Spain introduces new ‘only yes means yes’ rape law that requires explicit consent

New legislation passes after ‘years of struggle’ and national outcry in wake of 2016 gang rape

Andy Gregory
Saturday 27 August 2022 14:11 BST
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Spain’s ‘Only Yes Means Yes’ Sexual Consent Bill Becomes Law

Spain’s rape laws have been strengthened with a new legal definition based on explicit consent, after its parliament passed long-awaited legislation dubbed “only yes means yes”.

Thursday was hailed as a “victorious day after many years of struggle” as politicians approved the bill championed by the government of Pedro Sanchez, initially drawn up in the wake of the so-called “wolf pack” gang rape case in 2016 which sparked national protests.

It was given the green light in parliament with 205 votes in favour and 141 against – opposed by politicians from the conservative People’s party and the far-right Vox – having already passed the Spanish senate earlier this year only to be delayed by a proposed amendment to its wording.

“At last our country legally recognises that consent is what needs to be at the centre of all our relationships,” said equality minister Irene Montero, who has been at the forefront of efforts to pass the bill.

“From now on, no woman will ever have to prove that violence or intimidation was involved in order for it to be considered a sexual assault.”

While victims of rape in Spain were previously required to prove that they had been subjected to violence or intimidation, under the new law both rape and sexual abuse are defined by whether or not consent was given.

The law states: “Consent is recognised only when a person has freely demonstrated it through actions which, in the context of the circumstances of the case, clearly express the person’s will.”

The new bill was carried to parliament on a wave of public fury over the handling of a gang rape case during the San Fermin bull-running festival in Pamplona in 2016.

Protests in Madrid in June 2018 after five men sentenced to nine years in prison for gang rape were granted bail release
Protests in Madrid in June 2018 after five men sentenced to nine years in prison for gang rape were granted bail release (Javier Soriano/AFP via Getty Images)

Five men, who called themselves the “wolf pack”, were initially found guilty of the lesser crime of sexual abuse but not ​rape, as the victim was not deemed to have objected in footage taken by two of the men involved.

After huge public outcry, the Supreme Court overturned the verdict in 2019, convicting the men of rape and sentencing them to 15 years in prison each rather than nine.

The mother of the victim described the new law as 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,” she said in a statement.

Marisa Soleto, head of Fundacion Mujeres said the bill was the culmination of a “long-awaited” demand of the feminist movement.

“We’re hoping it will bring about a change in behaviour” both within Spain and beyond, she told Agence France-Presse.

According to Amnesty International, only 13 out of 31 European countries have laws that define rape based on the absence of consent.

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