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Only Yes Means Yes: Spain passes new sexual consent law, 6 years after the 'wolf pack gang rape'

Dristi Sharma
Dristi SharmaAug 26, 2022 | 19:16

Only Yes Means Yes: Spain passes new sexual consent law, 6 years after the 'wolf pack gang rape'

Until now in Spain, rape victims needed to prove that they had been subjected to violence or intimidation. Photo: DailyO

In July 2016, in Spain's Pamplona (you might remember the city from its famous bullfighting festival San Fermin; you know, the one from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara), a notorious gang rape took place. The five men who took turns to rape the woman, also filmed the incident and shared it on a WhatsApp group, boasting about it. 

The incident shook the country's women, and protests reached a peak two years later, when the sentence was handed out to the five perpetrators of the crime: they were acquitted of 'sexual assault' that includes rape and comes with a 22-25-year prison sentence; and instead, were found guilty of the much lesser crime: 'sexual abuse'. That was 2018. The gang rape became to be known as the 'wolf pack gang rape' because of the various wolf tattoos that the perpetrators had on them.

Now, six years since the rape and four years since the five men were acquitted of sexual assault, Spain has passed a new law which underlines the fact that 'only yes means yes'.

The new law, which clearly defines rape and consent, is said to be inspired by this case.

What is the new law? On August 25, 2022, Spain passed a law that helps remove the ambiguity in rape cases. Here are the following provisions: 

  • Any sex that takes place without a clear 'expression of consent' will be prosecuted as a rape case. 
  • Silence or passivity will no longer be accepted as signs of willingness.
  • The victims will no longer be required to prove that they were compelled either through violence or intimidation, or that they resisted an assault. 
  • It also lists fines for street harassment and for sharing intimate videos and pictures of others without consent.

Until now in Spain, rape victims needed to prove that they had been subjected to violence or intimidation.

This proposal took nearly two years, but the government passed the legislation with 205 voting in favour. A total of 141 MPs from the Conservative People’s party and the far-right, Vox, voted against it.   

Spain’s Minister of Equality, Irene Montero, who was behind this law, welcomed it. 

 Only yes means yes has finally become law in our country.
- Irene Montero, Minister of Equality, Spain

Spain saw a 34% rise in rape case reports in 2021. The Justice Ministry attributes this to a greater social awareness that has made survivors more willing to report sexual assaults to law enforcement, according to Bloomberg.

Recap, Pamplona 2016: The 'Only Yes Means Yes' law was drawn up after the Pamplona gang rape case that we talked about earlier. The case was often referred to as the “wolf pack rape case” since the attackers had labelled themselves a “manada”, a term often used to refer to a wolf pack. The five men were convicted of "continuous sexual abuse" and were not charged with rape. They were sentenced to a mere nine years, instead of the 22-25 in rape cases.

A protester holds a sign during a demonstration against the release on bail of five men known as the "Wolf Pack" cleared of gang rape of a teenager and convicted of a lesser crime of sexual abuse in Seville, Spain, June 22, 2018.

The judges who acquitted the men of rape said they did so due to a "lack of evidence". However, it was ironic considering that the men recorded themselves on video, which showed the woman’s eyes shut and body still during the rape. The video was nulled by the judge, who said that the victim was passive in the video. 

Later, the accused were released on bail, after their lawyers “proved” that the woman was their 'sexual partner'. 

The 2019 verdict: However, in 2019, Spain’s Supreme Court overruled the previous decisions and sentenced the five men to 15 years in prison for rape. During the final arguments before the Supreme Court, the lawyers of the five men said that the victim should have 'spoken out' during the attack and should have said no. 

The new law that Spain just passed overturns this bit. The woman now doesn't need to say 'no'. She not saying yes is enough.

Reaction: The mother of the victim said in a statement, “This law is the result 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 go ahead so that we would all be aware of the miserable road that too many victims have had to, and continue to, go down. This is something we all have to change together,” the Guardian reported.

Last updated: August 27, 2022 | 08:05
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