Spain’s congress passed a so-called ‘only yes means yes’ law, drafted in the wake of the 2016 ‘wolf pack’ gang rape.
The legislation passed with 205 votes for, 141 against and 3 abstentions. MPs from the conservative People’s Party and the far-right Vox voted against.
“It is a victorious day after many years of struggle,” said Irene Montero, the Minister for Equality. “Now, no woman will have to prove that there was violence or intimidation to be recognized for who she is.”
The new law, under which consent must be affirmative and cannot be presumed to have been given by default or silence, was drafted following the 2016 ‘wolf pack’ gang rape.
After five men raped an 18-year-old woman during the bullfighting festival in Pamplona, a court has ruled that video footage from the men’s phones – showing the woman motionless and with her eyes closed during the attack – constituted a proof of consent.
A judge said the men should only be charged with stealing the victim’s mobile phone.
They were sentenced to nine years in prison on the lesser charge of sexual abuse, but after a massive public outcry the charge was changed to rape and the sentence increased to 15 years.
Shortly after this case, five men accused of raping a 14-year-old girl in the Catalan town of Manresa were convicted on the lesser charge of sexual abuse on the grounds that the victim was under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
In 2015, Spain raised the age of consent from 13 to 16. However, the concept of statutory rape does not exist because a minor can always be deemed to have given consent.
The new law removes the distinction between sexual abuse and sexual assault (rape) by specifying that consent is the decisive factor. Passivity and silence can no longer be interpreted as consent.
The law states: “Consent can only be considered as consent when it has been freely manifested by acts which, according to the circumstances, clearly express the will of the person.
The law had already passed the Senate earlier this year when it was delayed by an amendment to the wording of the law introduced by the Catalan nationalist conservative Junts per Catalunya party which was backed by the People’s Party.
The mother of the wolf pack victim said in a statement: “This law is the fruit of the bravery, perseverance and dignity of a girl who knew how she wanted to live without being judged by anyone, and who decided to move forward so that we would all be aware of the miserable path that too many victims have had to walk and continue to walk.It is something that we must all change together.