Sexual and Gender Based Violence in Spain: Consent is Key
Consent is key.
While a purportedly obvious statement, on the other hand, the explicit nature of the phrase appears lost on certain people.
For the purposes of this article, I refer to certain parties in the Spanish Judiciary.
The Wolf Pack
In 2016, an 18 year old woman was raped by five men in the midst of the running of the bulls festival in Pamploma, Navarre.
During the court case of the heinous crime perpetrated, it was argued that video footage, taken at the time of the crime displaying the woman with her eyes shut and immobile whilst the attack took place, was proof of consent. This is because, due to legislation passed prior, silence and passivity were interpreted as consent.
With such legislation in place, along with judicial indifference, the men were sentenced with the lesser charge of sexual abuse, pertaining 9 years sentences, as opposed to rape, a penalty of 15 years in contrast, which they were sentenced to at a later date, as a result of the public outrage to the initial decision.
Furthermore, one judge claimed the only charge the men should face, would be that of stealing the victim’s mobile.
This case, however, sadly is not isolated as subsequent to the aforementioned case five men who were under accusation of having raped a 14 year old girl, in Manresa, Catalunya, were convicted of the lesser charge of sexual abuse, on the foundation that the victim had been under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
Not only did those who suffered rape have to deal with a nonsensical law, but also with members of a judicial system who would rather victim blame than review the facts of the case, with even a modicum of integrity and intelligence.
In contrast, however, the recent ruling coalition government, with support from other members of Congress, has worked to pass legislation to rectify such a gross error in justice.
Rectifying the Horror
The ‘only yes means yes’ sexual consent law passed the chamber of Congress with a vote count of 205 to 141, in addition to 3 abstentions. Those in opposition were the far-right Vox and conservative People’s parties.
Prior to this, earlier this year, the law had already passed the Senate, however, was delayed due to an amendment to the wording of the said act, introduced by the Junts per Catalunya (conservative Catalan nationalist party), augmented by the People’s party.
Under the novel legislation, consent cannot be assumed by default or silence, but instead must be affirmative. Furthermore, it erases the distinction between sexual aggression (rape) and sexual abuse, by explicitly making constant the deciding factor.
The law states:
“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.”
A chance at Justice
This legislation introduced, along with victims of rape having a chance at seeing justice, can hopefully take back the courts, with them actually prosecuting the perpetrator and not the victim of the crime. With courts affording victims the respect and dignity they deserve, in the light of the horror, they have had to endure.
Also read: Women and War: Abandoned Figures