STA, 11 December 2019 - Opinions varied as stakeholders discussed a proposal from New Slovenia (NSi) for sex offences not to become statute-barred. While the NSi believes this would help victims who decide to speak about their experience at a later age, the justice minister argued victims should report such crimes as soon as possible.
Wednesday's debate on the parliamentary Justice Committee was opened by its vice-chair, Meira Hot of the coalition Social Democrats (SD), who said that the goal was to get a wide range of opinions on the proposal from the conservative opposition party.
Hot discussed a number of questions related to the topic, including how sex offences influence the long-term mental health of the victims, and how their age affects their ability to face such acts.
Justice Minister Andreja Katič said that a task force at the ministry was drafting more extensive changes to the penal code, also in relation to sexual offences.
Under the existing penal code, only genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity never become statute-barred. Other criminal acts fall under the statute of limitations in 10 to 30 years, depending on the envisaged prison sentence.
When it comes to criminal offences against sexual integrity, the time period after which an act becomes statute-batter starts after the victim reaches the age of 18.
Katič said that extending this period from 20 or 30 years alone would not contribute to a better status of the victim and would not solve the issue of proving a sexual offence.
"Our goal must be that victims report a criminal act as soon as possible," she said, warning against rushed and partial changes of legislation.
NSi leader and MP Matej Tonin meanwhile called for support for the proposal, which he sees as a "clear message that we are a society which has zero tolerance to such acts".
As the proposal was filed in July, Tonin also said the problem was that it took very long for the victims to speak about their experience. "When sexual abuse happens in early childhood, victims usually subconsciously suppress it.
"They are ready to face it perhaps only decades later, when it is too late in certain cases, as criminal acts become statute-barred," he added.
Violeta Neubauer of Women's Lobby of Slovenia said that the proposed change would not lead to the women experiencing sexual violence losing fear from reporting it.
Neubauer also believes the "police, prosecution and courts, or even lawyers, would change their manner of doing things so that victims would not experience secondary victimisation any more."
Katja Zabukovec Kerin of the Association for Non-Violent Communication added the elimination was not enough, and that the mindset and legal practice should also be changed.
"It's still believed paedophiles only like children too much. Education and awareness-raising is not enough. Legislation needs to be changed, right now," she added.
The NSi's proposal is supported by the Association Against Sexual Abuse. "This is only one of the needed measures in the prevention and prosecution of criminal acts against sexual integrity," said Manca Bizjak of the association.