26 Aug, 2022 @ 18:10
2 mins read

EXPLAINER: What Spain’s new ‘only yes means yes’ law means for rape victims in Spain

Demostration Against Judicial Verdict Of The Herd
May 4, 2018 - Santander, Spain - The banner ''It is not abuse is rape'' leads the demonstration against the judicial verdict of the pack in Santander '' during a protest against five men's acquittal of gang rape charges and their conviction on a lesser felony of sexual abuse, in Madrid, Friday, May 4, 2018. (Credit Image: © Joaquin Gomez Sastre/NurPhoto via ZUMA Press)

SPAIN’S Congress approved a ‘yes means yes’ law on Thursday, qualifying all non-consensual sex as rape.

The legislation passed with 205 votes in favour, 141 against and 3 abstentions. Only MPs from the conservative Popular Party (PP) and the far-right Vox voted against it.

The bill comes in the wake of the infamous ‘Wolf Pack’ gang rape case in Pamplona that sparked public outrage and prompted mass demonstrations across Spain.

Demostration Against Judicial Verdict Of The Herd
Banner reads:”It is not abuse is rape” at a demo against the sentencing of Pamplona gang rapists. Photo: Cordon Press

The new law, long supported by assault survivors and women’s rights groups, has been dubbed the  ‘only yes means yes’ law because it defines any sex acts without clear consent as rape.

It merges the crimes of sexual abuse and sexual assault under the label of rape, meaning victims will no longer have to prove violence or resistance.

It follows an outline of legislation which came into force in Sweden in 2018 and defines consent as an explicit expression of a person’s will, making it clear that silence or passivity do not equal consent.

And it means non-consensual sex can be considered aggression and subject to prison terms of up to 15 years.

“At last our country legally recognises that consent is what needs to be at the centre of all our relationships,” Equality Minister Irene Montero told lawmakers in Congress on Thursday as the legislation was passed.

“No woman will ever have to prove that violence or intimidation was involved in order for it to be considered a sexual assault.”

The bill, which has been several years in the making, has been high priority for Spain’s leftist coalition government but faced opposition from the conservative Popular Party and far-right Vox, whose MPs voted against it.

But it was approved by 201-140 votes with 3 abstentions and must will now face a vote in the Senate before it can become law.

The legislation also includes measures that obliging underage sex offenders to undergo sex education courses and gender equality training. It also extends help for victims with the creation of a network of 24 hour crisis centres across Spain for those who have suffered sexual assault.

The new legislation is intended to ensure that victims won’t have to suffer the further injustice that was seen during the ‘wolf pack’ case which saw five men accused of gang raping an 18-yearold during San Fermin fiesta in Pamplona in 2016.

The accused were found guilty of sexual abuse and not rape after a video shown to the court of the act appeared to show that the victim did not resist.

 It prompted widespread outrage and mass protests in what became Spain’s ‘me too’ movement with the hashtag ‘I believe you’.

Eventually Spain’s Supreme Court later overruled two lower courts and sentenced the five men to 15 years in prison on a rape conviction.


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