Spain has passed a new law requiring sexual consent to be explicitly stated rather than assumed by default or silence.
The country’s lower house of parliament passed on Thursday the “only yes means yes” law 205 to 141 with three abstentions. Under the law, nonconsensual sex could be classified as rape.
The law comes six years after Spanish courts ruled that two cases of sexual violence in 2016 were not rape, prompting widespread rage.
In the “Wolf Pack” case, five men were accused of raping an 18-year-old woman during the annual running of the bulls in Pamplona. Despite being arrested the next day, the men were initially convicted of sexual abuse, not rape, resulting in massive protests. They were eventually found guilty of rape in 2019 by the Spanish Supreme Court. During the hearings, it was argued that video footage from the men’s phones that showed the woman immobile with her eyes shut during the attack was proof of consent.
The other incident took place in Manresa, a city around 60km from Barcelona. Five men were accused of taking turns raping a 14-year-old girl in an abandoned factory, while another watched and masturbated and they were also convicted of the lesser crime of sexual abuse.
In order for an act of sexual violence to qualify as rape under Spanish law at the time, the perpetrator had to have used violence or intimidated the victim. The 14-year-old victim was unconscious at the time of the assault and therefore could not fight back so a court ruled that it was not rape.
According to the new law, “Consent can only be considered consent when it has been freely manifested through actions that, in accordance with the circumstances, clearly express the person’s wishes.”
“It’s a victorious day after many years of struggle,” said Spain’s Equality Minister Irene Montero. “From now on no woman will have to prove that violence or intimidation was used for it to be recognised for what it is.”