If a victim does not defend himself against a rape, perpetrators in Spain have often gotten away with mild sentences. A new law aims to change that.
Spain has taken an important step towards tightening sex crimes laws. On Thursday, the parliament in Madrid approved with a clear majority a draft law by the left-wing government, according to which all persons involved must in future expressly consent to sexual acts.
Only the MPs of the conservative People’s Party (PP) and the right-wing populist Vox voted against the so-called “Only Yes Means Yes” law. Her main argument: the plan jeopardizes the principle of the presumption of innocence. The law still has to be approved by the Senate before it can be passed, but this is considered a formality.
The new set of paragraphs eliminates the distinction between abuse and aggression. Sexual assault will be treated as rape when it comes into effect – whether the victim resists or allows an act to happen out of fear. Up to 15 years in prison will then be available for rape and sexual violence. In addition, “intimidating” compliments and the distribution of sex videos are also punishable.
Minister fights against “rape culture”
Equality Minister Irene Montero celebrated the House of Commons endorsement, saying it was “a crucial step in changing Spain’s sexual culture” and ending “sexual terror” and the “culture of rape”. “The feminist movement is making history in Spain,” she said.
With its initiative, the left-wing government reacted to several sensational cases of gang rape in which the perpetrators had gotten away with light sentences in recent years. A case in July 2016 in particular caused great outrage. A group of five young men dragged a young woman into a doorway during the San Fermín celebrations in Pamplona. They raped their victim multiple times and filmed the whole thing. The competent court did not consider the facts of the rape to be given because, as the 2018 judgment said, there had been “neither beatings nor threats” and the victim had remained passive. The verdict sparked protests across the country.