiss" should no longer be considered among the worst forms of sexual assault.
In one of the court's more unusual cases, a panel of three men and two women overturned a lower court's rape conviction of a man for forcing his tongue into the mouth of a woman in a hospital restroom.
The ruling reversed a 1998 Supreme Court decision that broadly defined rape as any form of unwanted sexual penetration.
The court said that a forced kiss, while still illegal, is not as serious as forced sexual intercourse.
Instead, the judges said that a forced kiss should be considered an indecent assault, which carries a maximum sentence of eight years, as opposed to rape, which has a maximum 12-year sentence.
Legally defining rape has been open to interpretation, not only in the Netherlands.
In France, a forced kiss in which the offender's tongue is pushed into a victim's mouth could qualify as rape, but is almost never prosecuted as such, while according to Germany's Justice Ministry a forced tongue kiss would not constitute a rape in that country. In Britain, where rape carries a life sentence, an unwanted tongue kiss would not qualify as rape under the 2003 sexual offenses act.
Lawyers for the 36-year-old Dutchman whose rape conviction was overturned welcomed the ruling, saying that under the definition quashed Tuesday prosecutors had to list an alleged forced kiss as rape and that oftentimes cases involved teenagers for whom a rape conviction can have far-reaching effects.
"If a person has to judge whether somebody is eligible to work in health care, for example, and sees that the person has a rape conviction, then nine times out of 10 he won't be considered suitable," said lawyer Tjalling van der Goot. "The effects (of a conviction) can be much more severe than they should be."
The case will now be sent back to a lower court for reconsideration. The man involved denies he forcibly kissed the victim.
Dutch groups dealing with victims of sexual abuse had no immediate reaction to the ruling.
AP writers David Rising in Berlin, Angela Charlton in Paris and Sylvia Hui in London contributed to this story.
- Politics & Government
- Crime & Justice
- Dutch Supreme Court