The new government of Pedro Sanchez is to introduce new legislation to remove any ambiguity in rape cases. The move follows public outrage after five men accused of raping an 18-year-old woman in July 2016 had their charges reduced to sexual assault.
In the incident during Pamplona’s annual San Fermín festival, the men, who are aged between 27 and 29 and called themselves La Manada (the wolf pack), attacked the woman and filmed the assault on their phones, before leaving her half naked.
When the case came to court in April this year, the judges interpreted her “passive, submissive stance” during the incident as consent, and reduced the charges against the gang. Under Spanish law, sexual abuse differs from rape in that it does not involve violence or intimidation.
The ruling provoked outrage and led to demonstrations across the country. All five men are presently on bail pending an appeal against their nine-year sentence. They include a soldier and a Guardia Civil officer, both of whom have been returned to duty.
“If a woman does not expressly say yes, then everything else is no,”
Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo has signalled her intent to introduce legislation which would require clearly expressed consent in sexual contact, often referred to as affirmative consent. Both parties must agree to sexual conduct, either through clear, verbal communication or nonverbal cues or gestures. “If a woman does not expressly say yes, then everything else is no,” Calvo said last month.
It is understood that the new legislation will be modelled on similar laws in Sweden and Germany which criminalize sex without clearly expressed consent as rape. Experts say “yes means yes” is more effective that “no means no,” which often places the burden on victims and prosecutors to prove unwanted contact.