Equality minister Irene Montero. EFE
Socialists to reform controversial 'only yes is yes' sex offence law

Socialists to reform controversial 'only yes is yes' sex offence law

The aim is to prevent the reduction in sentences that emerged as a surprising side effect of the new legislation that came into force in October



Friday, 3 February 2023, 12:25


After weeks of debate, prime minister Pedro Sánchez has ordered a reform of what is known as the "only yes is yes" law, which came into force in October last year.

The law, one of the star projects of the equality ministry controlled by the Socialists' left-wing coalition partners Unidas Podemos, is officially called the law of "integral guarantee of sexual freedom".

It was sparked by the much publicised case of a gang rape of a young woman at the San Fermín festival in Pamplona in 2016, which caused public outcry when the five defendants were found guilty of sexual abuse (abuso), rather than the more serious sexual assault (agresión) as the court saw no evidence of violence or intimidation.

In response, the ministry set about drafting a new law which did away with the distinction between abuse and assault. As its nickname suggests, the new legislation is based around consent. Rather than victims having to prove that they were attacked with violence or intimidation, with the new law, any sexual act without clear consent is classed as either assault or rape.

However an apparently unexpected side-effect of the unification of abuse and assault is that penalties under the new law for certain cases could be lesser than before. Spain's penal code states that new legislation that could benefit a convicted prisoner already serving a sentence can be applied retroactively. This has led to a string of cases being reviewed and sentences reduced. Some prisoners (23 in Spain up to the end of January) with months left on their sentence have been released.

This sparked much debate between the coalition partners, with equality minister Irene Montero defending her law and blaming the reduced sentences on "sexist judges" and "fascists in gowns" who were "applying the law erroneously".

Faced with fierce criticism from the opposition and the anger from judicial authorities at these comments, in December Sánchez called on the ministries involved to propose technical modifications that could be made to the law to prevent this reduction of sentences.

Reform inevitable

Since then some voices on the left of the government (Unidas Podemos is in itself made up of different parties) have spoken in favour of a reform, although Montero's Podemos rejects the Socialists' plan to return to tougher penalties for more serious offences.

This would be a "step backwards" and push aside the central idea of "consent" to go back to a question of a victim having to prove the severity of a sex offence, it says. Accepting that a reform is inevitable, however, the equality ministry has agreed to raising the minimum penalties.

Now the main Socialist arm of the government has confirmed it will take its plan to avoid the "undesired effects" of the law to Spain's Congreso (lower house). Its aim is for both coalition parties to agree on the draft, but if not, the Socialists are prepared to go it alone without their partners.

The main opposition party, the conservative PP, has said it would support a reform.


Reporta un error en esta noticia

* Campos obligatorios