Earlier today, the Spanish government backed proposed changes to the country’s current rape laws, so only ‘yes means yes’. The changes proposed by Equality Minister Irene Montero, aim to eliminate the difference between abuse and aggression, so that rape is decided only on consent. This change will bring the current legislation in line with other countries, such as the UK, Germany and Sweden, which already define rape as sex without consent.
The changes have been pushed through as a result of recent court cases convicting rapists of sexual abuse, rather than assault. The most recent case involving five men, who called themselves the ‘wolfpack’ (la manada), were cleared of gang-rape. They were convicted of sexual abuse instead, which carries a lesser sentence because the court in Navarre in the North of Spain decided the victim had not faced violence or intimidation, which is considered ‘key’ to establishing the crime of rape in the current legislation. The ‘manada’ ruling caused huge public outrage.
As a result, the sentence was changed last summer (June 2019), when the Supreme Court endorsed the principle of ‘only yes means yes’. Using the Istanbul Convention definition that ‘consent must be given voluntarily as the result of the person’s free will assessed in the context of the surrounding circumstances’, the ‘wolfpack’s’ jail terms were increased from nine to 15 years.
The new rape laws state that anyone convicted of rape, or penetration without consent, will now face between four and 10 years in prison. Aggravated rape will carry a maximum of a 15-year sentence, with longer sentences if the victim is a wife or former partner.