In Spain, sex without consent will be considered rape

With 205 votes in favor, 141 against and 3 abstentions, today the Spanish Chamber has approved definitively a bill that provides that any sexual act in which one of the people involved has not given their consent is considered a rape.

The bill, known as the “ley del solo sí es sí”(The law in which only yes is yes), had been proposed by the center-left government led by the socialist prime minister Pedro Sánchez.

The new law eliminates the distinction between sexual abuse and sexual assault (rape), qualifying as rape any sexual act performed without consent: until now, only relationships in which threats, violence or coercion were demonstrable were considered rapes. According to the law, the silence or passive attitude of the person who suffers the abuse cannot be interpreted as consent.

Only the far-right party Vox and the Popular Party, center-right and conservative, voted against the bill. On the other hand, the candidacy of Popular Unity, a party of the Catalan extreme left, abstained.

– Read also: Sexual Violence and Consent

The bill was proposed after the extensive discussions that had been provoked by the case of gang rape known as “La Manada”named after the WhatsApp group created by five men accused of raping an 18-year-old woman in Pamplona in 2016, one of the most controversial court cases in the country.

On the evening of July 7, 2016, José Ángel Prenda, Alfonso Cabezuelo, Antonio Manuel Guerrero, Jesús Escudero and Ángel Boza offered to accompany a woman they met the same evening to her car: however, they took her to the entrance hall of a building where they attacked her and they raped her. The incident was also recorded in several videos: some showed the men leading the woman to the place where the rape took place, and one showed the actual violence, shot by the same men who then promised, bragging, to send the videos on WhatsApp to other friends.

During the trial, the lawyers of the five defendants stated that the woman was consenting and that she had let one of the men kiss her. They further claimed that the 96 seconds of video footage showing the girl motionless and with her eyes closed during her rape was proof of her consent. The prosecution had to explain that the victim was too terrified to move or react, as she herself had told. The Pamplona court however he thought that there had been no violence or intimidation, with a ruling that was met with massive protests across Spain.

Subsequently, the Spanish Supreme Court overturned the sentence, establishing that it was instead a group rape, and also recognizing two aggravating factors: the humiliating treatment of the woman and “the pride they expressed” the five men in the videos recorded with the cell phones about violence; and the fact of having committed a gang rape. The five were definitively sentenced to 15 years in prison, against the 9 established by the Pamplona court.

Similar consent laws have recently been introduced by other European countries as well, such as DenmarkSlovenia, Iceland, Greece and Sweden.

– Read also: The sentence on the group rape “La Manada”, in Spain

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