The Spanish left-wing, coalition government today drafted a new rape law called “Only Yes Means Yes”. The law focuses on the importance of sexual consent and is in response to the huge public outcry after the infamous wolf pack case.
In 2016, five men were cleared of gang-raping a teenager at the Pamplona Bull Festival. The gang were convicted of the lesser offence of sexual abuse rather than assault on the basis that there was no evidence violence was used.
Women’s rights groups reacted with fury amid mass protests which garnered global attention. The gang were part of a whatsapp group called “La Manada” meaning “wolf pack”. Their conversations showed intent to rape including one stating “when we get there, we’ll want to rape everything we set eyes on”.
There was a police report on the crime video describing the victim as “passive” and “neutral” even though she was frozen with fear. The men were given nine year sentences and the female Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, called the verdict “outrageous”.
In 2019, the Supreme Court in Madrid overturned the lower court verdict and found the men guilty of rape, increasing their sentences to fifteen years. Today’s new law follows in the wake of the #MeToo movement and convictions against film mogul, Harvey Weinstein.
The draft law removes the ambiguity in rape cases so that “yes means yes” and everything else including silence means “no”. It will be vigorously debated in parliament with tougher sentences for aggravated rape of up to fifteen years which could increase if a victim’s spouse or partner were involved.
Months of debate will centre around creating specialised courts and recovery centres. Sexual harassment in the workplace could incur new jail penalties and catcalling may become a criminal offence. Patriarchal Spain may be past history and as we approach International Women’s Day, the timing couldn’t be better.