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People lift up their arms as the shout slogans during a protest outside the Justice Ministry in Madrid, April 26, 2018. Women's rights groups protested after a court in northern Spain sentenced five men to nine years each in prison for the lesser crime of sexual abuse in what activists saw as a gang rape during the 2016 running of the bulls festival in Pamplona.
Francisco Seco/AP
Girls & Women

Spain Introduces 'Yes Means Yes' Consent Law After Shocking Sexual Assault Case


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Around the world, sexual violence disproportionately affects women. Stricter laws around sexual abuse and rape like that being considered in Spain can help protect women against sexual violence and bring justice to survivors. You can take action here to call on world leaders to strengthen their laws against sexual violence and work toward gender equality.

When it comes to consent there should be no room for doubt, and to ensure that’s the case, the Spanish government is introducing a new law to protect against sexual violence.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced on Tuesday that sex without explicit consent will be considered rape under the new law, the Guardian reported. Currently sexual abuse or assault is not considered rape in Spain unless violence and intimidation are involved. 

Earlier this year, thousands took to the streets in protest of the country’s sexual violence laws after a group of five men accused of gang raping an 18-year-old girl in 2016 were found guilty of sexual abuse but acquitted of rape.

Take Action: Tell World Leaders to Redouble Their Efforts By Amending Laws to Prevent Sexual Violence

The group of men, who referred to themselves as “la manada” meaning “the wolf pack,” filmed the incident; in the footage the victim is silent and is seen closing her eyes throughout the abuse, the Guardian reported. The mens’ defense team used the footage to argue that the victim was “passive or neutral” throughout the incident, indicating her consent.

Both the Spanish public and its leadership were outraged by the outcome of the case.

“She said NO. We believed you and we continue to believe you. If what #TheWolfpack did wasn’t group violence against a defenseless woman, what do we understand to be rape? #NoMeansNo #IBelieveYou,” Sanchez tweeted after the verdict was announced.

The proposed law would make arguments like that used against the victim invalid and would mean that prosecutors would no longer have to prove that violence occurred in order to secure a rape conviction.

"To be clear, ladies and gentlemen, if they say ‘no’ it means ‘no,’ and if they don't say ‘yes,’ it means no," Sanchez said on Tuesday.

Read more: Sweden Says Sex Without Consent Under Any Circumstance Is Rape

Similar legislation went into effect in Sweden on July 1. And such laws were already in place in Belgium, Iceland, and Germany.

Spain’s move to strengthen its sexual violence laws comes on the heels of the #MeToo movement against sexual violence and abuse that began in Hollywood last October, but quickly spread around the globe.

Hundreds of thousands of women worldwide have since come forward to share stories of being sexually abused on social media and masses of people have protested against lax sexual violence laws and called for change in their countries. In 2018 alone, India has seen several demonstrations in response to rape cases.