Years Later, Gang Rapes Lead to 'Only Yes Means Yes' Law

Public outcry in Spain had followed infamous court rulings
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 26, 2022 3:40 PM CDT
Years Later, Gang Rapes Lead to 'Only Yes Means Yes' Law
A woman shouts slogans at Plaza del Castillo square during a protest demanding changes in sexual assault laws in Pamplona in 2019.   (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)

Spain's lawmakers, under pressure since an infamous gang rape in 2016, have approved a law requiring that consent to sexual activity be explicit. "It's a victorious day after many years of struggle," said Irene Montero, the nation's equality minister. "From now on, no woman will have to prove that violence or intimidation was used for it to be recognized for what it is." The legislation, which passed 205-141 with three abstentions, specifies that consent must be expressed affirmatively; no one can assume it was granted through default, passivity, or silence, the Guardian reports. Backers call the measure the "only yes means yes" law.

The legislation was written after the rape of an 18-year-old woman by five men during the annual running of the bulls in Pamplona, one of a raft of sexual assaults reported at the festival that year. In that case, as well as the gang rape of a 14-year-old in Manresa, courts ruled that the crime was sexual abuse, per the Washington Post; the law required rape to involve violence or intimidation, and the 14-year-old was unconscious and didn't fight her attackers. Public outrage and mass protests followed.

Spain, which raised the age of consent from 13 to 15 in 2015, becomes the 14th of 31 European countries that define rape based on the absence of consent, by Amnesty International's count. The law reads, "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." The mother of the girl raped in Pamploma issued a statement saying Spain's new law is the result of her daughter's "bravery, perseverance and dignity." (More Spain stories.)

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