Sexual assault in the most general form can be defined as a socially dangerous act prohibited by the criminal law, which essence is in flagrant violation of the healthy sexual relationship in the society, as well as the norms of morality in the sphere of gender relations.
College students who want to use rape as a topic for their research paper should not forget that the concept of sexual assault is complex and comprehensive. First of all, it includes such interests and benefits, as the sexual freedom of the individual and the sexual integrity of a person deemed incapable of giving informed consent to sexual relations. Also, sex crimes are detrimental to normal physical or mental development of minors, as well as life and health, honor and dignity of the individual. Moreover, certain types of sexual crimes imply in the first place that such attacks aimed at the ordinary way of the sexual relationship established in a given society, as well as its moral climate.
Liability for sexual offenses (including rape and incest) was already mentioned in the oldest monuments of the law. With the introduction and spread of such world religions as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, sex crimes have become regarded as a sin, the violation of religious law.
New criminal legal norms, establishing liability for sexual offenses, are characterized by secularization and liberalization. Understanding sexual crimes as assaults on religious or, more broadly, moral standards lose their positions. The modern criminal law is characterized by the criminalization of sexual assault, which directly impinges the interests of a particular person. Acts such as adultery, incest between adults, voluntary acts of sodomy in many countries have been decriminalized. Partly this refers to actions involving in pornography.
Another trend, reflected in the laws of many states, is the elimination of gender disparities in the criminal law protecting the sexual sphere.
So, if traditionally in various legal systems, most victims of sexual crimes could be only women, the criminal law is characterized by the recognition of the equal rights of the sexes for a protection of their sexual freedom and sexual integrity.
Besides, the trend to strengthen the protection of the interests of healthy development and upbringing of minors, including protection from sexual violence and exploitation is common to modern criminal law.
At the same time, it should be noted that the criminal law of the various states in the area of liability for sexual offenses is significantly different. The formulating of criminal law prescribing the signs of sexual violence are strongly influenced by the historical traditions, characteristic for the respective legal system, especially the moral norms of society, established in a particular state at a particular historical period, etc.
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